China Advised To Follow Hybrid Route
Asia Pacific Automotive Insights, December 1, 2008 - China's Ministry of Science and Technology is veering away from its previous preference for clean diesel as an alternative fuel of choice and is moving towards hybrids, according to Automotive News. An advisor to the ministry claims that Minister Wan Gang is 'very much in favour of hybrid technology', as it provides a stepping stone to the use of all-electric cars. This is considered a more long-term alternative to petrol in China.
The report added that clean diesel provides similar fuel efficiency to hybrids, but is less expensive. On the other hand, refurbishing refineries to produce diesel would be costly. Moreover, hybrids are more suitable for the shorter urban trips more common to China, while diesel is more efficient for longer journeys. Accordingly, the Ministry of Science and Technology's spending reflects the shift in strategy. The advisor told Automotive News that development of electric and fuel cell vehicles has received over 60% of the ministry's funding in recent years, compared to just 2-3% for clean diesel, which used to attract the bulk of investment.
However, focusing on hybrid development has earned results. In 2007 China's fourth-largest carmaker, Chang'an Automobile, produced the country's first indigenous hybrid-powered vehicle. The Jiexun-HEV was developed over six years using Chinese intellectual property rights for the engine and hybrid power system, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology. The engine, which Chang'an claims reduces fuel consumption by around 20%, also complies with the country's standard IV emissions regulations. Chang'an President Xu Liuping stated that the sedan forms an integral part of the 'electrified automobile program' in China's 863 Plan, which seeks to promote domestic high-tech innovation.
One group not so encouraged by the move towards hybrids is the European carmakers who had been lobbying the Chinese government to use their clean diesel technology. The Green Diesel Initiative comprised manufacturers such as France's PSA Peugeot Citroen and Germany's Volkswagen (VW). Indeed, VW has introduced a fleet of taxis to Shanghai that are powered by clean diesel. However, the initiative folded in 2007 as more and more big names signaled their interest in bringing their hybrid vehicles to China.
Domestic producers are also ensuring the future of hybrid technology in China, as BYD Auto rolled out the world's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid in November. Slated for commercial launch by the end of November, the F3DM will travel 70 miles on one charge and will initially only be available in China.