Balance of Power

By Eddie Solar

China_TrafficFinishing a summer internship at the McDonnell Group, it’s now time for me to head back to school.   I’ve been fortunate to gain valuable exposure to the everyday activities of a strategic marketing firm and to have learned a great deal about smart grid.  Before leaving, I’ve decided to take a crack at posting my first blog.

In the months prior to arriving at McDonnell Group, I was fortunate to pursue international studies in China this past term and got to see one of the country’s many enigmas first-hand.  Having prepared myself to experience a dynamic, emerging superpower, a few peculiarities stood out.

The first thing I noticed about Beijing was how long it took to move about the city in a car.  I remember vividly an evening out to dinner with my host family that ended at seven p.m.   The traffic was so thick that we did not get back home until ten o’clock and I still needed to study.  This family is part of China’s upper-middle class and they were able to afford two cars, as did most of their friends.  They loved their cars so much that they drove a couple of hours to work each day as opposed to taking a forty-five-minute ride on the subway.  My host mother told me it was because she “needed her space” and it made her feel good; like an individual rather than just a number.  I found this a bit funny because the huge volume of cars leaves little space on the roads.

But what struck me is that, in almost all aspects of their culture, Chinese dislike wasting anything – food, water or electricity.  So why doesn’t this thrift extend to gasoline?
Then I experienced Beijing’s mass transit and understood why some would choose their cars.  The crush of people made it necessary to shove my way into the subway or face a 20-minute wait for a bus.  A bus, by the way, barely had enough room to squeeze on.

Given the country’s modernization push and fast developing car culture, China would seem a great market for electric cars, especially considering factors like its need to import most of its oil and its notoriously poor air quality.  And the air is that bad.  I would pull my shirt up over my mouth on most days.

Think about it; high gas prices and a relatively clean slate for introducing the charging infrastructure create an excellent opportunity for electric car companies to jump in and grab a market share.  Since the market is still growing and a large segment of the populationCoda_car
would be first time auto buyers with no true brand attachment, the market is ripe for those willing to try something new.

I hope to return to China in 2013 to hone my language and writing skills.  Who knows?  Maybe I can parlay this experience into becoming an electric car sales representative.

Eddie Solar begins his senior semester this month at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY.

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