If alternative energy pundits want to get a better idea of how the electric vehicle market should open up, look no further than what the Chinese government has been doing lately. Massive subsidies in the form of tax rebates and others have been offered to mass transit companies, ride hailing companies and individuals looking to purchase a vehicle alike. One of the most interesting subsides that has really stimulated the purchase of electric vehicles in China is the discount on the license plate (yes you have to pay for the plates), an interesting benefit that other countries unfortunately won’t be able to take advantage of.
Quite a while back, large cities like Shanghai and Beijing’s municipal governments started to implement a control on the number of days a week you could drive your vehicle. The former was done to curb both pollution from vehicles and reduce traffic. It didn’t work out the way they planned. The price of the plates in cities like those can be equivalent to half or more of the vehicles value and the prices are usually based on a bidding system that occurs every year, if you’re late to the party, you’re out or have to pay a scalper. This still hasn’t deterred the mass market from buying vehicles, in fact most individuals have figured out how to get around the system by purchasing two vehicles, one with even day plates and one with odd day plates.
In step the new EVs. The municipal governments started offering discounts on plates designated to alternative energy hybrid or fully electric vehicles and even increased the amount of plates offered per year by allocating a special portion of the plates to electric vehicle purchases. Local companies like BYD and even foreign ones like TESLA have benefited from the breaks and you can see many of their vehicles in large cities where they have a control on the days you can drive. The convenience of charging up all over China is also an advantage the country has over others wanting to implement a similar system.
You see, nearly all of the buses in China run on electricity, thus there are many public transit stations all over Chinese cities. These transit stations also allow for local EVs to charge up (and foreign EVs with adapters.) Whenever one of our drivers in China shows us all the available charging stations on his GPS console, it really is pretty amazing how convenient it has become to drive an electric vehicle around the cities of China. While we here at home in the US can’t be cornered into purchasing these vehicles, opening up our charging network to resemble what they have seems feasible. Our buses should already be running on electric (many are) and a shared charging network will really enhance the market. Looking forward to my first Tesla soon!