Those policies have applied to foreign brands too.
That tactic helped lure industry leader Tesla to Chinese shores, bolstering the sector’s reputation and sparking further competition.
Nowadays, more than 94 brands offer over 300 models in the Chinese market, “the most vibrant globally”, according to Counterpoint Research.
Some are smashing the cash barrier that put EVs beyond the means of the average consumer.
In Shanghai, China’s Geely exhibited its boxy Panda Mini – including a bright yellow one with the phrase “what the duck” emblazoned on its side.
The cheaper versions cost around US$5,800.
In the future, homegrown technology could drive prices down even further.
Battery giant CATL has developed a cell that uses sodium instead of lithium ions, the former both more abundant and cheaper than the latter.
Just before the show opened CATL announced those batteries would be incorporated into domestic brand Chery’s cars.
All this is being watched closely by foreign competitors.
Brands within the Chinese market are “setting the benchmark now” for others, Lotus’ Johnstone said.
And Chinese EV companies have already begun to make inroads abroad.
The biggest of them, BYD, set up shop in Norway then expanded onwards, and others are following.
Geely-owned Zeekr’s Europe CEO, Spiros Fotinos, told AFP the technological sophistication of Chinese-made EVs is combatting old stereotypes around quality that foreign consumers might harbour.
“Consumers are seeing a lot of innovative safety technologies, with driver assist systems that are really cutting edge,” he said.
Richards though said Chinese automakers’ success in the West wasn’t “a done deal”, as they would have to adapt to the market.
“Karaoke machines in cars, for example – very popular in China, not so popular in Europe,” he said.
Johnstone insisted carmakers with “heritage and history” that welcomed in the electric era would remain competitive.
“Brands that have been around for a number of years … will continue to live in the future as well,” he said.