China has begun a push to promote small, low-emission cars as oil prices remain high and environmental concerns grow over the nation's fast-rising auto culture, state press reported Jan. 5. The central government this week issued a notice calling on local authorities around the nation to lift restrictions on so-called "environmentally friendly" cars, the China Daily said. "It will help alleviate energy shortages and protect the environment, as well as foster brands in China's automotive industry," the notice said.
Manufacturers have been urged to invest more in diesel-powered vehicles and those that use "new fuel sources", the China Daily said, in an apparent reference to low-carbon emission engines that are making tentative inroads in Western markets.
Currently, 84 Chinese cities restrict the purchase and use of small cars, which are banned in many places from entering main roads and motorways. The rules were originally put in place partly to stop an explosion of ultra-cheap vehicles hitting the nation's roads. Local governments fear allowing a free-for-all on small cars will lead to a worsening of the already increasingly bad traffic problems.
The China Daily said the government was also considering creating a new tax system for the auto industry that would promote low-emission cars and penalize large, petrol-guzzling vehicles.
The number of private cars on China's roads has nearly tripled in five years, with previously released government data showing there were around 17 million last year, up from 6.25 million in 2000.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006