“Battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are not necessarily more fuel efficient than conventional gas-powered vehicles, and they give out even more emissions,” said Huang Xiangdong, vice president of Guangzhou Automobile Group Corp., at GAS 2010 held in Beijing in April. His remarks instantly spawned great interest in the audience of the conference.
Huang explained that currently 80 percent of China’s electricity is provided by coal-burning power plants. One ton of coal produces 2,690 kg CO2, 8.5 kg SO2, and 7.4 kg NOx (twice as much as diesel). And coal’s emission is 1.4 times that of petroleum, 1.3 times of diesel, 1.5 times of LPG, and 1.7 times of LNG.
Thus even BEVs and PHEVs could share the same energy efficiency as conventional energy vehicles (and statistics suggest they do not), they still give out 40 percent more CO2 emissions. Besides BEVs’ driving range is only 20-25 percent of conventional vehicles, thus a highly-intensive EV charging network will be needed to facilitate EV population.
“Despite cheap electricity as fuel, cost of EV is still high. Plus there are infrastructure and other social costs. Thus it is questionable if we should promote BEVs and PHEVs now in China,” Huang warned.
According to Huang, BEVs and PHEVs will have no advantages in terms of energy saving and emissions reduction unless China’s dependence on coal for power generation is changed. Yet experts believe that coal will continue to dominate over 50 percent of China’s primary energy source by 2050.
Huang suggests that a reasonable development route for EVs in China is to focus on fuel efficient and low-emission charge-sustaining HEVs for a long period from now on and moderately develop charge-depleting or extended driving HEVs (including plug-in).