Electric car’s are set to take center stage at the Shanghai Auto Show this year. China’s government will be putting a heavier burden on carmakers by imposing mandatory sales targets for electric cars. This will apply even more pressure on them amid an already painful slump in sales.

Chinese purchases of pure electric and hybrid sedans and SUVs soared 60 per cent last year to 1.3 million, half the global total, but overall auto sales shrank 4.1 per cent to 23.7 million.

Car buyers were provided with hefty benefits to purchase electric vehicles (EV) by the government. These included subsidies of up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,400) per car. However, this support was halved in January 2019 and is intended to end next year.

Beijing has been promoting the use of EVs for the past 15 years in the hopes of reducing the nation’s environmental impact. Major players in the automotive industry, such as General Motors and Nissan, have begun developing EV models to cater to China’s demand; however, local producers have had over a decade of experience, being able to produce low-priced alternatives.

At the Shanghai show, which opens to the public on Saturday 20 April, carmakers plan to display dozens of electric cars, from luxury SUVs to micro-compacts. Carmakers are looking to China, their biggest global market, to drive revenue growth at a time when US and European demand is flat or declining. This provides a beneficial incentive to cooperate with Beijing’s campaign to promote EVs.

Beijing has spent billions of dollars on research grants and incentives to buyers. State-owned power companies have blanketed China with 730,000 charging stations, a vastly larger network than any other country.

An electric car’s sticker price in China is still higher than a standard petrol model. However, charging and maintenance cost less, especially with the improved infrastructure that caters to EVs. Industry analysts say owners who drive at least 16,000 kilometres a year save money in the long run.