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China's Baidu and Heathrow Airport pledge to switch to electric cars

By Angus McNeice in London | | Updated: 2017-09-21 00:51

London's Heathrow Airport and Chinese tech giant Baidu have both pledged to transition to electric vehicles by 2030, as part of an initiative organized by the United Kingdom-based The Climate Group.

Launched this week from The Climate Group's annual summit in New York City, the EV100 campaign saw 10 major businesses make a public commitment to embrace the use of electric vehicles over the next 15 years.

Baidu, which operates China's biggest online search engine, and Heathrow are joined in the undertaking by German courier Deutsche Post DHL Group, United States-based computer firm HP, and Swedish furniture retailer IKEA. The first 10 to sign up for the pledge also includes Dutch automotive firm LeasePlan, German retail giant Metro AG, Californian electric utility firm PG&E, consumer goods multinational Unilever, and Swedish power company Vattenfall.

Depending on how their businesses operate, members can fulfill their pledge by agreeing to change corporate fleets from gas and diesel vehicles to electric, or by placing requirements in service contracts calling for electric vehicles. Alternatively, members may qualify by installing on-site charging infrastructure to encourage staff and consumers to go electric.

Wang Lu, vice-president of Baidu, noted both China's role as a leader on climate action and its status as the world’s largest car market. He encouraged other Chinese companies to join the initiative.

"We are delighted to be the first Chinese company to join EV100," Lu said. "As one of the world’s leading IT companies, we are inspired to create a better future for all through technology innovation, and are committed to sustainability across our business operations."

Baidu conducts research into artificial intelligence and is developing technology for use in autonomous electric vehicles.

"We have already made significant progress in promoting low-carbon electro-mobility. We hope that other Chinese companies will follow our lead," Lu said.

The transport sector is the fastest-growing contributor to carbon emissions, said Helen Clarkson, chief executive of The Climate Group. Clarkson said customer demand is currently not strong enough to drive a swift transition to electric vehicles.

"We want to make electric transport the new normal," she said. "EV100 will use companies' collective global buying-power and influence on employees and customers to build demand and cut costs."

"The members being announced today see the business logic in leading a faster transition and addressing local air-quality issues in their markets. They are setting a competitive challenge to the auto industry to deliver more electric vehicles, sooner and at lower cost."

Two Chinese companies – ecological restoration company Elion Resources and air conditioner manufacturer BROAD Group – are part of The Climate Group's other flagship campaign, RE100.That initiative, which has been signed up to by Facebook, Coca-Cola, eBay and others, sees businesses pledge to match their power usage with renewable energy production.

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