China mandates increase in low-emissions vehicle use

Chinese traffic jam in Beijing
Motorists drive along a main road in Beijing. The Chinese government has offered new incentives for low-emission vehicle sales and said it would require state agencies to increase their purchases of “new energy” vehicles.
(Rolex Dela Pena / EPA)

Good news for electric car companies. China, which suffers from some of the world’s worst air pollution, has mandated that its government agencies dramatically increase their use of electric vehicles.

The government said this week that 30% of its central agencies’ new vehicle purchases must be “new energy” vehicles by 2016 -- “new energy” being a Chinese government catch-all for lower-emission cars and trucks.

Adding incentive, the government is also increasing support for electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by waiving the customary 10% purchase tax for “new energy” vehicles that cost under about $30,000.

It also said that government agencies and institutions would be responsible for providing dedicated parking spots for low-emission vehicles, and supplying them with charging stations.


In the U.S., the announcement met with applause in some quarters.

Calling the announcement “a very aggressive commitment to deploying electric vehicles,” Don Anair, deputy director of the clean vehicles program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the Chinese have set a standard that others might emulate,

“State, federal and local governments all have the opportunity to be leaders on clean transportation through their fleet purchases,” Anair said, noting that California Gov. Jerry Brown, among others, has committed the state to making zero-emissions vehicles make up 10% of its fleet cars by 2015, and 25% by 2020.

The Chinese government has in the past said it intended to increase the number of new energy vehicles on its roadways to 500,000 vehicles by next year, and to 10 times that by 2020. But according to the Chinese Automobile Manufacturers Assn., new energy vehicle sales were under 20,000 units last year, compared with total car sales of more than 18 million.


China has indicated that it hopes to be a leader in the manufacture of new energy vehicles, too. But the most recent monthly figures from the manufacturers association show that only 6,651 such vehicles were produced in the first quarter of 2014, up only slightly from the same period in 2013.

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