Report: China Wants the Chevy Volt’s Secrets or Will Lose 19K Subsidy


Clean cars for China has become a big priority. It is just a question of whether the Asian government will make such an import of EV models feasible.

British magazine The Sun has just released their top ten list of the most polluted cities in the world, and what may surprise some is that 7 of the 10 cities listed are in China. The world's most populous country is desperately trying to fix the problem and one way they are trying to free the country of smog and pollution is through the widespread sale of electric cars. Like most countries, China is offering subsidies to those that purchase electric vehicles.

Some of the subsidies offered by the Chinese government are worth as much as $19,000 off the price of a new EV. GM opportunistically tried to jump into the Asian market with their Chevrolet Volt, however there was a catch - in order to ascertain the subsidy for their car, they have to give the Chinese government some of their secrets. Seriously. GM must disclose one of three main parts of their Volt: the control system, battery system or the car's electric motor. The proverbial roadblock that stands in the way of GM bringing their Volt to China is that they need to qualify for the subsidy in order to make their product attractive to potential customers.

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The New York Times even commented on the standoff between the American automaker and the Chinese, saying that "The Chinese government is refusing to let the Volt qualify for subsidies totaling up to $19,300 a car unless GM agrees to transfer the engineering secrets for one of the Volt's three main technologies to a joint venture in China with a Chinese automaker, GM officials said. Some international trade experts said China would risk violating World Trade Organization rules if it imposed that requirement." Speculation on the demand for intellectual property has included Nissan's own reluctance to bring their Leaf into China.

The Japanese automaker officially refutes these claims. China has a serious problem with pollution, and when combined the booming economy and rapidly-growing cities, could spell big environmental problems. The most polluted of China's cities is Linfen, which has been called the 'worst city in the world.' Birth defects in Linfen are 30 times greater than the worldwide average. Electric vehicles for the 1.3 billion person population may not be the answer to China's environmental problems but it certainly could help.

Chevrolet wants to import their Volts to the far-east country from the US, which could be mutually beneficial. Talks are ongoing and we will see in time if the ice thaws between the American automaker and the Chinese government.

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