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Auto expert debunks viral conspiracy theory about Chinese-made cars: 'It's not pleasant'

A recent YouTube video featured drone footage of a concerning sight in China raising questions about the country's auto industry.

Neta Vs, Chinese-made cars

Photo Credit: iStock

A viral YouTube video from 2023 featured drone footage of a large number of electric vehicles sitting in a field in China. It alleged that Chinese automakers are manufacturing cars, falsifying sales records, and abandoning them in order to receive government subsidies. 

However, a Shanghai-based automotive industry veteran has looked into those claims and was able to debunk them as false.

Shanghai-based Mark Rainford, who runs his own YouTube channel called Inside China Auto, visited the "EV graveyard" in person. He captured his own footage of the cars that YouTuber Winston Sterzel claimed, based on old images captured by drone, were 10,000 brand new Neta Vs (a Chinese-made electric vehicle).

In actuality, he found that the cars were not new, and only 146 of them were Neta Vs. 

So, what is really going on in this EV graveyard? Rainford discovered that a large percentage of the abandoned cars were BAIC BJEV EC3s, a type of car used predominantly by a ride-sharing app that went bankrupt. The failure of this business, and not a government subsidy-related conspiracy, is likely responsible for this large number of abandoned EVs.

Rainford goes on to list some of the reasons that the ride-sharing apps failed to catch on in China — public transportation is faster and cheaper than driving in Chinese cities, and less space devoted to parking made them inconvenient for users. 

In addition, the EV boom in China has led to many rapid advancements in the field, meaning that most of the pre-2016 models that ended up abandoned were simply overtaken by newer models.

"These cars have been superseded by significantly better models because China's EV market has undergone an incredible revolution since 2016. In essence, these cars are the unwanted remnants of the EV development rise," Rainford explains in the video. "It's not pleasant, certainly feels wasteful, and the hope is that somebody finds a way to recycle or repurpose these cars."

The EV battery recycling industry is still in its early stages, but its growth is essential. EV batteries are still made using rare-earth elements that are non-renewable and cause environmental damage when they are mined. 

Luckily, advances are being made in that industry, including in China, leaving hope that something good may happen with these abandoned cars in the future.

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