China has made a substantial move to advance the development of automobiles powered by new energies amidst concerns on energy conservation and environmental protection.
A new regulation regarding the qualifications of manufacturers for automobiles powered by new energies was promulgated Thursday by the country's top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), after seven months of public discussion.
New-energy automobiles were defined by the regulation as hybrid cars — battery electric vehicles (BEV), fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), hydrogen-fueled vehicles and vehicles powered by other new types of fuel.
Professor Zha Daojiong, director of the Center for International Energy Security at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told Xinhua the regulation came out against a background of increasing domestic and international energy demands.
The promulgation of the regulation coincided with the announcement of a sharp gasoline price rise by the NDRC. The prices of gasoline, diesel oil and aviation kerosene increased by 500 yuan per ton, a rise of almost 10 percent, to lessen the gap between soaring international crude prices and state-set domestic oil prices.
The document said China would accelerate the research, development and production of new energy vehicles step by step.
Auto enterprises applying to manufacture vehicles powered by new energies should have adequate research, production and after-sales service capacities and need to ensure the reliability of the autos, it said.
"Enterprises wanting to manufacture new-energy cars should pay attention that their development of new type of energies should be truly energy-efficient rather than only new in name, Zha said. "It is also crucial to avoid creating new sources of pollution in the process of the production of vehicles fuelled by new energies."
Special testing institutions will be entrusted to supervise the quality of the vehicles powered by new energies, according to the regulation.
To tap the country's rapidly expanding car markets and cater to the government's requirements on environmental protection, many domestic automobile manufacturers have already started research on new, cleaner energy.
Central China's Anhui-based Chery, for instance, has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) for the latter's technical support in developing green alternative energy vehicles.
With an estimated 38 million motor vehicles on the roads, including 22 million private cars, China has a taste of not only the efficiency and convenience of modernization but also the harm this can bring, with damage to ecology and polluted air.
Statistics from the Ministry of Construction showed that transportation accounted for 16.3 percent of the country's total energy consumption in 2005. Moreover, more than 80 percent of the carbon monoxide and more than 40 percent of nitrogen oxides in airare from the car emission, figures from the State Environmental Protection Administration revealed.
Beijing, the host city for the 2008 Olympics, had 3.08 million automobiles by the end of August, the highest in China, and this figure is increasing by more than 1,000 a day.
Professor Zha Daojiong suggested the government increase the tax on the use and consumption of high-emission vehicles, especially in big cities like Beijing, where roads would often resemble car parks during the rush hour.
"The government should impose higher fuel consumption taxes on the high-emission cars," he said.
As America's development and production of ethanol, an alternative fuel to petrol, has boosted the global food price surge to some extent since last year, Zha said that the government must take social, economic and ecological factors into consideration in specifying the new energy development scheme.
China has hoped to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent, or 4 percent each year from 2006 to 2010. But, the consumption actually fell by just 1.2 percent last year, far from accomplishing the set goal.