At least 30 per cent of annual vehicle purchases must be of "new energy" models by 2016, all central government departments and mainland city administrations have been told. The move is part of efforts to combat air pollution.
A circular issued yesterday by the ministries of finance, science and technology, and industry and information technology and the National Development and Reform Commission said the mandatory requirement for the public sector would "facilitate technological improvement of the new-energy vehicle industry, promote the environmental protection industry's development and tackle air pollution".
Former health minister Chen Zhu has said air pollution causes 350,000 to 500,000 premature deaths a year on the mainland.
New-energy vehicles are defined as all-electric, plug-in hybrid electric or fuel-cell models.
All-electric vehicles can be recharged from any external electricity source, like wall sockets and rechargeable batteries.
Plug-in hybrids, powered primarily by electricity and supplemented by petrol, have a longer mileage range after each recharge and are cheaper since their battery capacity is smaller, but they emit a greater amount of pollutants.
Fuel-cell vehicles powered by a combination of hydrogen and oxygen are many years away from commercialisation.
According to the edict, the minimum procurement ratio will rise after 2016, although no percentages were given.
For government entities outside 54 major cities, the minimum procurement ratio this year will be 10 per cent, rising to 20 per cent next year and 30 per cent in 2016.
But cities in the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta and the greater Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, where combatting air pollution carries a higher priority, are bound by a higher 15 per cent minimum for this year.
To relieve the shortage of recharging points, one of the biggest bottlenecks to the mass commercialisation of electric vehicles, the circular said local governments would be responsible for ensuring that recharging points match the number of electric vehicles on the road. It gave no time frame.