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Study: a timetable for phasing out fossil fueled vehicles in China

China could entirely phase out internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) by 2050 based on existing national goals for automobile industry development, emission standards, and future trends for technologies and commuting demand, according to a research published by Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (iCET), an independent think tank.

The report is not commissioned by Chinese government, but it has for the first time offered a possible timetable for China to phase out ICEVs.

Some megacities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, could fully electrify buses, logistics vehicles, taxis and cars for ride-hailing services as early as 2020, and achieve electrification for private-owned vehicles around 2030, according to the report.

In 2017, China announced plans to phase out petrol vehicles across the nation, without offering a timetable. In March, the southern province Hainan has become the first Chinese province to commit to a ban on fossil-fueled vehicles, vowing to outlaw them by 2030.


China has invested heavily in new energy vehicles (NEV), especially electric vehicles, out of concerns for energy conservation, tackling air pollution and decarbonising automobile industry. In 2018, sales of NEV surpassed 4% of total vehicle sales in China.

The report identifies Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) and Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) as substitutes for ICEVs. The report also categorizes Chinese mainland cities and regions into four levels based on indicators such as economic development status, car ownership, NEV industry development, air pollution control targets, etc. The research then proposes a step-by-step timetable for phasing out ICEVs in different regions. 

The study also points out uncertainties in phasing out ICEVs, such as technology breakthrough, market demand demographic changes, as well as challenges that will brought by smart technologies, particularly autonomous driving. 

China has been the world’s largest auto market for a decade, with annual vehicle sales amounting to nearly 30 million units by 2018. Electrifying China’s vehicles thus will have a significant global impact on cutting greenhouse gases.