China, With Methodical Discipline, Conjures a Market for Electric Cars

China has created the world’s largest electric-car market by sheer force of will, a giant bet on domestic production that’s leaving major foreign auto makers scrambling to keep up. The government is funding its own manufacturers, luring domestic buyers with subsidies and building a vast charging-station network—while strong-arming its consumers by making sure buying an electric car is the only sure way to get license plates in crowded cities. William Zhou, a 33-year-old software-company manager, recently abandoned his 18-month quest to buy a gasoline-powered foreign car—a middle-class status symbol—when his wife became pregnant. He drives in gridlocked Shanghai, where severe restrictions on issuing license plates for new gas-powered cars don’t apply to electric or plug-in hybrid models. He settled for a Chinese plug-in hybrid because “I didn’t want to waste any more time […]

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