Tech center seeks alternative fuels

=== March 7, 2003 ===

Source from: Shanghai Daily

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 dioxide emissions.

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 the company.

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 five years.



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