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China plans pilot programmes to facilitate market introduction of FCVs
Industry authorities have spoken on several occasions recently on China's commitment to developing a low-carbon transportation system, which has incorporated hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) in the roadmap from the very beginning. Specifically, China will take a faster pace towards commercialisation of FCV technology and invest in infrastructure. By 2020, China expects to bring the number of FCVs on its roads to 10,000 units. That target is increased to 100,000 units by 2025 with passenger FCVs entering the picture. By 2030, China aims to build 1,000 hydrogen re-fuelling station across the country. In fact, FCVs have long been enjoying subsidies from the government. According to the 2019 policies, China has significantly cut subsidies for EVs and ceased subsidies provided by local government. However, electric buses and fuel-cell models can still enjoy support from local governments.
Compared with an EV, the most attractive feature about a FCV is probably the fact that it only takes a few minutes to top up. The Hyundai NEXO can deliver a range of over 600 kilometres. In places with well-developed infrastructure such as California, United States, FCVs will certainly have an appeal to consumers. However, China still lacks basic infrastructure to make FCVs an appealing option for both public-sector users and consumers. At present, China has fewer than 20 hydrogen fuelling stations in operation, with another 20 under construction. These restraints will make it extremely hard for such vehicles to enter the private transportation system. Donfeng Motors, SAIC Motor, Jiangsu Aoxin New Energy, and Yutong Bus are active players which already have a presence in the commercial FCV market. Great Wall Motor and Changan are investing in the research and development of fuel-cell systems. Great Wall Motor's recent moves to enter the sector include its acquisition of Shanghai Fuel-Cell Vehicle Company and investment in H2 Mobility Deutschland (H2M). H2M has been a leader in the construction and operation of hydrogen fuelling stations. The automaker expects to debut its first FCV during the 2020 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Subsidies are provided by both local and national governments, and these are critical to the development of hydrogen FCVs and the necessary refuelling infrastructure. In 'Strategic Horizons', a report published by IHS Markit's Energy division centring on the potential of hydrogen as clean energy, points out, "Hydrogen remains relatively costly in any end-use, and today cannot compete with traditional fuels; but when compared with zero- or low-carbon sources of energy, it can be a viable option. Whether hydrogen has a future, therefore, will depend on policy frameworks that sustain a focus on low-emission targets." In this process, local companies will certainly be encouraged to acquire the technologies for hydrogen production, storage, and fuel-cell systems, in order to achieve large-scale deployment of hydrogen infrastructures and fuel-cell applications.
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