China’s automotive industry is aiming to double down on efforts to peak carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2028 and achieve near-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a full decade before the country’s 2060 carbon neutrality goal.
Committing their companies to the self-imposed milestones, executives of Chinese carmakers Geely, Changan, Great Wall Motors and Nio said at a Tuesday forum hosted by Tencent at the Shanghai Auto Show that their companies will work towards achieving carbon neutrality before 2060 and push ahead with the industry’s recent shift towards electric-drive vehicles.
To meet this deadline, deputy secretary-general of China Society of Automotive Engineers Hou Fushen said that the country’s auto industry needs to focus on three main areas: Developing products that use low-carbon technology including new energy vehicles and connected cars; increasing mass-market adoption of EVs and improving charging facilities; and achieving low-carbon manufacturing.
“Peak CO2 emissions by 2028, near-zero emissions by 2050, and carbon neutrality before 2060. The automobile industry cannot be a hindrance to the country. We must move forward as fast as possible,” Hou said at the forum.
With the aggressive goal in mind, China’s auto industry is preparing to usher in supply-side reform, an energy revolution and an overall industrial upgrade, Changan Automobile Group Executive Vice President Tan Benhong said, adding that carbon emission peaking and carbon neutrality will be a systemic project for the auto industrial chain.
Changan has so far developed 15 eco-friendly products and is on the path to lowering carbon emissions by more than 60% in manufacturing control by 2025, Tan added.
“We need faster adoption of new business models, electrification, intelligence and restructuring of green ecology,” Tan said at the forum.
President Xi Jinping announced at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2020 that China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, would reach its carbon emissions peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The central government also has introduced an ambitious plan to require all new car sales in 2035 to be pure electric or hybrid vehicles.
Transport accounts for around one-fifth of global CO2 emissions, and road travel — including passenger vehicles and trucks carrying freight — accounts for three-quarters of transport emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Last year, China — the world’s largest auto market — sold 1.3 million EVs, representing 41% of global EV sales, according to research firm Canalys. The firm forecasts 1.9 million EVs will be sold in China in 2021, corresponding to a growth rate of 51% and accounting for a 9% share of all cars sold nationwide.
“In the context of carbon neutrality, green and sustainable development has become a topic of common concern. The integration of digitalization and green development has become an inevitable trend for the transformation and upgrading of auto companies,” Tencent Vice President Zhong Xiangping said at the forum.
The company on Monday promised to invest 50 billion yuan ($7.68 billion) in environmental and social initiatives, including areas in basic science, education innovation, rural revitalization, carbon neutrality, food, energy, and water provision, assistance with public emergencies, technology for senior citizens and public welfare.
At the forum, Geely Holding Group Senior Vice President Victor Yang Xueliang said the automaker is positioning itself as a smart electric transportation company and a provider of energy services.
Yang said the company’s Lynk & Co brand, a joint venture between Geely and Volvo, will focus on developing new models including hybrid EVs and extended range EVs. Zeekr, Geely’s new pure electric premium brand, will see explosive growth in the new future, with the brand planning to roll out two models each year for the next five years. It recently launched the Zeekr 001, a 281,000 yuan (US$43,098) four-door sedan with a driving range of 700km.
Yang also said Geely will unveil “the world’s most advanced dual-motor hybrid system” in the second half of 2021. Regarding the R&D of alternative energy sources, he added that the company sees huge potential in methanol as a replacement for gasoline in its automobiles and has successfully developed five methanol engines and 16 methanol models.
Nio’s vice president of power management Shen Fei said that apart from achieving low-carbon manufacturing and operations, it is equally important for companies to educate and raise users’ awareness about sustainability.
At this year’s auto show, the company announced its Power North plan, a new power arrangement for customers in Northern China, and its Blue Sky Lab, a sustainable fashion project that recycles leftover materials from car manufacturing such as airbags, seat belts, microfiber, leather and aluminum to create fashion products.
At the same time, Nio has pioneered the concept of battery-as-a-service that would allow users to rent a battery instead of purchasing one. According to Shen, the company has built 203 power swap stations and conducted 2 million battery swaps. It aims to have 500 power swap stations in operation nationwide by the end of this year.
The company’s power swap technology is enabled by over 1,200 patents, and it takes only three minutes to swap a fully charged battery.
As for charging stations, Nio has deployed more than 1,000 supercharge piles and nearly 400,000 regular charging piles across China.
“We would like to suggest a sharing of resources among all carmakers. We hope that one day, a user driving any electric car from any car brand can charge their vehicles at any charging station using any app or mini program,” Shen said.
Great Wall Motors also at the forum highlighted its hydrogen energy strategy, which aims to build a “supply chain ecology”, accelerate the commercial popularization of hydrogen energy and eventually build a hydrogen-based society.
“We also hope to bring the goal of carbon neutrality in 2060 forward to 2050 through the efforts of Great Wall Motors and the collective efforts of the hydrogen industry chain that we drive,” said Wen Fei, CEO of Shalong Zhixing, Great Wall Motor’s standalone brand for electric and smart vehicles.