Wan Gang, True Electric-Car Visionary of the World
Even though the world sees more news about Elon Musk, whether or not this is directly related to the development of electric vehicles, a much unknown figure in the world of electric cars is a man from China, and his name is Wan Gang. As countries around the world begin to come to terms and deal with the problems of air pollution caused by vehicles that burn petrol and diesel, China seems to be ahead of the curve as statistics show that one out of every two electric cars produced is purchased by a Chinese driver. Wan Gang began to advocate the need for China to embrace electric vehicle technology about two decades ago, his reasoning being that if China were to attempt to be on equal footing with the nations of the West, or perhaps even surpass them, they would have to choose a different path to get there.
Levi Tillerman, former US Department of Energy adviser and author of “The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future” speaks of Wan Gang’s genius when he said, “He’s the father of China’s electric-vehicle industry. Without Wan Gang, it’s unlikely China would have pushed to surpass the West. That was his big idea.” Many others sing his praises and his visionary status, such as Bill Russo, a former Chrysler executive, “Wan Gang was saying, ‘I want to create a system where we can be energy secure and there’s a more level playing field for our companies.’ He knew you couldn’t win playing the old game.”
Wan Gang, now 66 years old, started to display his prowess in electrical energy when as a 16-year-old stationed at a remote Chinese village near the North Korean border, he built its electrical grid from scratch, by himself. Fortunate enough to be able to get an education, he managed to gain admission to a Ph.D. program at Clausthal University of Technology in Germany for mechanical engineering, and as a graduate in 1991, he joined Audi. He rose through the ranks, and had the opportunity to interact with Chinese visitors and diplomats who were visiting the factory. By this time, China was experiencing severe issues of air pollution, and though the country was producing its own fossil fuel powered vehicles he managed to pitch his ideas to take the auto industry in a different direction. By 2007, Wan Gang was made Minister of Science and Technology, and it was during this period that he pushed the boundaries of electric vehicle technology in China. He retired from this position in March 2018, and is now serving in an academic role.