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The China Syndrome: Asian Giant to Ban Fossil-Fueled Vehicles

By: Bridget Clerkin September 13, 2017
China recently announced plans to ban fossil fuel vehicles, owing in part to poor air quality in cities like Shanghai, pictured here.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, the push for battery-powered cars keeps going, and going, and going. And the movement just got its biggest boost yet.

China announced plans to eliminate the production of all fossil fuel-powered cars in the country, with vice-minister of the Industry and Information Technology Ministry, Xin Guobin, proclaiming last week that a timetable for phasing out combustion-based vehicles was in the works.

The move puts China in league with France, Britain, and Germany, which have made similar promises to do away with the gas-powered technology in order to improve failing air quality in the region, among other rationale.

While Guobin also cited worsening air pollution as a top concern for China, the Asian giant’s commitment to electric vehicles packs a greater logistical punch than the three European nations combined.

China is the world’s most populous country, with its second-largest economy. It’s also the planet’s top car exporter.

The 28 million new cars the country sold in 2016 represented nearly a third of worldwide vehicle sales that year. And this April, China announced plans to grow its automotive exports even more—to upwards of 35 million vehicles annually by 2025—saying at least one-fifth would be “new energy vehicles,” the country’s official name for electric cars.

The removal of gas-powered cars from that inventory could significantly impact the course of automotive production—and purchasing habits—around the globe. But domestically, China already has a jump on the trend. 

The country, which has already promised to cap its carbon production by 2030, is expected to buy 530,000 new energy vehicles in 2017 alone. (Comparatively, Americans purchased just 104,863 electric cars through July of this year.) And the battery-powered business is booming in the Asian nation, with its largest electric car producer gaining as much as 7.2% this year in Hong Kong trading.

While no timeframe has been set for the combustion engine ban in China, similar proclamations in Europe set a 2040 target. And several automakers have announced even more ambitious schedules to ditch their fossil fuel-powered models. Volvo has promised to end gas-only production by 2019, Land Rover has announced an all-electric inventory by 2020, and Aston Martin has said its cars will be entirely hybrid by 2025.

With so much momentum building behind them, electric vehicles may soon have enough oomph to finally surpass their gas-powered cousins—and put an end to our combustible century-long love affair with fossil fuels.

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