Green skies ahead

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-11 9:03:03


Shanghai GM launches its first domestically made full EV Sail Springo during the Guangzhou Auto Show November 22. Photo: CFP
Shanghai GM launches its first domestically made full EV Sail Springo during the Guangzhou Auto Show November 22. Photo: CFP

Two major cities in China are stepping up efforts to promote the adoption of cleaner new vehicles, while getting rid of dirty old ones, in a bid to rein in air pollution in the face of urbanites' ever-growing appetite for mobility.

In the eastern megalopolis of Shanghai, the municipal government ushered in a local new energy vehicle subsidy program December 28 to keep up momentum from the national new energy subsidy policy, which expired December 31, allowing environment-conscious consumers to continue to enjoy purchase incentives.

The new Shanghai policy pledges a 30,000 yuan ($4,819) subsidy for every plug-in hybrid passenger vehicle and 40,000 yuan for each fully electric car. In addition, the green car buyers can get dedicated green car plates for free, and there are 20,000 such plates allocated for 2013 in the city, according to a press release posted on the Shanghai municipal government's website January 5.

Although the renewal of the national subsidy policy for 2013 is still pending, an unnamed official in Shanghai's new energy promotion office was quoted in the statement as saying that the city would still implement a "national plus local" subsidy scheme.

The Chinese central government introduced subsidies for clean energy cars in Shanghai, Changchun, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Hefei in June 2010, offering a maximum of 60,000 yuan toward the purchase of an all-electric car. The number of cities was later expanded to 25, including Beijing.

In the case of a Roewe E50, SAIC Motor Corp's 18 kilowatt-hour battery all-electric compact that can go 180 kilometers on one charge, local and national subsidies would shave 100,000 yuan off its 234,900 yuan price tag, Shanghai-based International Finance News reported Monday, citing a 4S store dealer surnamed Dai.

Buyers would also get a free car plate - an additional savings of 70,000 yuan, considering the current auction price for an internal combustion engine vehicle in Shanghai, Dai said.

Xu Weihan, founder of Shanghai Gaozhan New Energy Vehicle Sales Services Co (EV Buy), told the newspaper that the country's first electric vehicle (EV) 4S store sold 230 cars in the first few days after the new policy was released.

Besides Roewe E50, Shanghai General Motors's Sail Springo EV and Shanghai UCAS Co's LF7002 EV have also joined the subsidy program, while Beijing Automotive Group, BMW and Volkswagen are developing new models to participate in the green grab for green, according to the Shanghai government's website.

Scraping heavy polluters

Though it has not released a new subsidy policy for green car purchases, on January 1 Beijing upgraded its old vehicle scrapping policy, a move that is expected to encourage disposal of old cars that have failed to meet national emissions standards, the Beijing News reported Monday.

Vehicle emissions have already become a major source of air pollution in Beijing. As of the end of November, there were 5.2 million registered vehicles in the metropolis, and their collective emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxides contributed 86, 40 and 56 percent, respectively, to the city's total emissions of these polluting chemicals, according to the Beijing Public Net for Environmental Protection, a semi-official website.

Beijing's new scrapping policy hiked the average disposal rebate to 6,500 yuan a unit from 4,500 yuan a unit, and the vehicular ages that qualify for higher rebates have been expanded to six to 10 years from the previous six to eight years, the official document posted on the website said, noting the policy will last for two years.

Although vehicles that are more than eight years old account for only 22 percent of Beijing's total vehicular ownership, they emit 50 percent of the city's total vehicular emissions, the website said.

Meanwhile, some automakers have set a higher trade-in value of old models, increasing it to 50 percent of the official rebate value from 10 to 20 percent, the Beijing News reported, citing an anonymous car dealer in Beijing.

From August 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012, the capital city saw 550,000 automobiles get discarded, with 292,600 of them receiving a total of 1.2 billion yuan in rebate revenue, Beijing Times reported Monday, citing statistics from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Finance.

Health hazards

The air pollution on the roads in Beijing was so heavy that a Beijing taxi driver was exposed to five times the acceptable amount of particulate matter (PM2.5) set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for mean exposure over a 24-hour period, a recent study jointly conducted by Greenpeace and Peking University's School of Public Health showed.

"For taxi drivers, who come into more contact with car exhaust fumes, [the threat to health posed by PM2.5 pollution] is likely to be greater. As data cited in the Greenpeace report shows, long-term exposure to traffic pollution is an independent risk factor in the onset of coronary heart disease," environmental website reported January 3.

"Generally, the longer subjects spent outdoors, the greater the threat posed to their health by PM2.5 pollution; though staying indoors did not eliminate the exposure," it said.

In fact, an article published on Greenpeace's Chinese website December 28 said that it had found a strong positive correlation between external PM2.5 density and indoor pollution.

The NGO did a test between December 3 and 8 in the apartment of a young woman, Wang Qiuxia, near Beijing's Olympic Green, a supposedly cleaner area off the North Fourth Ring Road. On the evening of December 5, the official outdoor PM2.5 density in the area was 13 micrograms per cubic meter. In Wang's home, it was 6 micrograms per cubic meter, it said.

However, when the outdoor density soared to between 120 and 165 micrograms per cubic meter the next evening, the indoor density reached 70 to 87 micrograms per cubic meter.

According to the WHO, air quality guidelines, safe PM2.5 levels are under 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Although the Ministry of Environmental Protection has not published any national PM2.5 figure, Greenpeace estimated that the number of deaths caused by PM2.5 in Beijing and Shanghai in 2012 would reach 2,589 and 3,317 respectively, if the air pollution were to remain the same as in 2010.


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