Thanks to Ann Marie Fiske for this great story:
China’s capital will slash the number of license plates it gives out to new cars, as Beijing and other Chinese cities look for ways to curb pollution and congestion in the world’s largest car market.
The Beijing Daily, the mouthpiece of the municipal government of Beijing, said on Tuesday that the city will slash the quota of license plates that it gives out to 150,000 a year from 240,000 now, effective at the beginning of next year. By 2017, it said, officials will give out only 90,000 license plates to ordinary cars, while the rest will be reserved for clean fuel vehicles such as those powered by natural gas.
As of the end of October the city had 5.4 million motor vehicles. The Chinese capital introduced the lottery in 2011, hoping to ease the traffic congestion while managing air pollution.
Worries that Beijing’s leaders could further restrict license plates have led to a rush to Beijing car license lottery. Derek Hao, a 37-year old advertising industry executive, said he took part for 11 consecutive months before he was awarded a license plate in July. According to city officials, 18,400 plates were issued that month, while more than 1.5 million people applied.
“To increase the odds of winning, my parents, my wife and I took part in the lottery. We just needed a car. It didn’t matter who is the winner,” Mr. Hao said.
Beijing is only one of a number of cities – including the relatively wealthy markets of Shanghai and Guangzhou – to restrict car purchase for environmental and traffic reasons. The efforts have sparked worries by domestic car makers that sales could be hurt in a market that’s increasingly competitive and where foreign brands hold cachet.
Public pressure on air quality improvement has surged this year. The China Meteorological Administration said Friday that the 31 provincial-level regions on the mainland have reported 4.7 smoggy days on average so far this year, the highest number since 1961. Over the past weekend Beijing and much of the central China were again blanketed by severe smog, with visibility in some areas falling to 20 meters. The smog led to the closure of at least 16 highways leading to and from Beijing.
Vehicles are considered a major contributor to Beijing’s smoggy skies. Beijing city officials say auto emissions account for about a quarter of Beijing’s PM2.5—particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that is considered particularly hazardous to human health.
Beijing is also combating heavy traffic. The average speed of car traffic in China’s capital is short of 15 kilometers, or 9.3 miles, per hour, the speed of a gentle bike ride, data from UBS Securities show.
In August, Beijing’s city government said it aimed at eliminating one million highly polluted vehicles by 2017, and reduce auto emissions by 25% by that time compared with 2012 levels. The move followed a spate of severe air pollution in Beijing and other parts of China earlier in the year that made headlines domestically and abroad.
To boost the use of new energy cars Beijing will set up 100 natural gas station and 2,120 charging posts across the city this year, said Beijing Daily.
According to consulting firm IHS, as of the end of 2012 Beijing’s public transportation including metro subway lines only accounted for 40% of all motorized transport. Earlier this year Beijing’s city government said it aimed to extend the city’s metro lines to 1,000 kilometers by 2020.
“When the day comes, metro transportation will account for 60% of Beijing’s all motorized transport, similar to the current level in Seoul. At that time there might be no need to place limits on car purchases any longer,” said Lin Huaibin, an analyst at IHS.
– Rose Yu