China’s industry ministry announced last month that it would soon establish a timeline to ban the sale of fossil-fuel cars, following the progressive measures to phase out gas and diesel vehicles taken by Norway (by 2025), India (2030), France (2040), and Britain (2040).
With targets set for alternative-energy cars to account for one fifth of all auto sales by 2025, Beijing’s ambitions to lead the electric vehicle revolution are unambiguous.
To produce cars for the Chinese market, the largest in the world, foreign automakers have to this point been required to form joint ventures with domestic firms and pressured to transfer electric vehicle technology to their Chinese partners.
In September, the New York Times reported new regulations that make the right of foreign firms to sell fossil-fuel vehicles in China contingent on their new-energy vehicle (NEV) sales. China will soon require all automakers to meet NEV sales quotas to remain in business: NEVs must represent 10% of annual sales by 2019 and 12% by 2020.
The Chinese electric car market is already the world’s largest, with sales this year estimated to eclipse the rest of the world combined. Despite Beijing’s efforts to curb air pollution by promoting and heavily subsidizing the industry, the Times notes that, “Nearly three-quarters of China’s power comes from coal, which emits more climate-changing gases than oil. Even on electricity, China’s cars are still burning dirty.”
The most formidable obstacle to the electrical vehicle revolution in China will be creating a viable nation-wide charging infrastructure. Sabina Howell, a New York University finance expert specializing in China, told City Lab, “I don’t think there are more than a couple dozen publicly available charging stations in any city.” Prohibitive costs for downtown property in China’s most prosperous cities pushes charging stations to the suburban fringes of Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou.
The government subsidies dangled to the electric vehicle industry have facilitated its rise, but also led to a glut of manufacturers, each with their own standards and policies for charging points. This variance can leave EV owners in the lurch if they’re not able to predict, for example, whether the size of the charging heads at a given station will fit their cars.
In October 2015, China announced plans to establish a nationwide charging-station network accommodating 5 million NEVs by 2020.
Shanghai’s first “light storage” charging station — powered by photovoltaic panels, capable of charging cars in less than an hour, with all surplus generated electricity channeled into the grid in neighboring communities — opened just before the Golden Week holiday, according to CGTN America:
By H.A. Platt
[Images via Reuters]