China as world’s next green tech leader?

I’m not much for predictions or speculation. I partake, but don’t put much effort or faith in it. However, when I wrote in 2005 about my high hopes that China would take on green energy, I hadn’t expected that I’d actually see the day it might come true.

But a recent NYTs article, entitled “China vies to be world’s leader in electric cars“, suggests just that. Chinese officials and auto industry executives have issued a plan to raise the Mainland’s annual production capacity of hybrid or all-electric cars and buses to 500,000 by the end of 2011. This is up from 2,100 last year.The decision to put a much greater focus on electric-powered cars–one part solution to the country’s energy crisis, one part solution to the country’s pollution problems, one part solution to the country’s economic troubles–is a huge step in the right direction, but still leaves some major hurdles. The biggest problem, of course, is that the lion’s share of the country’s energy comes from coal-burning facilities. So, while electric cars won’t be spitting out earth-warming and people-choking emissions, the dirty coal plants needed to recharge the vehicles’ batteries will.

A report by McKinsey & Company last autumn estimated that replacing a gasoline-powered car with a similar-size electric car in China would reduce greenhouse emissions by only 19 percent. It would reduce urban pollution, however, by shifting the source of smog from car exhaust pipes to power plants, which are often located outside cities.

Beyond manufacturing, subsidies of up to US$8,800 are being offered to taxi fleets and local government agencies in 13 Chinese cities for each hybrid or all-electric vehicle they purchase. The state electricity grid has been ordered to set up electric car charging stations in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.

Government research subsidies for electric car designs are increasing rapidly. And an inter-agency panel is planning tax credits for consumers who buy alternative energy vehicles.

It is extremely positive news, as high production for an already budget-minded market is sure to push down prices globally–making green cars an increasingly affordable option for everyone. The announcement also shows that the Chinese Government has an eye on developing sustainable solutions to the country’s massive energy and pollution problems. Today it’s electric cars, hopefully tomorrow it’s massive advancement and adoption of clean energy.

For more information about what’s happening in China with regard to the environment and green technology, be sure to check out these sites:

Comments are closed.