A red Tesla car, yesterday

Chinese province plans ban on sale of petrol and diesel cars

Image credit: Tesla

Hainan island in the South China Sea has said it will become the first region in China to ban sales of petrol and diesel-powered cars to help curb climate-changing carbon emissions, with electric vehicles promoted to replace them.

China is the world's leading market for electric vehicles, accounting for approximately 46 per cent of the global fleet, according to data from June this year, when 10 million highway-legal plug-in passenger cars were on Chinese roads.

The ruling Communist Party is promoting electric cars to help clean up China’s smog-choked cities and gain an early lead in a growing industry.

The Hainan provincial government declared that sales of fossil fuel-powered cars will be banned on the island by 2030 and that electric vehicles will be promoted with tax breaks and by expanding the charging network, as described in its 'Carbon Peak Implementation Plan'.

“By 2030, the whole province will ban sales of fuelled vehicles,” according to the plan, which goes on to state that Hainan aims to have electric vehicles account for 45 per cent of its vehicles by 2030. It said cities will develop “zero-emissions zones” where fossil fuel-powered vehicles will be banned.

A deputy Chinese industry minister said in September 2017 that Beijing was working on a plan to stop making and selling petrol and diesel-powered cars, but the government has yet to release any more details.

The Hainan announcement comes as China struggles through its hottest, driest summer in decades, with the extreme conditions wilting crops and drying up rivers and reservoirs used for generating hydropower. The Yangtze River, one of the world's mightiest waterways and a crucial conduit for Chinese business vessels, has already shrunk to almost half its normal size due to the punishing drought conditions.

China's blossoming electric vehicle market is a boon for Tesla, which saw its retail sales volume soar to nearly 79,000 units in June this year - an increase of 138 per cent over the same period in 2021 - according to China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) data.

Although Tesla’s sales in China then dropped by 64 per cent in July, this was an expected adjustment attributed to manufacturing disruption caused by planned upgrades at the company’s manufacturing plant in Shanghai.

In June this year, the EU voted to ban internal combustion engine cars from 2035, with the European Parliament endorsing a ban on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines as part of its decarbonisation commitment.

The legislation is part of the EU's ‘Fit for 55’ package, which includes the ban of combustion-engine cars from 2035 and a 55 per cent reduction in CO2 from vehicles in 2030 compared with 2021.

Last year, MPs on the UK Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned the government that the country faces a "huge challenge" in readying itself for the 2030 petrol car ban. Originally, measures were put in place to ban sales by 2040, with this deadline subsequently twice revised; firstly to 2035, then to 2030.

The PAC warned that consumers need to be further convinced about the affordability and practicality of zero-emission cars, with up-front prices still too high for many in comparison to petrol or diesel equivalents. The Committee suggested that the Transport and Business departments should consider further tax incentives to encourage greater uptake.

Apparently not heeding the MPs' warning, in June this year the Department for Transport (DfT) axed the electric car grant scheme, which had allowed drivers to claim up to £1,500 towards the cost of a plug-in car costing below £32,000.

The government said it wanted to “refocus” its grant funding to encourage the take-up of other types of electric vehicle, claiming that a “mature market” had already been created. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) disagreed, saying that the decision sent the “wrong message” to consumers.

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