BEIJING — The Chinese government is encouraging the country’s provinces to test “no-go zones” for gasoline-powered vehicles and replace them with “new energy” options such as fully electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. It follows a larger global trend of countries and cities proposing or adopting restrictions on and bans of fossil-fuel powered vehicles, including Egypt, Israel, India, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands and Norway.
In August, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a statement urging local authorities to begin testing no-go zones; depending on the results, it would eventually set up a “phase out” timeline for gasoline-powered vehicles, China Daily reported.
“Regions with ripe conditions have our support if they establish trial projects to establish no-go zones for gasoline-powered vehicles and replace such vehicles with new energy vehicles in the urban public transport system," the ministry said. "When success is achieved, we will coordinate different parties to study and formulate a plan to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles."
The ministry did not specify whether the phase-out plan would be limited to specific provinces or encompass the entire country.
In March, the southern Chinese province of Hainan announced a plan to ban the sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles by 2030, China Daily reported. The province, considered “China’s Hawaii,” with its tropical beaches, has an economy that relies more on tourism than heavy industry.
John Zeng, managing director of LMC Automotive Shanghai, told China Daily that testing no-go zones will help encourage consumers to adopt EVs and other new energy vehicles (NEVs) at a faster pace.
"As China is to stop subsidies for new energy vehicles by the end of 2020, governments need to offer more convenience to drivers of such vehicles so that more people will buy them," Zeng said.
China, home to the world's largest automotive market, has made a massive push to electrify its transportation infrastructure to ease air pollution issues that have plagued its biggest cities. It has the largest number of NEVs in the world, including battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. About 3.5 million NEVs are on the road today, with 5 million projected by the end of 2020, according to figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Large U.S.-based automotive manufacturers such as General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have been shifting more of their investment dollars away from internal combustion engines and toward electrification partly because of China's NEV push.
Zeng told China Daily that a nationwide ban of fossil fuel-powered vehicles will not “be a reality until 2040 or even 2050.”