Beijing smogEnlarge Photo
In the 1970s, gasoline shortages led to the adoption of a temporary odd-even system for fuel purchases in parts of the U.S.
On odd-numbered days of the month, only drivers with a license plate ending in an odd number could buy fuel; the same applied to drivers with even-numbered plates on even-numbered days.
Now, Beijing is instituting a similar system, but for a very different reason.
To combat its notoriously heavy air pollution, the Chinese capital will restrict which cars can drive on a given day, reports CRIEnglish.
The municipal government's plan calls for enacting the odd-even scheme if the local air-quality index for pollution stays above 200 for more than 72 hours.
If that occurs, vehicles with license plates ending in an odd number will only be allowed on the road during odd-numbered days, while vehicles with even plates will be restricted to use on even-numbered days only.
All-electric cars will be exempt from these restrictions.
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However, government vehicles will not. About 30 percent of the municipal fleet is expected to be idled at any given time if the sanctions take effect.
A similar plan was put into practice during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing last November.
The emergency plan was first proposed in 2013, with a higher threshold of 300 on the air-quality index set as the limit.
Audi Q3 Trans China Tour 2011Enlarge Photo
This standard was reportedly lowered to the current 200 level after the public complained that there were no large-scale actions taken to mitigate terrible air quality in 2014.
Last year, Beijing did attempt to cut pollution by limiting new-car registrations, and giving buyers of electric cars priority.
Electric cars didn't get much traction in China until late last year, when sales started to pick up.
They've remained strong since, possibly providing a more permanent solution to the smog problems of Beijing and other Chinese cities.
Studies show, however, that industrial production contributes as much or more to air-quality problems in China.
Thus far, no similar regulations have been proposed to shut down factories (as was done during the weeks before the Beijing Olympic Games).