China Tries to Go Electric

The government is offering subsidies to make electric cars more affordable.


Sabtu, 23 Nov 2013 14:00 WIB


Mark Godfrey

China Tries to Go Electric

China, electric car, pollution, environment, Mark Godfrey

To combat chronic levels of pollution, China is trying to clear the air by increasing the number of electric cars on its roads.

To do so the government is offering subsidies to make electric cars more affordable... with a discount of nearly 10 thousand US dollars on an all-electric passenger car.

By 2015, Beijing wants to have 50,000 electric or hybrid vehicles on its roads.

But many question Beijing’s ability to roll out enough charging facilities to hit that target.

One of them is gym manager Lina Li, one of around five million motorists using Beijing roads.

Like most of the city’s motorists her car runs on petrol and she’s never considered the electric options.

“An electric car is too costly,” she admits.

Her car costs more than 30 thousand US dollars. And if she chooses electric cars, this means she has to spend more than twice the normal price.

“Tthough I know the government gives subsidies on the price. But I’d be very worried as I have never even seen a place to charge these cars. I don’t want to be stuck without power on the street.”

Driving through downtown Beijing it’s hard to see any sign of a recharging station or a sign pointing to one.

The problem is explained by new energy analyst Ray Wen Hao, who invests in motor fuel facilities around China.

“Beijing has built the world’s largest charging station for electric vehicles. It can do 400 vehicles a day. But so far the number of charging stations spread across the city is inadequate. Most of the gas stations in Beijing are operated by the Chinese state fuel monopolies like PetroChina and they’re not keen to incorporate electric charging docks in their stations.”

Beijing’s mayor has even promised to fix the recharging problem by building thousands of charging stations and smaller standalone recharge posts across the city.

He also pledged to continue subsidizing electric cars by offering up to 50% of the price.

But that may not be enough to boost sales of electric vehicles says energy analyst Ray Wen Hao.

“Beijing limits the number of cars allowed on the streets by charging really high registration fees and by handing out license plates in a lottery system. Right now only one in seven applicants get a license. But if they exempted electric vehicles from that then everyone would buy one because you could get a license more easily.”

Others believe that electric cars aren’t the answer to clean up the country’s air.

Smog which frequently blankets the city has been blamed partly on the huge growth in car numbers.

But merely switching from petrol to electricity may not solve the problem.

Environmentalists here believe electric cars are only partly a solution if your primary fuel for producing electricity for these cars is coal.

Continued use of coal remains a big factor in Beijing’s pollution.

And Beijing needs to re-embrace the bicycle, which once ruled this city’s streets.
With the license and fuel fees, running a car is an expensive business in Beijing.

But local drivers like Lina Li are unlikely to pay even more for the option of going electric.

“I’d be happy to buy an electric car if the price is reasonable and I am sure of where I can charge it, otherwise I’ll stick with a normal car. It should be convenient.”

Beijing may find that having more electric cars on its roads will help clear the city’s polluted air.

But it will take more time and preparation before the city is ready to go electric.


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