China needs long-term strategy on vehicle use

Updated: 2011-11-14 09:02

By He Wei (China Daily)

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China needs long-term strategy on vehicle use

A 3-year-old boy watching an electric car being recharged at a recent auto fair in Beijing. The manufacturing and sale of electric cars will be encouraged by government policy in coming years. [Photo / China Daily]

SHANGHAI - Measures to curb traffic jams such as the restriction on car use in key cities are only temporary options as the country considers embracing the concept of being an "automobile society" as part of its long-term vehicle strategy, government sources said.

Comprehensive planning that coordinates the car industry and its social and economic effects will be essential to the industry's sustainability, Chen Qingtai, a research fellow at the Development Research Center of the State Council told a recent forum.

"Car bans and car plate bidding only cause more troubles and will not last long. They are indicative of a hidden conflict between the prevailing use of cars and lack of infrastructure," Chen said at the China Europe International Business School ninth Annual China Automotive Industry Forum in Shanghai last month.

He called for a shift of the government role from supervising the industry to overseeing auto-related sectors including energy, the environment and urban planning.

"Current policies are twisted. Suppressing car demand is not a wise choice. More parking lots, expressways and energy-saving standards should be considered," he added.

Chen also said a clear new energy strategy and waste gas emission limit were essential for the changing social and demographic outlook.

China's auto industry enjoyed thriving growth over the past two years, with total vehicle capacity hitting 70 million units in 2011.

The figure is expected to reach 200 million by 2020, surpassing the United States to become the world's biggest car market by volume, said Ouyang Gaoming, director of the national laboratory of automotive safety and energy at Tsinghua University.

Ouyang said light electric vehicles will become the trend over the next decade.

A report from Ernst & Young predicted that private cars will be the primary means of transportation within and between major cities in 2020. It further indicates China will have the most advanced multi-modal mobility infrastructure, allowing convenient transport between different places.

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a member of the European Parliament committee on budgetary control, said the new energy car industry has in effect revolutionized the way some Europeans live and work.

For instance, many smaller Greek islands plan on going green in the near future by meeting the full total of all their power needs entirely from renewable energy sources.

"The aim is to enable as many Greek islands as possible to supply all their total energy needs from renewable energy sources only. It creates jobs as well," Chatzimarkakis said.

They will use wind and wave power to supply electricity, drive electric vehicles, promote energy conservation in all island buildings and use agricultural waste to create gas and fuel. "We hope China can do the same," he said.

Jiading district in Shanghai was chosen as an international demonstration zone for electric vehicles in 2011. One battery distribution station and one charging station for public transport will be set up by the end of this year.

China emphasized new energy vehicles as a "strategic priority" in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). According to Ouyang, details of the plan for electric cars will be released "very soon".