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Electric car graveyard: Chinese manufacturers despair over the surreal growth of abandoned vehicles in China. But do you know why?

Written by Roberta Souza
Published 15/06/2024 às 11:05
Electric cars - China
Photo: IA

Discover the reasons behind the mass abandonment of electric vehicles in the Asian giant

In the last years, Electric cars have transformed the automotive sector globally. In 2010, electric vehicles represented just 0,01% of vehicle sales worldwide. In 2022, this number jumped to 14%, with the tendency to continue rising. China, one of the world's largest economies, is also one of the main electric vehicle consumer markets, according to the video on the Knowledge Global channel. 

In 2022, the country was responsible for 60% of global sales in this segment. Currently, more than half of all electric cars in the world are theoretically on the road in China. However, recent photos and videos show thousands of these vehicles abandoned on land known as “car cemeteries”.

The popularization of electric cars in China

The popularization of electric vehicles has been extremely beneficial for China. Previously, Chinese automakers, despite producing cheap cars, were viewed with suspicion due to lower quality compared to Japanese automakers, American or German. With electric vehicles, every company has practically started from scratch, providing an opportunity for Chinese companies to compete on a level playing field.

In addition to reducing dependence on oil and meeting environmental goals, the Chinese government decided, as of 2009, to grant great incentives for companies and consumers, with the aim of promoting the development of electric cars. To date, the government has invested around 60 billion dollars in subsidies for buyers and investments in companies.

Understand better why the abandonment of electric cars occurs

Government incentives and exponential growth

With financial and legal support, the electric car industry in China has grown exponentially. Das 25 largest companies in the sector, 15 are Chinese, including BYD, the world leader in sales of electric and hybrid vehicles. Other traditional Chinese automakers, such as Chery and Lifan, have also entered the promising market.

In addition to financial incentives, the government has implemented laws that favor electric vehicles. In cities like Beijing, only electric cars can travel in the central area, while in Shanghai, license plates a traditional vehicle costs 12 thousand dollars, with electric vehicles being free. The country also announced plans to eliminate the sale of cars powered by fossil fuels by 2035.

The emergence of “car cemeteries”

Despite the growth, photos and videos show that Many electric vehicles are being abandoned in “car cemeteries” in various parts of China. This phenomenon is the result of a combination of factors, including the rapid rise and fall of car sharing companies.

China has become fertile ground for the sharing economy, with companies like Uber and Airbnb popularizing the concept. With increased incentives and investments, the number of car sharing companies has skyrocketed. In 2017 alone, the sector received around 76 billion yuan (approximately 51 billion reais). More than 340 car-sharing companies were created between 2015 and 2017.

Companies like EVCard and MicroCity stood out for the number of vehicles offered, with fleets that reached tens of thousands. Luxury automakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have also entered the market, offering their own car sharing services.

The fall of sharing companies

However, the great competition and the lack of differentiators led to a price wars and reduced profit margins. Many consumers began to face difficulties in park their vehicles and complain about the condition of the cars. The pandemic and the strict confinements imposed by the Chinese government were the death knell for many of these companies. Unable to provide the expected return, many companies drove away investors and failed to properly maintain their vehicles, resulting in mass abandonment of cars.

Abandoned electric vehicles, ironically, are causing environmental pollution. The lack of official information makes it difficult to know whether the batteries, which contain heavy metals, were removed from the vehicles. If left in cars, they can cause serious environmental damage.

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Roberta Souza

Petroleum Engineer, postgraduate in Commissioning of Industrial Units, specialist in Industrial Corrosion. Get in touch to suggest an agenda, advertise job vacancies or advertise on our portal. We do not receive resumes

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