Source from: Shanghai
Reported by Elena Xiao
The global fuel crisis, spurred on by rising tension
between the United States and Iraq, has automobile researchers
looking for alternatives to the combustion engine.
The U.S.-China Energy and Environment Technology Center
announced yesterday the opening of its Shanghai office,
in a bid to propel work on electric automobiles in one
of China's largest car markets.
Founded in 1997, the non-profit institute is funded
by the U.S. and Chinese governments to promote the development
of new clean energy.
"The development of alternative-fuel automobiles
is a significant part of the energy strategy,"
said Robert Kripowicz, a former senior official in the
U.S. Department of Energy and co-founder of the center.
Both China and the United States depend heavily on imported
gasoline, and the situation in China will become more
serious in the coming years due to the growing number
of people buying their own car.
China has experienced the world's fastest growth in
car demand since last year, and analysts expect the
demand to maintain an annual growth rate of more than
20 percent for the coming decade.
By making it possible to shift from petroleum to other
primary energy sources, electric automobiles could ease
the increasingly short supply of petroleum and the threat
of global warming, Kripowicz said.
Gas-powered vehicles are the largest source of air pollution
today, accounting for 22 percent of the world's carbon
The center has chosen California-based Powerzinc Electric
Inc., which makes zinc-air fuel cells to power cars
in Shanghai, as a model to propel the commercial use
of electric cars.
The company has built a demo car that runs on a zinc-air
fuel cells along with its partner Zhejiang University
Electric Vehicle Research Center. Electric motors with
the cell have been sold on the local market since late
last year, but electric cars for commercial use are
still in the research phase.
"The most likely application for zinc-air fuel
cells in China is electric buses, which require stability
more than speed," said Richard Yang, chairman of
Powerzinc and the Zhejiang University lab are in talks
with the bus-making arm of China First Auto-mobile Works
- based in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province - to build up to 400
electric buses to run in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.
Even with these new, clean cars on the market, the next
challenge is to make them attractive and affordable
for the average consumer, as well as to ensure there
are refueling stations around to serve them, said He
Zuoxiu, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The Chinese government has pumped one billion yuan (US$121.5
million) into research on electric cars in hopes of
developing a commercial fuel-cell driven car within