• Electric taxis are plugged in to chargers at a charging station in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province.

Electric taxis are plugged in to chargers at a charging station in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. (Photo : Getty Images)

An electric sports car, Qiantu K50, created by Lu Qun, a 48-year-old Beijing engineer, hopes to challenge Tesla and make it big in the global car market.

Lu is expecting that the growing popularity electric cars would propel his company, CH-Auto Technology Corporation and the country into prominence in the global auto industry.

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The New York Times said that China has long been trying to develop the domestic electric car industry and like Lu, the country is hoping to leverage on the shift to electric cars to boost its auto industry and be able to compete with major player such as the U.S., Germany and Japan.

The goal has also preoccupied Chinese planners for decades while the government poured its resources to support homegrown automakers and discriminated against foreign competitors.

The report, however, said that Chinese automakers lack the brands, technology and skills to surpass rivals, while Chinese consumers preferred foreign cars such as Volkwagens, Buicks and Toyotas.

But with electric cars, China may have the second chance to compete with rivals, since they are both starting from the same point.

Electric car makers are aiming to get special support from "Made in China 2025," a policy that promotes high-tech manufacturing in the country. By 2020, the Chinese government is expecting local automakers to produce at least 2 million electric and hybrid vehicles annually or about six times the number that was produced in 2015.

"There is a smaller gap between where China is today and the rest of the world in electric cars," said Bill Russo, managing director at Gao Feng Advisory, a Shanghai consultancy, and a former Chrysler executive. "There is room for newer start-up companies to dream big in China."

Lu is one of those automakers expecting to take advantage of this opportunity. Since he was young, he loved cars. In college, he studied automotive engineering at Tsinghua University. After graduating in 1990, he became part of the research and development team at the Chinese-joint venture of Jeep, a Chrysler division.

Together with nine colleagues, Lu started CH-Auto Technology Corporation in 2003, designing vehicles for the country's biggest automakers.

With the shift to electric cars, Lu started making his own vehicle. He believed that small automakers like him can better compete with the new vehicles than traditional car manufacturers as electric cars need new parts and technologies.

"Electric vehicles won't just replace cars with conventional engines, but they will bring a huge change to the entire car industry," Lu said. "We wanted to be part of this revolution."

This resulted in the making of K50, a two-seater car with carbon fiber body that can run at maximum speed of 120 mph and can travel a 200-mile distance in a single charge.

Lu is currently building a $300-million factory in Suzhou to be able to produce 50,000 cars annually. He said he expects to spend as much as $1.4 billion in the business in five years.

Lu said he would like to set K50 at the top of the market next year, which will directly challenge Tesla. While CH-40 is a newcomer, Tesla has already been established in the country since 2913.

But Lu is confident that he can sell K50, which is attractive to leisure-oriented consumers. He added that "we are not looking to create the Chinese Tesla." In addition, he can receive support from the government.

The K50 already received positive reviews from one popular Chinese website, which praised its design as "beautiful" and "avant-garde" and its body as "very muscular."

"A big advantage they have is their knowledge of what it takes to build a quality vehicle," said Jack Perkowski, managing partner of the Beijing-based consulting firm JFP Holdings and a veteran of China's car sector. "They have a better chance than many others because of that."