Electric cars are big business in China now.

The Chinese car market exploded before environmental regulations could catch up. In the space of just a few years, the number of private cars on the roads of China’s cities grew from just a few thousand to millions. Many of them barely-regulated local products that produced vastly more pollutants than Western equivalents.

The result was dangerous levels of pollution, and smog thicker than soup. The Chinese government finally took action a few years ago, halving purchase tax on smaller-engined cars, and putting measures in place to encourage city dwellers in particular to buy electric cars.

As a result, the Chinese electric vehicle market is, in many ways, well ahead of that in the West. And German automaker Daimler-Benz is seeking to tap into that market with a new electric car that has a claimed range of 400 kilometers (249 miles).

It’s called Denza 400 and is the product of a joint venture between Mercedes parent company Daimler and Chinese electric vehicle specialist BYD, that goes by the catchy name BYD Daimler New Technology Co. Ltd. (BDNT).

The 400 is an upgrade of the existing electrically-powered BYD Denza, a fairly conventional, biggish hatchback loosely based on the first generation Mercedes B Class minivan. The electric motor and control unit have been upgraded, and battery capacity is increased from 47.5 kilowatt-hours to 62 kWh.

The result is that claimed 249-mile range, notably more than the 172 miles offered by the Nissan Leaf, a best-seller in the West. Daimler notes that most Chinese car owners only driver about 30 to 50 miles a day, so they should only need to charge the Denza 400 once a week.

Hubertus Troska, Daimler-Benz board member overseeing Greater China, said: "Our joint venture BDNT unites the best of Sino-German cooperation in new energy vehicles. Already offering safe, reliable and convenient electric vehicles from and for China, the Denza 400 offers our Chinese customers a further improved driving experience.

"We are confident about the future prospect of new energy vehicles in the country. Daimler will continue to invest in research and development of efficient and eco-friendly new energy vehicles, which represent a key pillar of our China growth strategy."

How long before sub-Tesla, mainstream electric cars on sale in the West can match the range offered by Chinese products?

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