SINGAPORE (Apr 29): Auto Shanghai, the annual motor show in April, is an icon of China’s audacious push to transform itself into the world leader in electric vehicles (EVs). Just as car enthusiasts and auto dealers go to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January and Tokyo Motor Show in October to see high-performance cars, they head for Shanghai to see state-of-the-art EVs.

Even as China has emerged as a global manufacturing powerhouse and the world’s largest car market, it is an also-ran in the global auto business. There are no Chinese-made cars on the roads in New York, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Paris or Seoul because the biggest global carmakers are America’s General Motors (GM), Japan’s Toyota Motor, Germany’s Volkswagen, France’s Renault and Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. China’s home-made brands such as Geely Automobile Holdings and BYD Co are growing mainly within the country’s own four walls. Little wonder, then, that Beijing sees EVs as the way to leapfrog entrenched global automobile giants and provide it with a pathway to dominate the world.

Here is what you need to understand about EVs: They are not merely an end in themselves but a means to an end. Tesla and its ilk that are making electric cars do not just want to replace ­petrol-based vehicles running on internal combustion engines; they essentially see them as the first step in a three-stage move towards an overall mobility solution. There are too many cars on the roads around the world that use expensive oil, pollute the environment, cause traffic jams and mostly sit idle for over 22 hours a day. The cost of human driving is high and rising — think accidents, loss of innocent lives and, insurance.

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