The future of electric cars is happening now in China

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This story is part of an ongoing series on how China is reshaping our world.

Is the future of electric cars in China? If you only look at sales numbers, it certainly seems so. In 2018, more electric cars were sold in China than in the rest of the world combined.

Government policy—rather than market economics—created the electric car boom there. For nearly a decade, China’s government has poured money into the EV industry, offering generous tax incentives and subsidies for car makers and consumers, building charging infrastructures across the country, and placing restrictions on the sales and use of gasoline cars.

As a result, electric vehicles have become a large part of Chinese people’s daily lives in a way that hasn’t happened in countries like the US. And there’s no better place to see that than in Shenzhen, a city in the south part of the country dubbed “China’s Silicon Valley.” Shenzhen is the world’s only city to have 100% electric buses. It’s also home to BYD, the world’s second largest EV maker in 2018 after Tesla.

In 2018, Quartz traveled to Shenzhen to show how the government’s push for electric cars has brought widespread changes in public transportation as well as the landscape of the city. To the Chinese government, developing EVs is not just about the environment. It sees EVs as an opportunity to leapfrog competitors and become a major car manufacturer. Whichever country is best positioned to compete in the EV market now could come to dominate the global auto market in the future. And China hopes its name is on that list.

A version of this film was first published on November 15, 2018.