The government of China will invest 880 million yuan (US$106 million) over the next few years to speed up the development of electric vehicles as a new springboard to profitability for China’s auto industry.BEJING, China 2002-04-03 [SolarAccess.com] The move reflects the government’s drive to help ease the country’s oil energy bottleneck and maintain a sustainable, environmentally friendly growth of the economy, said sources from the Ministry of Science and Technology. Air pollution in major Chinese cities has become a serious problem with tailpipe emissions a major contributor. The ministry has listed the commercialization of pollution-free electric vehicles as an important part of its plan for the near future. Commercialization of electric vehicles, which are powered by both high-performance, low-cost batteries and a mix of cleaner burning fuels, is likely to be realized by the end of the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05), according to Li Jian, director of the ministry’s Department of High-Tech Development and Industrialization. Also, the government seeks to patent technology to produce fuel cell-powered vehicles by that time. Electric vehicles, that produce much less or even zero pollution compared with conventional gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles, will be put into special transport service for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. China first attached importance to electric vehicles in 1996 when the country staged an international seminar and exhibition on electric and clean-fueled vehicles. The country has made a technology breakthrough in developing high- performance batteries. The Leitian Company in Shenzhen, for example, has developed a kind of lithium battery which can power a vehicle for a distance of 300 kilometres. Li said the government encourages all domestic companies, regardless of their ownership, to take part in the production of electric vehicles or other low-pollution power sources. China, which has to import oil to satisfy its growing demands for energy, relies on coal to provide 75 percent of its energy requirements. Coal will continue to make up a large part of the country’s energy supply for the foreseeable future, experts predict. “Developing electric vehicles is significant in the effort to save oil energy, minimize air pollution, and to give an impetus to the development of the country’s auto industry,” said Li.