SHENZHEN, China — There is a powerful reason that automakers worldwide are speeding up their efforts to develop electric vehicles — and that reason is China.
Propelled by vast amounts of government money and visions of dominating next-generation technologies, China has become the world’s biggest supporter of electric cars. That is forcing automakers from Detroit to Yokohama and Seoul to Stuttgart to pick up the pace of transformation or risk being left behind in the world’s largest car market.
Beijing has already called for one out of every five cars sold in China to run on alternative fuel by 2025. Last month, China issued new rules that would require the world’s carmakers to sell more alternative-energy cars here if they wanted to continue selling regular ones. A Chinese official recently said the country would eventually do away with the internal combustion engine in new cars.
“We are seeing ourselves at a crossroads in the development of the automobile industry in this country, with a global scale in mind,” said Jürgen Stackmann, Volkswagen’s top executive for VW brand sales and marketing, during a visit to Shanghai.
China has reshaped industries before — clothing, steel making, even lace — through a potent mix of government support and cheap labor. More recently it has transformed green-energy businesses like solar and windpower.