China’s carbon neutral goal: Shanghai aims to have 10,000 hydrogen-powered cars on roads in 2023

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Shanghai expects to have 10,000 hydrogen-powered cars on its roads in 2023, and has pledged to invest heavily in alternative energy sources.

The city, China’s financial and commercial capital, was also planning to build 100 hydrogen refuelling stations by the same year, said Chen Kele, a deputy division chief at the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology.

“We also plan to create nine scenarios to boost the use of hydrogen-powered vehicles,” he told the International Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle Congress in Shanghai on Wednesday. The industry’s output would hit 100 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion) by 2023, he added.

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Shanghai is looking to steal a march on other mainland cities when it comes to the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles, following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s surprise pledge to make the country carbon neutral by 2060. It faces competition from Beijing, which announced earlier that it would have 10,000 such vehicles before 2025, and Shenzhen, which already had about 1,300 hydrogen-powered vehicles by the end of last year and led the country in this sector.

The city’s 2023 target translates into a more than eightfold jump from the 1,200 such cars it reported on its roads at the end of last year. It also only had nine refuelling stations. One of the refuelling stations to be built in the city’s southwestern Jinshan district will be the world’s largest.

China aims to have a million hydrogen-powered cars on its roads by 2030, and these will be served by 1,000 refuelling stations, according to a road map published in 2016 by an advisory committee of the Society of Automotive Engineers of China.

But the sector is, as of now, largely untapped because of the high cost of operations involved, limited driving range and few refuelling stations. Companies that use such vehicles rely heavily on generous government subsidies – 240,000 yuan for every hydrogen-powered car and up to 400,000 for trucks.

Moreover, almost all of the 7,200 such vehicles on China’s roads as of July last year were retrofitted commercial trucks, according to new energy consultancy qingyunlian.com.

“The next four years will be a development stage for hydrogen fuel cell cars in China, buoyed by the government’s resolution to create a big market,” said Wei Chang, the chief executive of National Institute of Clean and Low-carbon Energy at the China Energy Group. “The industry will grow fast between 2025 and 2035.”

China is the world’s largest electric vehicle EV market with electric battery-powered cars expected to surge by about sixfold to 6.6 million units in 2025, according to a forecast by UBS.

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