Date: 10/04/2019 – Author: Sandra Brajkovic
Reading time: 4 minutes

As far as inventory and registration of electric vehicles goes, China has long outperformed the rest of the world, and even the rising international statistics are owed primarily to Chinese buyers. Electromobility is booming in the country. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, the number of new electric vehicles registered in China nearly doubled with 1.265. But not only private drivers are relying on electric cars and plug-in hybrids, China’s public transportation is beginning to be more and more electric.

(© 2019 Getty Images)

According to a Bloomberg study, about 380,000 buses with electric motors are currently on the road in China. Further calculations conclude this saves the country a whopping 41 million liters of diesel per day. By comparison, only the combined electric cars in the rest of the world can save the same amount in the same time. For short distances in the country’s large and overcrowded cities, electric buses are a popular means of local, emission-free transport.

There are also problems with e-mobility

Of course not everything in China works operates as battery powered vehicles. Trucks, coaches, and many cars are still dependent on fossil fuels. Otherwise, traveling the country’s long distances would not yet be feasible. After all, China is a very large country. Traveling from the technology center of Shenzhen in the south to the capital Beijing in the north is more 2,000 kilometers. If you want to travel from Shanghai in the east to Kashgar in the west, you have to cover more than 5,000 kilometers. Meanwhile, just commuting between larger cities, drivers quickly cover several hundred kilometers at a time.

(© 2019 Getty Images)

Despite even better battery technology and increasing ranges, electric vehicles are not the perfect solution for all traffic. China in particular needs an alternative that is suitable for long distances but is still more environmentally friendly than petrol and diesel. Ideally, electricity will also play a role in the solution in these cases.

 

Hydrogen could be the solution

During his state visit to Japan in 2018, Prime Minister Li Keqiang went to Toyota and spoke with CEO Akio Toyoda about the future of mobility. Toyoda showed him the company’s own fuel-cell technology, in which Li Keqiang immediately saw potential. For Li Keqiang, it was clear that this technology could advance his country. Back in China, he ensured the government provide the necessary subsidies.

As a result, the state cut subsidies for battery electric vehicles and reallocated funds. China’s focus for the future is now on local hydrogen production and the development of fuel cells. To begin, four routes are planned for the extraction of the element. However, the country is likely to increase plans rapidly.

 

Cooperation with Toyota already confirmed

Li Keqiang not only brought the idea for fuel cell initiatives home with him after his visit, but a solid deal. This was later confirmed by Toyota. The company wanted to make its fuel cell technology available to the Chinese “Beijing Automotive Group” (BAIC). For Toyota, this means a head start in the still young market as a pioneer in the technology and already capitalizing on a corresponding model.

China wants to achieve an ambitious goal. By 2030, the country aims to have one million fuel cell vehicles on its roads in addition to the numerous pure electric vehicles. After all, it is important for the government that the two technologies coexist and complement each other in everyday life. The advantage being that they share the same engine technology and only differ in their energy supply.

(© 2019 Getty Images)

Hydrogen has even more advantages

A large source of energy, about 50 percent to be precise, still comes from coal in China. This type of power generation is harmful to people and the environment, and the increased demand for electricity for electric cars does not make this any better. Fuel cells could provide the needed relief, generating electricity from the element hydrogen itself. Each individual vehicle in turn acts as a small power station, in the end emitting nothing but water.

Hydrogen is an alternative energy source that can be stored and released at any time. This could also play a major role in future energy generation, it probably won’t be long before China reports success in the clean hydrogen projection. Such success would be the next major revolution in the country’s transportation infrastructure. With China’s speed in technological developments, it will again be difficult for Europe and the United States to keep pace.