China and Europe: driving forward the change to electric vehicles

Transitioning from conventional gasoline vehicles, many automobile companies such as Tesla and BMW are developing new technologies in order to increase the appeal of electric cars by improving convenience and variety.

On April 26, 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel established a deal with automakers in which the government spent $1.4 billion in order to increase electric car sales. German consumers will receive a 4,000 euro rebate for purchasing an electric car and a 3,000 rebate for a hybrid car. However, Germany is far from reaching its goal of having one million electric cars by 2020, with only 30,000 vehicles sold due to the inconvenience and higher costs of purchasing and maintaining electric cars.

With this weak start, the goal appears to be unrealistic, hindered by the insufficient incentives, high costs and a lack of necessary infrastructure. Other European countries are faring better. Chargemap identified only 190 electric charging stations within a 20 mile radius in Berlin, but 1,286 stations in Paris. The French government presented a 10,000 euro rebate to drivers who left their diesel powered cars and Norwegian citizens who own electric cars have access to free parking, free charging and tax breaks.

Due to toxic smog and severe air pollution from coal, China has endorsed electric cars to reduce the environmental damage. Although switching to electric cars may seem environmentally friendly at first, the situation in Hong Kong reveals the opposite—the electric vehicles contributed to a 20 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions because Hong Kong relies on coal to provide a majority of its electricity. Instead, Bernstein, an investment research firm, explains that promoting electric cars would benefit the environment only if the country receives its energy primarily from renewable sources and natural gas.

Electric cars have been embraced in several other countries while the U.S. lags behind. Despite significant advances, people favor conventional cars over expensive electric cars because of the low price of gas and short distance ranges of electric cars. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that Calif. was the leader in electric car sales in the U.S., with three percent of its new car sales in 2015 being plug in cars. Its Clean Vehicle Rebate Program enabled Calif. residents to receive a rebate of up to 7,000 dollars for purchasing a zero emissions or plug in car.

“Even though electric cars could be better for the environment, right now conventional cars are a better option because they can travel farther and lack major inconveniences such as having to find charging stations for the cars. However, once the technology improves and cars become cheaper, I think the government should begin offering rebates and other benefits to encourage people to purchase electric vehicles,” Junior Tonya Xie said.

In 2014, the United States was the leading country in electric vehicle sales. Forbes reports that the People’s Republic of China and Western Europe now have the highest electric vehicle sales, while the U.S. has declining sales. Despite the recent decline, new technological advances and the increasing prominence of electric cars around the world may prompt the U.S. government to increase incentives to buy electric cars. If the technological endeavors to make electric cars more accessible are successful, Americans will see more electric cars on the road soon.