Electric vehicles to drive China's green effort

The choice of vehicles among citizens of Beijing, the second largest city in China with a population of 20 million is being closely watched by the international community.

It has more than five million passenger cars and one of the highest carbon emission levels in the world.

While the ordinary resident may not be ready to opt for an electric car, the city government is investing in electric buses and public infrastructure that encourage green transportation.

This will determine where the destiny of global efforts for climate change will head, and how the global community can cope with severe pollution in the next 10 to 20 years. 
The exterior of the Gaoantun Car Battery e-charging and changing Station in the suburb of Beijing. Just opposite the station is a waste incinerator plant which supplies electricity to the station.

Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission new energy and technology department head Xu Xinchao said the Chinese capital was among six cities in the country carrying out a pilot project between 2009 and 2012 to commercialise the sale and use of new energy vehicles.

“Under the plan, the city will have 5,000 new energy vehicles put into use by the end of this year,” he said.

“These include the 1,500 electric public buses plying areas such as Chang’an Avenue and the 2,060 sanitation trucks that are already in use.

“Besides, there will be 750 taxis powered by electricity in seven districts and counties such as Yanqing, Changping, Huairou and Fangshan, as well as 850 electric vehicles used by the public sector and state-owned companies.”

Xu said the city government and Beijing Electric Power Company had built more than 50 electric vehicle battery recharging and changing facilities around the city, with the largest station being the Gaoantun Car Battery Recharging and Changing Station about 30 minutes’ drive from the city centre.

Located at the Gaoantun Circular Economic Development Industrial Park, the station is touted as the largest such facility in the world covering an area of 8,189sq m, and with a total recharging capacity of 10,080kW.

Opened in January, the station has four battery changing lines that can serve eight electric vehicles at the same time. It is capable of serving 400 vehicles daily. Each changing process takes between four and 10 minutes.

According to station supervisor Chen Qiang, the station uses a robotic operating system. A sensor will detect the location of the batteries in the car and a robotic arm will remove the old battery and replace it with a new one.

“The robotic operating system is smart and efficient. It takes only four minutes to change a battery,” Chen said.

“As long as the vehicles use the required standardised batteries, they will be able to have their batteries changed at our station.”

He said, currently, the station caters for sanitation trucks, public vehicles and corporate passenger cars, adding that the station will also have battery changing lines for public buses when these are put into use in the third quarter of the year.

Beijing Electric Power Company marketing department deputy manager Liu Xiaomin said what was unique about the station was that the electricity used for recharging the batteries was generated by photovoltaic solar panels and a waste incinerator plant just opposite the station.

“The waste incinerator plant has already been connected to the overall power distribution grid in Gaoantun. We are making full use of the waste power generation,” he said.

Xu said the government was formulating policies and measures on the purchase of electric vehicles and the policies would be introduced in the fourth quarter of the year.

“The stations we are building are only to serve public vehicles and not private cars. Beijing Electric Power Company does not seek profits from this collaboration,” he said.

“This project is to make public travel more convenient, and to improve the environment.”

Xu added that after the pilot project, the government would fine-tune its overall execution plan and decide whether to open up the market to other companies which are keen to offer similar battery recharging and changing services.

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