(Repeats story published Wednesday, with no change to text)
* Automakers bullish on green car prospects
* China aims to make 2 mln green cars annually by 2020
* Cars charged on coal grid contribute to pollution
By Jake Spring
BEIJING, Jan 27 Automakers' latest projections
for rapid growth of China's green car market have added to
concerns of worsening smog as the uptake of electric vehicles
powered by coal-fired grids races ahead of a switch to cleaner
Volkswagen AG plans 15 new-energy models over
3-5 years, its China chief told a green car conference in
Beijing on Saturday, predicting - like the government - that
Chinese production of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles would
grow almost six times to 2 million annually by 2020.
At the same event, BYD Co Ltd's
chairman told media that the Chinese automaker's electric
vehicle sales would double in each of the next three years.
The government has been promoting electric vehicles to cut
the smog that frequently envelops Chinese cities, helping sales
quadruple last year and making China the biggest market, the
finance minister said at the conference. Less than 1 percent of
passenger cars are now new energy, but the pace of growth raises
their potential to worsen smog.
A series of studies by Tsinghua University, whose alumni
includes the incumbent president, showed electric vehicles
charged in China produce two to five times as much particulate
matter and chemicals that contribute to smog versus
petrol-engine cars. Hybrid vehicles fare little better.
"International experience shows that cleaning up the air
doesn't need to rely on electric vehicles," said Los
Angeles-based An Feng, director of the Innovation Center for
Energy and Transportation. "Clean up the power plants."
China plans to convert the grid to renewable fuel or
clean-coal technology as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions
by 60 percent by 2020.
That will speed the green impact of electric vehicles, said
environmental science professor Huo Hong at the elite Tsinghua
university. But that goal will be "really difficult to achieve."
Tsinghua's studies call into question the wisdom of
aggressively promoting vehicles which the university said could
not be considered environmentally friendly for at least a decade
in many areas of China unless grid reform accelerates.
China's industry, environment and science ministries, which
devise most new energy vehicle policies, did not respond to
requests for comment. BYD and Volkswagen declined to immediately
To promote new-energy vehicles, the government has offered
various incentives in recent years including tax breaks, and set
targets such as having 5 million new-energy vehicles on the road
by 2020 - more than 8 times the current number.
Authorities in some cities particularly affected by smog
have gone further. Beijing and Tianjin, for instance, have
exempted new-energy vehicles from limits on the number of new
cars granted licence plates, and exempted them from driving
restrictions that other cars face on certain days of the week.
This month, the industrial Hebei province decreed that all
new residential complexes must have car-charging facilities.
In western Beijing, 62-year-old retired truck and taxi
driver Zhang Zhijun bought a BYD Tang hybrid last month and
plans to trade in his petrol-engine Toyota Corolla for an
electric car for short rides like taking his grandson to school.
"Right now smog is very heavy in China. This way, if
everyone does their part, it will definitely cut down on
pollution," Zhang said.
But Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei are all more than 90 percent
reliant on coal for energy, Tsinghua's research showed.
Huo and academics point out that, at the very least, the
proliferation of electric vehicles pushes more sources of
pollution away from heavily populated urban centres.
Whatever the impact, Qin Lihong, president of startup
electric automaker NextEV, said cleaning the grid would be the
quickest route to clear skies.
"It's much easier for society to make hundreds of power
plants better than change the hundreds of millions of cars in
thousands of cities," he said.
(Reporting by Jake Spring; Additional reporting by Beijing
newsroom; Editing by Christopher Cushing)