At an automobile forum over the weekend, Xin Guobin, China’s vice-minister of industry and information technology, disclosed that the country had started research on a timetable to phase out the production and sale of fossil-fuel cars.
Xin did not provide any details of the time frame.
In July, French Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot announced that France would end the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of the country’s plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.
The same month, the British government followed suit with a similar plan, eyeing 2040 as the deadline for stopping the sale of new fossil-fuel cars.
Analysts say although there is little doubt that new energy vehicles (NEVs) will eventually prevail, it remains to be seen how long the switch will take, and will depend largely on improvements in infrastructure and technology, as well as how fast carmakers can adapt.
In China the government is a staunch supporter of NEVs, seeing them as a way to ease pressure on the environment.
A slew of measures - including tax exemptions, discounts for car purchases and an order for government organisations to buy more NEVs - is in place to encourage the use of NEVs.
Last year, China sold 507000 NEVs, an increase of 53% year-on-year. Sales of pure electric vehicles surged 65.1% year-on-year to 409000, accounting for 80% of NEV sales. An earlier guideline by the State Council said China would build more than 12000 charging stations before 2020 to fulfil the demands of more than 5 million NEVs.
Zhong Shi, an industry analyst, said China might adopt a deadline earlier than 2040, because it would be easier for the country to make the change given its relatively short history of car use.
Proposing a date later than 2040 would result in China being left behind, a scenario the government was seeking to avoid, Zhong said.
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers of China, the share of NEV sales should reach more than 40% of total car sales by 2030.