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Efforts continue to get more new energy cars on the road in China

Du Xiaoying
Updated: Apr 13,2015 10:35 AM     China Daily

More incentives offered to get drivers to go electric

Local governments are taking action to respond to the central government’s appeal to popularize new energy vehicles across the nation.

Earlier this month, Beijing authorities announced that pure electric vehicles would not be affected by the new round of rotating car number plate bans from April 11, 2015, to April 10, next year. The bans restrict cars with certain numbers plates from being on the road between 7am and 8pm from Monday to Friday within the capital’s fifth ring road.

Beijing authorities said the move aims to “effectively reduce vehicles’ pollutant emissions and continuously improve the capital’s air quality”.

To ease traffic and reduce pollution, many big cities in China imposed restrictions on vehicles in recent years.

The central government also introduced several policies to encourage people to use electric cars.

Green energy and environmental topics were widely discussed during last month’s two sessions, the country’s annual meeting of top legislature and political advisors.

The development of the new energy vehicle industry was one such topic. During the annual session of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, Premier Li Keqiang, promised to fight harder to curb China’s pollution by introducing cleaner energy and clamping down on illegal emissions.

The country is also gradually raising its emissions standards.

In 2012, the State Council, China’s cabinet, set an ambitious goal of getting 500,000 new energy cars on the road by the end of 2015 and 5 million new energy vehicles on the road by 2020.

In February, the Ministry of Science and Technology issued a draft of the government’s plan to support research and development of new energy vehicles to gain public opinion.

In March, the State Council unveiled its “Made in China 2025” program, which plans to upgrade the country’s manufacturing power in the next 10 years.

According to the program, the government will transform the nation into a more competitive global player by offering special funding and tax incentives to 10 industrial sectors including the new energy vehicle industry.

Local governments have introduced several policies to support the development of the new energy vehicle market.

For example, Beijing plans to build up a charging network for new energy cars in the city and plans to install charging posts within a five-kilometer radius inside the sixth ring road by the end of this year.

Beijing authorities also announced that the city would be friendlier to new energy car owners, by allowing them to pay less in parking fees and highway tolls in the near future.

Electric cars have several advantages such as zero emissions, low noise, low running cost, easy maintenance and high subsidies from the government.

Shortcomings

Electric cars have their shortcomings, particularly in terms of mileage. Most electric cars can only drive 150km on a full charge, sometimes even 100km in the case of bad weather or difficult road conditions.

It also takes time to charge electric cars, with a full charge taking about eight hours.

Charging infrastructure is also a problem in China. Charging stations and charging posts are hard to find even in big cities and it takes long time to improve and construct the infrastructure.

Because of the shortcomings, customers still show a conservative attitude towards new energy vehicles and the low sales of the niche market is a testimony to their concerns.

Cheng Yang, 34, living in Beijing, said she would not buy an electric car unless the charging infrastructure got better. She has tried to win a license plate since 2013 but has not been able to as Beijing plates are hard to get.

A record 2.3 million people enrolled to compete for 17,600 plates in the first round in 2015.

A total of 105,600 license plates are available for petroleum-powered private vehicles in the city for the full year.

Local transport authorities earmarked 20,000 license plates for new energy cars in 2015, but there were just over 500 applicants by Feb 8.

“I don’t think it’s the right time to buy electric cars now as the charging facilities are not good,” Cheng said, “I heard the local government is planning to build more charging posts in Beijing, maybe I will consider buying one after I see the charging network is working well.”

“I like electric cars as they are environmentally friendly, I would like to drive one as long as charging is convenient,” said Wan Yang, a 32-year-old TV producer living in Beijing.

Zhang Yi, 33, from Baoding, in Hebei province, said he would only drive electric cars in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai as there are more charging posts, but would not do so in other places or on highways. “I won’t drive them in my hometown as there are no charging posts,” he said, “what do I do if the car needs to be charged on the highway?”

China sold 74,800 allelectric and plug-in hybrid cars last year, 3.2 times more than in 2013. The country sold more than 23 million cars last year, making it the world’s sales leader, according to Chinese media.

The domestic market for new energy vehicles is large and has strong support from the government. There are big opportunities for the market to grow.

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