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Megatrends in China’s NEV development in 2013

by Wang Binggang

China’s new energy vehicle development is still at the introduction stage, which has witnessed both progress and problems. Looking into the new year of 2013, there will be six major trends in the industry.

Hybrid bus will hopefully be the first sector to realize commercialization. The present mild hybrid buses are expected to enhance their cost performance. If the products can achieve a minimum fuel saving rate of 25 percent and with a cost increase of no more than ¥150,000 ($24,113), they will be acceptable to the market even without government subsidies. Since the Chinese government has already decided to further promote the application of hybrid buses nationwide in 2013, this will be a good opportunity to reduce manufacturing cost. At the same time, full hybrid bus technology should be encouraged to achieve a fuel saving rate of 40 percent.

The fleet operation of pure electric vehicles will further be explored. Since safety is not a problem for electric buses, the biggest challenge is how to bring down the cost of electric bus, which could be three or five times higher than the regular bus. High cost is also challenging the electric taxi fleet operation. It is important to study and research on cities or regions that are ideal for electric taxi operation. The areas of logistics, postal service and city sanitation could be the playground for pure electric vehicles.

One of the key issues to be addressed in 2013 will be the adoption of electric passenger vehicles by private customers. Competitive products should be developed to aim at the niche markets and the present market entry point could be short-range micro electric cars. EV adoption by individual consumers should be fostered in multiple ways, such as sale or rental. Some middle and small-sized cities and townships which are well-off and environmentally conscious could be the ideal demonstration places for electric cars.

The start-stop technology is already mature enough to be implanted in the regular gasoline cars. Full hybrid technology has been widely recognized in the global auto industry, which not only helps achieve better fuel saving rate, but also lays the ground for the development of plug-in hybrid technology.

Power batteries are crucial to EV development. The industry should set out to develop batteries with their energy density above 300 Wh/kg. In the meantime, the blind investment in power battery sector should be avoided. And fiscal and financial aids should be given to the outstanding battery makers to help them get through the financial difficulties before they can have battery volume production.

Infrastructure construction should abide by the principles in the Energy-Saving and New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan (2012-2020). Such construction should not be controlled by one big corporation to prevent the possible monopoly. Battery swapping may be suitable for certain kind of vehicles but not applicable to the average passenger cars. The charging method should be led by slow charging supplemented by quick charging, which will be good to both the vehicle batteries and the power grid. 

(Wang Binggang is the director of supervision and consultation group of the State 863 key project of energy conservation and new energy vehicles.

The piece is rewritten by Ray Jing based on his article in the Science and Technology Daily.)

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