Green-energy cars land on state wish list
The central government included 'new energy' vehicles in its procurement list for the first time yesterday, amid concerns about whether the technology is mature enough to meet market needs.
Experts said the directives - which put plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles on a list of official government purchases - sent a positive signal to the car industry, but warned a lack of supply and unified standards could hamper demand.
The documents issued by Communist Party organs and government bureaus aim to curb emissions by limiting the size and power of engine cylinders on new government vehicles from 2 litres to 1.8 litres. It also sets price limits from 200,000 yuan (HK$244,000) to just 180,000 yuan.
Chen Jian, director of the International Technology and Economy Institute under the State Council's Development Research Centre, told Xinhua that including the vehicles on the procurement list would help foster the market for energy cars.
Chen said officials would encourage the use of these cars by offering preferential parking and toll fees, among other measures.
Experts say electric vehicles, which can travel about 200 kilometers per charge, are suitable for official use since most government business involves short-distance travel within cities.
Ye Qing, a National People's Congress deputy, told Xinhua that regulations would also help cut government expenses by prohibiting luxury vehicle purchases. Currently, the budget for purchasing official vehicles is more than 100 billion yuan. Conserving energy and emissions reductions are prioritised in the current five-year plan due to end in 2015. It also wants to boost the development of hybrid cars and electric vehicles.
But experts had long debated on the future of all-electric cars, and the government assembled experts and policymakers to discuss the issue, including the vehicles' cost-effectiveness, at a meeting earlier this month.
Premier Wen Jiabao himself questioned whether electric cars were 'mature' products in a July article in Qiushi magazine, a Communist Party mouthpiece.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for energy-saving technological breakthroughs over the next five years.
Professor Zhou Dadi, the National Energy Advisory Committee's vice-chairman, said the public did not yet have a clear idea of how new energy cars worked.
Yu Cong, from the National Development and Reform Commission's Energy Research Institute, welcomed the latest directives. But she said new energy cars suffered in the market because of high production costs and functions that lagged behind traditional cars.
'There is a lack of a unified standard for new energy cars. Some use rechargeable batteries and some use other energy-storage devices,' she said. 'There should be a higher technology threshold for such [cars], ensuring they perform the same as traditional ones.'
The amount, in US dollars, that Beijing has earmarked for electric-car development
- It wants to build 1 million such cars by 2015