Caixin
Nov 22, 2016 05:17 PM
ENVIRONMENT

China Rolls Out New-Energy License Plate Program

(Beijing) — China will launch a pilot program next month that will award special license plates for new-energy cars — an effort to promote the industry as it tries to clean up the nation's air and develop cutting-edge products it can someday export.

The new program will begin on Dec. 1, with initial participation by the eastern cities of Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuxi and Jinan and the southern city of Shenzhen, the Traffic Management Bureau of the Public Security Ministry said late Monday.

The program will be applied to the rest of the country as early as the second half of next year, the Traffic Management Bureau said.

The special plates will have six digits and a green background color, unlike the usual blue ones with five digits. The system will allow cities to separately manage their new-energy car fleets, and more effectively promote electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles.

"There might be more privileged policies for new-energy vehicles, such as reductions in tax and insurance, along with the new car plates," said Liang Yonghuo, an auto analyst at China Merchants Securities.

The State Council, China's cabinet, held a conference a year ago to implement special policies to distinguish new-energy vehicles from traditional gasoline-powered ones.

The central government ultimately hopes to put millions of such vehicles on the nation's streets to ease the air pollution that now plagues many major cities. It also hopes to foster an industry that can someday become a global leader, with the ability to export its products.

Despite all those efforts, consumers have been slow to embrace the cars, often due to lack of familiarity and scarcity of charging stations and other new-energy infrastructure.

Some of China's most congested cities now use an array of methods to limit the number of vehicles on the street. New-energy plates could now be exempt from some or all of those, encouraging consumers to buy such cars, analysts said.

Beijing, for example, forces city drivers to take their vehicles off the road for one work day each week, and Shanghai doesn't allow out-of-town car plates on its elevated freeways during peak hours.

Beijing and Shanghai also limit the number of new license plates available each month, with the result that sometimes it can take months or even years to get a new plate. But both cities make new-energy vehicle plates much easier to obtain, and such policies could continue under the new program.

"The special car license system can facilitate differentiated management and help continue the process of loosening regulation on new energy vehicles," said Liu Xiaojie, an analyst at WAYS Consulting Co., a Guangzhou-based car consultant.

Contact reporter Coco Feng (renkefeng@caixin.com); editor Doug Young (dougyoung@caixin.com)

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