China’s electric car market is accelerating. Can battery makers keep us charged?

China’s electric car market is accelerating. Can battery makers keep us charged?

The world is returning full circle to the electric car, as concerns about gaseous emissions and their impact on climate change compel global governments to find alternatives to gas-guzzlers.

Iowa was the global hub for electric vehicles more than a century ago, with more than 30,000 horseless carriages produced in Des Moines at the industry’s peak in 1912. William Morrison, a Scottish immigrant and chemist, had invented a self-powered electric carriage – known as the auto-mobile – using lead-acid battery cells that could carry 12 passengers at a top speed of 20 miles per hour for 50 miles (80km) before recharging.

In the century since, vehicles running on oil-guzzling internal combustion engines have become the norm. Now, China, whose passenger car market took off only two decades ago, has taken the global lead, not only on the adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles (EV), but also on their most valuable component – batteries, which make up 30% to 50% of their value.

Chinese battery makers will maintain their dominance in an industry where operating and planned production capacity may more than quadruple in a decade, analysts said.