Over the past decade, the number of cars sold in China has jumped from 2 million a year to nearly 20 million. No surprise, then, that oil consumption soared from 250,000 barrels a day to 2.25 million barrels a day between 2003 and 2013, according to a new report from United States Energy Information Agency. As a result, since 2009, China has been forced to import half of its oil.
That hockey stick-like growth has, of course, exponentially worsened China’s catastrophic pollution and so the government’s latest 5-year plan calls for 500,000 electric and hybrid cars to be on the road by 2015, with 5 million by 2020. To hit those targets, China has invested billions of dollars to jump-start the country’s electric car industry. It's also providing subsidies to get the motoring masses to go fossil-fuel free.
So far, that hasn’t really worked.
Just 14,604 electric cars and 3,038 plug-in electric hybrids were sold in 2013, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Now the government is revving up a new round of incentives, such as waiving a 10 percent tax on the purchase of new cars if buyers go electric. It has also delayed a phase-out of other subsides. (In years past, some Chinese cities have handed out free license plates to electric car buyers—a considerable perk given that the price of a license plate alone can cost as much as a conventional car.)