Traffic in China
To get more of its residents to switch to electric cars, the Chinese capital of Beijing has not only offered incentives, but also privileges.
When the city severely restricted new-car registrations to cut pollution, it gave electric cars priority for the remaining slots.
Now, the government is offering electric-car drivers another notable perk.
Electric cars will be made exempt from a policy restricting the number of vehicles on Beijing roads during rush hour, reports The Wall Street Journal (sub. required).
The exemption will be in effect from June 1, 2015, to April 10, 2016, the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau said.
Under the current policy, which has been in place since 2008, cars with odd and even license-plate numbers are banned from Beijing roads during rush hour on alternate days.
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The policy was intended to combat both intense traffic jams and to reduce the city's notoriously high levels of air pollution.
City officials say vehicle emissions account for roughly one quarter of PM2.5 particulate matter--the kind most likely to cause lung damage--in Beijing's air.
The traffic policy is the latest in a series of efforts on both the local and national level to get more Chinese drivers into electric cars.
While sales picked up last late last year after the renewal of government subsidies, they are still reportedly below the levels officials want to see.
Fewer than 5,500 Beijing residents applied for the more than 10,000 license plates reserved for electric cars in the first four months of this year.
Yet over the same period, nearly 6.2 million residents applied for the 36,757 plates reserved for gasoline cars.
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The national government wants half a million "new-energy vehicles"--including electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell cars--on its roads by the end of the year.
But just 50,000 of the roughly 20 million new cars sold in China last year fit into any of those categories.
That may be down to China's lack of charging infrastructure.
Even with government subsidies and preferential treatment, the many Chinese who live in huge apartment towers are unlikely to embrace electric cars en masse until they are sure there will be places available to recharge them.
China's charging network is less developed than those of other countries pursuing electric-car adoption. Stations are few and far between, and thus far there has been no concerted effort to expand the network.