Business / Auto China

More automakers to buy Hunan Corun hybrid powertrains

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-03-18 08:06

Hunan Corun New Energy Co, which supplies batteries for Toyota Motor Corp's China-made hybrids, expects a sixfold jump in the number of vehicles it will equip next year with its own gasoline-electric systems as more automakers embrace the technology to meet a deadline for lowering fuel consumption.

Four Chinese assemblers, including Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co, Haima Automobile Group Co and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co, have agreed to buy the company's hybrid powertrains for as many as 30,000 vehicles in 2017, Corun Chairman Zhong Faping said. Corun likely swung to a profit last year as demand for its battery components rose from customers such as Toyota.

China has excluded hybrids from the subsidies doled out to electric-car buyers and plug-in autos as part of its strategy to reduce tailpipe emissions and dependence on imported oil. The government also requires automakers to lower the average fuel consumption of their vehicles to 5 liters per 100 kilometers by 2020, from the current 6.9 liters per 100 km.

"We didn't really enjoy any carrots the government offers to the industry," Zhong said last week in Beijing, where he was attending the annual session of the National People's Congress. "But it's the stick the government has been waving that has helped us."

Zhong, who founded Corun in 1998 after he quit his job as a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said he has been proposing to the government to put hybrids on an equal footing with plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars for the past 14 years in his role as a deputy to the NPC.

While the government has yet to respond to the calls, Tianjin and Guangzhou have become the first cities to let buyers of new hybrids enter lotteries usually restricted to plug-in cars. That has given Toyota an opportunity to woo buyers for its locally produced Corolla and Levin hybrids.

"China's NEV subsidy policies are actively promoting battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles," said Zheng Hu, a Beijing-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, referring to new-energy vehicles. Supporting conventional hybrids is the "missing piece" of the policy, he said.

Corun shares have declined 25 percent this year in Shanghai trading, but it has won a contract to supply Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd's Emgrand cars with 5,000 of its hybrid systems, which it said can cut fuel consumption by more than 35 percent.

Zhong estimated Corun posted a profit of at least 5 million yuan ($771,600) last year. Earnings for 2015 have not been announced. The company gets more than half its revenue making battery components and posted operating losses in each of the three years through 2014.

"The most difficult time is behind us," he said.

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