Finally some serious competition for Tesla. Just days after Elon Musk said his American multi-billion dollar electric automobile startup would start producing its Model 3, the brand's first mass-market electric car, a heavyweight automaker from the past declared "the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car." By 2019, all new Volvo models will come with an electric motor (either pure electric or hybrid), making the Swedish company the first traditional carmaker with precise plans to go all electric.
Wednesday's move is a bold one, given global sales of electric vehicles represented less than 1% of all auto sales last year. But, says Volvo's head of R&D, (the appropriately named) Henrik Green: "The technology is ripe, the price is right and our customers are ready."
That all remains to be seen, but the question is on everyone's mind, two days before a G20 summit, in the northern German city of Hamburg, that will focus on climate change. After Donald Trump's decision to take the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, the world must figure out how to reboot the global effort to combat carbon emissions. The world's most populous country, China, has made a point of showing its commitment to the agreement and, together with the EU, it forged a green alliance to "lead the energy transition."
Beyond the long-term boost for its image on the world stage, China also has a clear and present national interest in drastically reducing its pollution levels. Its recently appointed new environment minister has vowed to wage a "protracted battle" against pollution, while China is aggressively building green-technology-driven businesses.
Indeed, China is already the world's leader for electric car sales and it is the main driving force behind the sector's boom. That even reaches all the way to … Sweden: Volvo is owned by a Chinese company, Geely, which acquired the Swedish brand in 2010 from Ford Motors.
American automakers, from Henry Ford to Elon Musk, have helped lead the world into the future. That a new (and green) challenge is arriving from China, via Sweden, can only be a good thing.