China charges ahead with electric cars

When it comes to electric cars, the future may be in China.

While North American consumers continue to treat electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt as novelties, several Chinese firms, including Dongfeng Motor and Geely Automobile, are reportedly tripping over themselves to buy troubled U.S. electric car-maker Fisker, which makes the high-end Karma and has received about $192 million in U.S. government loans.

Meanwhile, China’s Wanxiang Group recently received approval to buy U.S. battery-maker A123 Systems, another recipient of U.S. taxpayer dollars, for $257 million. Its customers include BMW and General Motors.

China’s appetite for America’s electric automobile leftovers is driven by both rising levels of car ownership (China is the world’s largest auto market) and growing concerns about pollution in major cities. With plans to boost sales of electric vehicles to five million by 2020, the Chinese government is also trying to avoid the foreign-oil dependency trap the U.S. fell into during the last century.