Geely IG All-Electric Vehicle (CONCEPT)

Written By: Brittney B.

Air pollution has reached an all-time high in China, and mainland automaker Geely is among many companies that finally amped up their environmental efforts in recent years. After pollution was blamed for more than a million deaths in 2012, the Chinese government challenged automakers to put half a million hybrid or electric cars on the roads by 2015.

Fewer than 20,000 electric cars were sold in China in 2013 (the same year that statistic was revealed). The effort to curb emissions has always been an uphill battle, but it's also a crucial one, so the government is offering financial incentives along with its environmental challenges. Geely could capitalize on its homeland popularity by selling a consumer-friendly electric car. In fact, just a few years ago, it looked like the automaker would do just that.

Geely IG All-Electric Concept

Introducing an intelligent new design

The Geely Intelligence (IG), a concept hybrid with solar panels on its hood, debuted at the 2009 Shanghai Auto Show. Geely soon incorporated the concept into a larger research strategy that would include multiple electric and hybrid models. At the 2010 Beijing Auto Show, Geely displayed the Geely IG alongside two fully electric new vehicles, the EK-1 and EK-2. The former contained a lead-acid battery, and the latter a more powerful lithium-ion phosphate battery, but the IG got most of the attention because of its flashy facelift.

The original Geely IG was a four-seater micro-car too, but the driver sat alone with three passengers in the rear. The IG's next iteration had two pairs of seats, as well as a pair of gull-wing doors instead of one single door on the right side. Both changes made the car more practical and accessible, but the hybrid powertrain remained unchanged. It relies on a combination of combustion and photovoltaics (the conversion of solar energy into electricity), but its most promising -- and possibly record-breaking -- spec was definitely the price.

At a little less than $3,000 (or £2000) each, the original IG was slated to take the Indian-made Tata Nano's place as the cheapest car in the world. That price tag would get a bit steeper for the electric version, which was said to rely on solar panels on the hood, dashboard and roof, as well as a lithium-ion battery, to power its electric motor. Both models were supposed to be produced in Linhai, China.

Making Geely greener (at least in theory)

In the first half of 2014, Geely only met 32 percent of its revenue goal, moving less than 200,000 vehicles total. Luckily, this disappointment came as the company was shifting its focus toward a new kind of vehicle, and therefore a new demographic. Vice president Sun Xiadong announced a new sales goal: 3,000 electric vehicles in 2014, and 30,000 by the end of 2016. Energy efficiency could be Geely's best bet for future success, especially as other automakers continue to develop cars that fight pollution and cost less to maintain.

Emgrand, Geely's luxury product series as of 2014, already has one popular prototype with an electric battery inside. The Geely Emgrand Cross is a plug-in hybrid electric crossover that was originally expected to arrive in 2015, but its current fate is uncertain. Geely also purchased an electric car startup in early 2014, which proved just how global its priorities are. British-bred Emerald Automotive's first project was to help Geely create electric taxis — for the London cab company it acquired a year earlier.

Promises of future productions

One domestic collaboration could be the most promising of all. In a move that boosted China's influence over the green vehicle market in 2013, Geely teamed up with Kandi Technologies to work on a plug-in electric vehicle that will satisfy the government's energy-saving subsidy requirements. The popular Geely Panda was cited as a design inspiration from early on, and Kandi is already known for miniature battery-powered models, so Chinese consumers might be able to trust Geely's ambitious sales predictions after all.

The timelines are still shifting, though. Everyone expected an electric Geely IG in 2014 or early 2015, but while that's still a technical possibility, any release now would be surprising. The automaker hasn't offered any serious updates on the status of the IG since 2013, let alone indicated that they'll be producing the model (electric or otherwise). It's not certain whether the IG name will be assigned to the sedan Geely ultimately produces with Kandi, or if its design flair and efficient powertrain will be perfected for a different vehicle altogether.