China is building more than 20 towns dedicated to making electric cars, according to a report by the Bloomberg news agency.
The construction boom, which is estimated to have attracted investment of at least $30bn so far, is in response to a government drive to expand the country’s 500 electric car makers and make the country self-sufficient in electric vehicles, thereby boosting demand in China’s domestic economy and reducing its reliance on export-led growth.
In 2018, the government also set a goal to have half the new cars on China’s roads be partially or fully autonomous by the end of 2020.
Cities are helping the plan by providing companies with cheap land, tax breaks and housing subsidies for workers.
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He Xiaopeng, chairman of electric vehicle start-up Xpeng, told Bloomberg: "The new-energy vehicle industry is a bet local governments must take. A successful EV maker could bring a supply chain of at least 200 companies into a province."
Among the main hubs of the burgeoning industry are the cities of Yiwu and Huzhou, west of Shanghai, and the "Self-Driving Auto Town" in Xiamen, across the straits from Taiwan. Yiwi is to be a production and research base for Geely, which makes London’s Black Cabs; Huzhou is home to "LeEco Vehicle Ecological Town".
In 2018, more electric cars were sold in China than in the rest of the world combined. The Chinese government has spent nearly $60bn in the last decade to create an electric car industry, while also reducing the number of licenses available for gasoline-powered cars. Beijing plans to spend just as much over the next decade.
Image: Geely’s newly developed TX5, a zero-emissions black cab (http://london-taxis.co.uk)