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UPDATED: November 7, 2011 NO. 45 NOVEMBER 10, 2011
Gaining Green Ground
Promoting the development of new energy autos has become a focal point in China's green movement

GREEN BUS: A pure electric bus produced by Shandong Yixing Electric Automobile Co. Ltd. is on display at the 25th World Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exposition held in Shenzhen on November 15, 2010 (QIN HAISHI)

BATTERY WORKSHOP: A worker assembles EV batteries at Wangxiang Group based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province (HUANG ZONGZHI)

In June 2010, the Chinese Government announced a trial program to provide a subsidy of 60,000 yuan ($9,441) for each private purchase of a pure EV and 50,000 yuan ($7,874) for a plug-in hybrid in five cities, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Hefei of Anhui Province and Changchun of Jilin Province. One month later, the number of EV pilot cities was expanded from the original 20 to 25. With these efforts, the Chinese Government hoped that EVs could enter more families, rather than only serving as public transport.

Official data also showed that as of July 2011 more than 10,000 electric cars have been sold in the 25 cities and more than 1,000 EVs have been purchased for private use.

So far, more than 180 types of new energy vehicles have been approved by the MIIT.

The next decade will be critical for the development of China's EV industry, said Wang Zhixuan, Deputy Secretary General of China Electricity Council, asserting that China's traditional auto industry lags behind developed countries but EVs present a golden opportunity for China to catch up with developed countries.

Global cooperation

International cooperation is an important driver for China as it seeks new technology, develops markets and ensures the development of a vehicle market that both meets and sets global standards.

General Motors Co. and China's SAIC Motor signed an agreement on September 20 to develop new EV R&D platform. For both companies the deal is an opportunity to market these vehicles around the world. The EV platform will be the first to be co-developed by a domestic car maker and an international one.

SAIC has gained invaluable experience by operating its own new energy cars during the Shanghai Expo 2010. Next year SAIC will launch a series of plug-in hybrid and pure EVs. The plug-in hybrid model can save 50 percent on oil consumption compared to conventional autos.

BYD has already tapped Europe's EV market. Last year the BYD F3DM went on sale in Spain and Italy.

In June 2011, BYD signed a letter of intent with Frankfurt, Germany, to introduce BYD's all-electric eBUS-12. BYD will supply three eBUS-12, two charging stations and technical support until the first quarter of 2012. These electric buses will be used as shuttles at Frankfurt's airport and public transportation routes.

"This electric bus project shows the tremendous innovation of our city and will expand our leading position in EV development. With BYD, we are implementing a project with a high technological standard that will bring both sides new insights for the design of EV in the future," said Petra Roth, Mayor of Frankfurt, at the signing ceremony.

In July last year Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, and U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu jointly proposed the U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative. The initiative will include joint standards development, demonstration projects in more than a dozen cities, technical road mapping and public education projects.

The initiative has won positive response from International Energy Agency and other countries, including France, Germany, Japan, Spain and Sweden. So far more than a dozen countries have become members of this initiative. China has also set Shanghai as the international demonstration city for its EV industry, serving as a platform for EV demonstration operation and international exchange.

No easy task

Despite the fact that both central and local governments have set EVs as an integral part of the country's efforts to build an environmentally friendly society, the market has been less than enthusiastic.

"China's EV industry developed quickly and the government also gave it priority, but the market still remains sluggish and it is hard to realize a significant sales surge," said Cui Shudong, Deputy Secretary General of the China Passenger Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association.

High prices keep average car buyers away. Li Ru, a Beijing resident, needs to travel more than 20 km to work every day. On a tight budget, he decided against buying an EV.

"If I drive a conventional fuel car, it may cost me more than 300 yuan ($47.24) every month. The EV will save me about 200 yuan ($31.50). But the problem is that EVs are so much more expensive than conventional cars. Even if I figure in the government subsidies, I still cannot afford it," Li said.

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