China’s electric car market has boomed with the introduction of incentives which, together with other ongoing measures, are lowering air pollution and driving the country toward a net zero future.
Although Europe leads the way in electric vehicle (EV) sales with 1.4 million new registrations in 2020, China remains the biggest national market for EVs, with 44 per cent of all the EVs sold in the world (more than 4.5 million).
Since June 2021, China’s EV market has shown continued growth in production and sales, hitting a record high in July, and continuing to break new records in August.
From January to August, China’s total EV production and sales hit 1.813 million and 1.799 million respectively, both increased by 1.9 times from a year earlier.
The subsidy policy introduced by China’s government in the early 2010s has played a crucial role in promoting the development and expansion of its EV market. With up to 50,000 RMB for each plug-in hybrid vehicle and 60,000 RMB for each pure electric vehicle, the policy was expanded nationwide in 2015 and put EV sales on a fast track. Some cities also provide vehicle charging subsidies for EV owners.
For Zhu Jincheng, a businessman who needs to drive for work every day, the policies have helped him save a large amount of money in car purchase and daily driving.
“When I bought the EV, I didn’t need to pay for the Vehicle Purchase Tax (around 50,000 RMB in his case), and the other taxes charged on gasoline cars had also been reduced,” he said.
“The cost of driving an EV is also so much lower than driving a gasoline car. It only costs me 200 to 300 RMB per month for battery charging while it would be 1,000 RMB for gas.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced in 2020 that the elimination of the program would be postponed until 2022, with annual reductions of 10 per cent, 20 per cent, and 30 per cent on the basis of the previous year. While more measures, such as building extra charging and battery swapping stations and dealing with battery reuse and recycling, are introduced to promote infrastructure development and technology innovation, it further benefits EV users and expands the market.
“The popularity of charging piles on the roadside has provided great convenience for us [car owners],” said Mr Zhu.
“When I first drove the EV, I was always concerned about whether the car would run out of electricity, whether I could find the charging spot,” he said. “But it is not a problem anymore as there are actually a lot of charging piles in the city.”
“Many housing estates have also set up public charging piles these days, and the plugs are designed under unified standards, so everyone can use these piles no matter what brand of EVs they get.”
“Now our key concern will be the battery. After EV became our first choice for getting a new car, we would like to see an EV with shorter charging time and longer battery life.”
According to Industry and Information Technology Minister Xiao Yaqing, China has “too many” EV makers and the government will encourage consolidation.
“We should consider the high technical content of new energy vehicles, so the resources should be market-consolidated as much as possible to avoid decentralisation”, the minister said at the press conference on September 13.
The minister also said the government would “continue to carry out the program to develop EV sales in rural markets”, as well as “encourage local governments to introduce more preferential policies with regional characteristics for the parking and charging, and for the application of new energy vehicles”.
The government also included “promoting cross-technology integration” and “improving product quality” in the next-step strategies.
“Many pilot projects have made new breakthroughs, [they are] accelerating the application of 5G and vehicle-road coordination technology, and developing more recreation services for consumers as well as automatic or auxiliary driving functions,” said Mr Xiao.
“[We will] provide higher standards and stricter requirements for quality safety, low-temperature applications and more, guiding enterprises to improve their product and service quality, and establish their brand images.”
To echo the Paris Agreement and actively react to climate change, China announced at the 75th UN General Assembly its aim to reach a peak in its carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. China then published the 14th Five Year Plan in March 2021, which included targets of energy and carbon intensity reduction.
Meanwhile, China’s Central Environmental Inspection Team launched its new round of deployment on August 25, conducting inspections in five provinces (Jilin, Shandong, Hubei, Guangdong and Sichuan) and two central state-owned enterprises (China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group Co., Ltd. and China National Gold Group Co., Ltd).
The one-month inspection will be focusing on “the implementation of arrangements for carbon emission goals, restrictions on high energy-consuming and high emission projects, as well as the handling of major ecological and environmental damage, pollution and risks at local levels”, said the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
The team will also set up hotlines in each province to accept tip-offs from the public.
The ongoing measures, including encouraging the EV market, are proving effective in lowering particulate matter in the air.
In August, the average concentration of PM2.5 in 168 main cities was 19.6 μg, showing a drop of 3 per cent from the previous year. Beijing saw a decline of 35.8 per cent with its average PM2.5 concentration of 18.6 μg, reaching the third lowest value on record.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment reported most areas showed good diffusion conditions in September and the air quality in cities mainly achieved the ranking of ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.
Main photo, top: More EV charging stations were built in the city. Photo: Alson Cai.