In a pretty dramatic move to halt air pollution, The New York Times reports on China boldly ceasing the production of car models in China that do not meet fuel economy standards for the country. They stopped over 500 different car models effective January the 1st. This suspension impacted both domestic and foreign  automobile ventures, including partnerships with Volkswagen and Benz.
China produced 28 million vehicles in 2016 and also has scores of smaller-scale car factories. While there is some credence that this new policy  centralizes and consolidates the car industry,  “the measure pointed to a mounting willingness by China to test forceful antipollution policies and assume a leading role in the fight against climate change. The country, which for years prioritized economic growth over environmental protection and now produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused greenhouse gases, has emerged as an unlikely bastion of climate action after President Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement.”
China is also providing incentives for power companies to operate more cleanly by creating the largest carbon market. While the Chinese government currently has bonuses to produce “clean energy” vehicles, these will be replaced by quotas for clean energy vehicles in 2020. When you have the biggest consumer demand for cars in the world, global automobile manufacturers  respond in a relatively positive way.  As Michelle Krebs an AutoTrader Group analyst observed ” “The simple fact that China is the biggest market means automakers will be accommodating“. China is now leading the way in auto emission policy, unlike the United States which is looking at relaxing tailpipe emission standards.
This YouTube video from CGTN from January 2017 shows that at that time only one in fifty cars in China were electric, and unfortunately portrays electric vehicles as “cheaper than taking transit”. It does illustrate how remarkable China’s new policy is in demanding the adaptation from automakers to clean energy vehicles in a relatively short time frame.



  1. I’ve always thought part of the answer to charging times is switching the battery out rather than charging it in place. I’m not surprised that Chinese companies are working on this. You need cooperation among auto manufacturers to standardize batteries to very few types so that any vehicle can be accommodated in any chan(r)ging facility. Three minutes to change a battery is a game changer.

    1. Battery swapping is a ridiculous nightmare.
      You need to keep track of who actually owns a battery, have a billing and credit system for damage, have a big complicated machine to swap the 500kg batteries, connect and disconnect coolant lines, etc.
      Then you also need to standardise a battery platform, operating voltage, coolant system, etc. That means you get locked into a battery platform and can’t upgrade your system as technology changes.
      Then sizing is a problem. Should a SUV have the battery as a small car? If not, you need to have a whole bunch of different units on hand. If so, then you can’t “right size” your battery.
      It’s a big freaking mess.
      It’s much easier just to use a DC fast charger or a big AC charger.

      1. I’d say the exact opposite.
        Old batteries would be recycled more easily and efficiently. New technologies would constantly be being introduced. You wouldn’t track ownership because you’d be renting them.
        You’d need to standardized to 3 maybe 4 types of batteries for cars and light trucks so every exchange facility could reasonably handle all types. Proprietary systems and planned obsolescence are so last century. But it wouldn’t negate the ability to evolve better systems over time.
        Big rigs would have their own facilities and standards.
        The machines to exchange them need not be more complicated than an automated car wash, without the need for a surrounding enclosure. Heavy batteries are best kept low for handling. It’s not hard to imagine a simple machine that would swap them from the bottom. The machine would do a quick analysis of charge and condition and credit the exchange accordingly.
        (Compare this to a big underground tank that needs to be filled periodically by a big truck carrying explosive fuels through dense cities. Now there’s a ridiculous nightmare.)
        This would not negate conventional fast-charging and home charging – only give another convenient option.

      2. You say that, but batteries generally make up a huge structural portion of a car. It’s not the easiest thing to standardize.
        Currently my Volt is the statistically the safest car on the road. There have literally been zero fatalities (up to the last time I checked) from accidents in the Volt. Most of that is because the battery is like a big structural member strengthening the cabin.
        Tesla had battery swapping, but quietly dropped it. Better Place in Israel also tried the concept then flopped spectacularly. With fast chargers, the big limitation is cooling. Cool the batteries, cool the cable, etc… That’s not insurmountable. It’s been suggested that the Tesla Semi will charge at between 1-2 MW.

      1. Battery swapping is a nice idea, but as other people have pointed out, it’s complicated. More than the battery tech (which OEMs are competing on) they are also competing on their Battery Management Systems (cell balancing, cooling, etc). Seems unlikely they’d want to bring their own systems to the lowest common denominator.
        The article you cite is an example of old-school thinking. Those sorts of lineups will not happen for one reason: home charging. Most people heading to cottage country in Ontario (Motor Mouth’s example) live in single family homes – easy to charge at home. Those people will all leave the garage with full charge. With ranges on the order of 350km – 400km (less when the A/C is blasting), drivers will be a long way out of the GTA before they need to charge. Most will be at the cottage, where they’ll plug back in and be ready to head home again on Sunday.
        Obviously having charging (much faster than currently available in Canada) at rest stops will help with range anxiety, and will help out those people who live in condos that aren’t equipped with an outlet / charging station, as well as people returning home on Sunday who only have a wall outlet at the cottage, but overall you’re hitting a statistically large number of people who won’t need to charge up en route.

        1. We are currently installing EV chargers in our condo building. We started at 2, to share in the visitor stalls, but have been told that likely we can’t get more than 12, for a 75 unit condo building. After 12 the entire electric pipe into the building has to be upgraded, or some complicated load balancing system installed to shut off or throttle each EV charge station.
          As such EVs will remain the domain for affluent single home owners, with cottages and usually two cars anyway. The masses will have to wait a while. Meanwhile Tesla is burning through billions and other car makers take it slow, as do dealers, as there is no profit in EVs today. The economic advantage is not there, for neither the car owner, the dealer nor the car manufacturer, until battery economics differ substantially, ie acquisition price is closer to current car prices as then lower op costs will convince car owners to switch. That is not the case today if you budget 4-5% cost of money. Maybe 20-25% of new EVs in cities by 2030 maybe. Likely far far less.

        2. It’s why I said I’m not surprised this is being worked on in China. It used to be that “it’s too complicated” wasn’t an excuse in the west but now that it has become our mantra China has taken on the can-do approach to getting ahead. Their centralized decision making also gives them a big advantage on this and similar issues.
          If car manufacturers and battery developers worked together and actually wanted this to work they’d find a solution that allowed them to stake out their unique products around a few standardized battery configurations. But they’d rather compete in secret – which has had advantages but concentrates success and wealth and is the opposite of a society working together to get ahead. Society increasingly suffers from this cannibalistic attitude.
          In any case, battery suppliers would still compete to make the best and/or cheapest batteries within the standard plug-ins so technology could advance within the life of a single car instead of having to buy a whole new car to get the latest battery. If a fantastic new system was devised that made the standardized configuration obsolete then it would also advance. But it seems much more likely that the improvements will come more from what’s inside the battery rather than its size or shape or how it plugs in.
          You are correct about home charging etc. but that is premised on everyone owning their own car. As we all know they sit idle for the vast majority of time. But more and more people use shared cars and EVs are problematic because they don’t have enough idle time to charge. Fast battery swapping would solve that problem and is also compatible with AVs that will increasingly be faced with the same problem.
          If charging technology advances so a full charge can happen in ten minutes there’s far less need for such a system. But Is that realistic?

        3. Thomas, our condo has it’s hallway and other common area lights on 24 hours a day. They serve absolutely no purpose 90% of the time. There are probably about 500 lights that could be off most of the time as is common in European multi-unit buildings and hotels etc. We might free up about 50,000 watts just by eliminating waste and could even charge a fee for what is now squandered.
          I have no idea how many watts are required for car charging but you’d certainly add to the 12. Put a bunch of solar panels on the roof and you’d add again without increasing the hydro service.
          The future will not be done like it is today.

        4. Indeed China might yet emerge as the King of EVs, as they can force progress and standardization far far easier than American or European firms can. It is easy to clone, then improve on battery technology and electric motors, and not nearly as complex the aeroplane industry where China is trying to get a foothold, but due to complexity is dominated by two firms, Boeing and AirBus.
          Swappable batteries indeed a good option to overcome “range anxiety” and “gee, charging takes far too long” anxiety.
          China also has a leg up already on REE (rare earth elements), a critical components for electric batteries.
          or here
          We shall see.

  2. Chinese air is still unbreathable, they must create & enforce standards for massive expansion of their coal-fired infrastructure. Both in China and in other countries where they are building coal-fired plants.

    1. “Coal consumption in China likely peaked in 2013, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). ”
      Yes they have a long way to go but the trend is away from coal. This is good news. A lot of it is being replaced by NG. Not so great but better in the short term if it isn’t supplied by fracking. Climate scientists have shown it might be possible to stave off catastrophe if a fast decline in GHGs begins by 2020ish so there is hope.
      It may seem impossible to decline quickly given that all we’ve known is growth. But the good thing about investments/markets is that sunset industries have little appeal. Once it is obvious they are in decline investments can drop precipitously and only fringe users and costly aging infrastructure remain. (Dumb late investors will get burned and I’m suspicious that fossil fuel promotion these days is more about offloading stock to dupes). It is entirely conceivable that by mid-century, fossil fuels will not play a big role in the global energy mix. Thirty plus years is an eternity in our tech world but more importantly it will be an entirely new generation who will think entirely differently about the absurd positions many defend today. Most of the fossils who hold us back will be dead.
      It hasn’t been a lack of viable solutions keeping us tied to fossil fuels. The richest corporations on earth have the means to ensure we don’t believe it.

        1. Well, we’ve certainly heard for twenty years or more about the rapid growth of China’s coal plants and how that is good reason for us to do nothing. Yet even as we’ve been told coal plants continue to increase the consumption of coal has plateaued and is possibly in decline.

          From Terry’s link:
          “These Chinese corporations are ‘building or planning to build’ more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world…”
          Interesting that this phrase is used twice in the piece. Are they building 3 and planning 700? How many will actually be built? Will coal use decline anyway? Of course this can only be accurately answered in hindsight given the massive amount of propaganda surrounding the issue. But the hindsight we currently have shows that China’s recent continued coal plant construction did not lead to an increase in consumption even as their economy continued to grow.
          The dots are not connecting.
          (Sorry for the duplicate below)

      1. China is enacting policies to lessen its dependency on coal due to the air pollution the Communist Party chauffeurs have to drive through to deliver their apparatchik bosses to the office. They are moving in a big way to gas, but also have developed one of the biggest production capacities for renewables. There will no doubt be a significant transition period, but there is no mistaking the direction they are headed.

      2. November 2017 – BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s coal imports fell in October from a month earlier, curbed by efforts by the world’s top buyer to replace coal with cleaner fuel in the northern part of the country to meet tough air quality targets.
        Imports reached 21.28 million tonnes last month, down from 27.08 million tonnes in September, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Wednesday.
        That brought purchases in January-October to 226.13 million tonnes, up 12.0 percent from a year earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on customs data.
        deleted as per editorial policy

  3. About time .. but also as expected. As the country with the world’s biggest middle class, more affluent people demand cleaner air. It is also the world’s biggest car market by annual absorption of 25M+ vehicles. As more and more folks buy one we ought to watch their trend carefully.
    I am surprised they tolerate such filthy air still.
    Unlike free democracies they can force standards very quickly without lengthy “consultation” or lawsuits so common in EU or North-America.
    As a major importer of Chinese goods I am surprised we do not tax a CO2 levy on their imports.
    When will we see Chinese cars in our market in significant numbers? As they clone Tesla’s technologies we ought to see cheaper EVs – made in China – here soon. 2020 ? An impressively long list of Made-in-China EVs (either by a Chinese firm or in a JV with Western firms) is here

    1. Thomas, it’s funny to see you promote the good side of Chinese society that is orders of magnitude more socialist than the socialist countries you constantly disparage for being socialist.

      1. I am merely commenting on their directed market economy. I am not condoning it. It is far far easier to force changes than in a messy democracy. However, it is also easier to jail you, or harvest your organs, if you disagree.

        1. The socialist countries you always disparage are definitely democracies and are not known for harvesting the organs of dissenters. The “mess” has nothing to do with democracy. The mess comes from a system that gives the rich and powerful the ability to fabricate a truth that suits them. The mess is the real truth trying to break their grip.

        2. Democracy is VERY messy due to many parties raising issues: natives, seniors, universities, car companies, land owners, renters, advocates for the homeless, unions, public sector, political parties, environmental groups ..
          Many rich in the world anywhere incl China. Many. With money comes the right (or certainly the desire) to write big cheques for influence !

        3. Wealth should never give anyone the right to interfere with the well-being of others. But it’s certainly interesting that many (even poor) people think and vote otherwise. It’s a pretty strong indication of the power of propaganda wielded by the rich.
          When you write something that is so obviously wrong you have to wonder where it comes from.

        4. Most charities that do much good in the world are funded by VERY wealthy guys (or sometimes gals even). Many public sector unions, too, influence decision in THEIR best interest to the detriment of others.
          What’s your point, Ron ? Wealth is bad ? Poverty is better ? Higher taxes are better so government can decide what to do with THEIR money ?
          Most people, as they get wealthier, such as the Chinese middle class, don’t want to breathe in bad air. See links below. It will get better, but in slow steps I presume.
          China, like any nation, needs cheap energy to progress their citizens’ lot in life. They chose coal as it is or certainly was cheaper than most other power sources. They also have many other energy forms, such as solar or wind or hydro or gas. Its over 1B people – 30 times as big as Canada .. so lots of power required. They chose to just now enforce bad air. Why not go there and protest ?

        5. ‘Democracy is VERY messy due to many parties raising issues: natives, seniors, universities, car companies, land owners, renters, advocates for the homeless, unions, public sector, political parties, environmental groups ..’
          ‘Unlike free democracies they can force standards very quickly without lengthy “consultation” or lawsuits so common in EU or North-America.”
          That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of democracy or free society.
          What’s your point Thomas?

  4. “Many rich in the world anywhere incl China.”
    Feature or bug?
    Generally speaking, innovation comes via the hungry. The well-fed only look to maintain their position.
    If we had fewer rich people I suspect we would have more progress on things that matter.

  5. China enforces standards for auto emissions.
    Well, there goes the raison d’etre for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

    1. Why is that? Smaller cars, SUVs or mid sized sedans produced by the tens of millions annually for the next few decades all need oil. Let’s not confuse an unfiltered coal plant with a fuel efficient car with a catalytic converter. Look at LA’s air today vs 1970’s .. more cars today, very few EVs yet far cleaner air. China too can, and must do that.
      The EV adoption on a mass scale is decades away as Tesla and others burn through billions. Tesla also lives off the California surcharges on ICE vehicles ( ie it is subsidized / protected just like Bombardier or our egg & poultry industry is) and blowing through cash .. not many firms can do that. Hence, the pickup of market share of EVs will take longer than expected

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