Photo: Flickr/Saad Akhtar
Amid reports that there are now more than one billion cars on the road, the world’s largest auto market may be abandoning a push for green cars.”It remains uncertain whether hybrid and electric cars, which are now the focus of much of the development, will be the winners in the end,” China’s premier Wen Jiabao wrote last month in a leading Communist party magazine, according to Forbes. He noted “problems with their technical path, problems with core technologies, problems with investment, problems with policy support.”
Last year, Beijing announced goals to spend about $15.6 billion to put 20 million hybrid and electric cars on the road by 2020. The Chinese government even introduced a subsidy program that gave private buyers of green cars up to 120,000 yuan (about $19,000) per vehicle.
The country’s leaders hoped that spearheading an international green-car revolution would give the mainland a chance to compete against foreign car makers, while curbing the world’s energy and air pollution problems.
Unfortunately, fewer than 1,000 electric and hybrid vehicles have been sold to private owners in all of China in the last two years. Berkshire-Hathaway-backed automobile manufacturer BYD — which was supposed to lead China’s dominance in the global electric-vehicle market — sold only 365 of its plug-in hybrid car since its launch in February 2009.
Meanwhile, Chinese vehicle registrations are off the charts. In the last year, China added 16.8 million cars to the road, pushing total units to more than 78 million and making it home to second-largest car population in the world. Though China still has far fewer vehicles per person than Western countries, analysts believe the country is on track to reach three times the size of the U.S. market in annual car sales by the end of the current decade.
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