China's Anti-Teslas: Cheap Models Drive Electric Car Boom

For those set on buying a plug-in vehicle in China, price is key.

More electric cars are sold in China than in the rest of the world combined, but are mainly locally-branded models that are cheaper and have a shorter range than those offered by foreign automakers such as Tesla and Nissan.

The Chinese-branded electric vehicle market is propped up by huge government subsidies as part of Beijing's policy to build global leadership in cleaner energy driving.

China has spent billions of dollars on subsidies to help companies including Warren Buffett-backed BYD and BAIC Motor achieve large-scale production of plug-in vehicles, which are gaining traction among urban drivers as well as taxi fleets and government agencies.

Sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrids increased 60 percent in January-November, to 402,000 vehicles. By 2020, China wants 5 million plug-in cars on its roads.

The domestic electric vehicles don't have the 'wow' factor of a fast, longer-range and luxury-style Tesla. They sell on price.

In Shanghai last year, a two-door battery electric Chery eQ cost around 60,000 yuan, or about US$8,655, after subsidies.

At this week's Detroit auto show, General Motors showed off its latest Bolt electric car, which costs around US$30,000 after a US$7,500 federal tax credit.