Chinese carmakers debate hybrids vs fuel cells
As the Shanghai Motor Show opened up last week, local Chinese manufacturers showed off a wide variety of alternative powered vehicles including hybrids, battery powered cars and and fuel cell vehicles. As the vehicle population has exploded in the last few years, leading to skyrocketing consumption of fuel and increasingly dense air pollution, the Chinese government has been putting a lot of pressure on their domestic manufacturers to cut both of those. Until recently, domestic Chinese makers haven't shown much originality in either their design or technology as evidenced by the plethora of clones of non-Chinese vehicles.
For the first time in Shanghai, many of the local companies started showing "greener" cars. So far none of the companies have made any significant technological breakthroughs that would allow them to move beyond more established companies. Due to the lack of intellectual property protections in China, non-Chinese companies have been reluctant to share their technologies. What direction should be taken as far the technology is still a wide open question. Some manufacturers are focusing on battery and hybrid technology since the cost and technology are relatively manageable for inexperienced companies and can be implemented more readily in the short term.
Other companies such as General Motors in particular are very much in favor of fuel cell technology, particularly in China. Due to the increasing use of nuclear power in China, hydrogen is considered a very viable fuel source in that market. As the world's largest steel producer, the Chinese also produce a lot of hydrogen as a byproduct of steel production. As a result China is seen as the most viable near term convert to a hydrogen economy.
As usual the mainstream press have entirely missed the point. Just because not everyone is going the same direction, in this case it doesn't necessarily mean anyone is wrong. It's all about diversity. There is no one right answer and any or all of the options could help and turn out to be part of the solution.
[Source: New York Times]
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