China is putting effort into developing its electric vehicle industry, but industry reports say it is falling behind other countries in terms of "EV readiness." (Source: Treehugger.com)

In 2010, A123 Systems, a leading advanced lithium-ion battery manufacturer, opened the first and largest U.S. manufacturing facility to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EVs). The project was supported by a $249 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. But when President Barack Obama called to congratulate A123 Systems on the milestone, which he said foreshadowed “the birth of an entire new industry in America,” he never would have imagined the subsequent bankruptcy of this rising star and its acquisition by China’s Wanxiang Group in 2012.

Although this overseas acquisition is one of Wanxiang Group’s highest profile actions, the company has long been quietly acquiring and investing in dozens of auto parts manufacturers. Wanxiang has expressed interest in supporting the struggling Fisker Automotive, a manufacturer of luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and a previous client of A123 Systems. Wanxiang chairman Guanqiu Lu’s strategic ambitions to be an electric vehicle manufacturer are becoming closer to reality than ever before. According to the global consulting firm McKinsey, in 2010 China ranked third (together with Germany) in financial support for clean-vehicle technology development, just behind the United States and France.

As early as 2001, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) had included electric vehicle technologies as a key project in the National High Technology Research and Development Program (863 Program). In order to reduce dependence on oil, compete with more developed foreign automobile industries, and reduce air pollutants, MOST proposed focusing on three types of vehicles: hybrid-electric vehicles (HEV), electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), as well as three key components: battery/fuel cells, electric motors, and power controls, with an investment of 880 million RMB (US$106 million) within five years.

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automobiles, China, electric vehicles, Green Technology, hybrid vehicles, low-carbon, transportation

Look Ma, No Rare Earths!

You’ve probably heard plenty about rare earths in the past few weeks and months. How many other commodities have earned their own New York Times debate? China’s dominance in production and processing of rare earths, and the recent actions it has taken to lower the amount of these substances on the world market, have thrust this previously quiet corner of industry into the limelight.

Rare earths have a wide variety of applications, including in cell phones, computer hard drives, and military equipment such as precision munitions and avionics. Much of the current discussion also focuses on wind turbines and hybrid and electric cars, as these products are the source of much of the forecasted growth in rare earths usage. But the necessity of using rare earths in these clean energy applications is not a foregone conclusion.

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Australia, China, electric vehicles, energy security, European Union, hybrid vehicles, japan, rare earths, United States, wind power