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New energy vehicle still far from practical
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Auto makers from around the world are showing off new energy and hybrid cars at Auto Shanghai 2009, but few of the vehicles are actually for sale. As CCTV reporter reports, it could be a long time before alternative energy vehicles account for a large slice of China's car market.

One of the more interesting companies at this year's show is Build Your Dreams, or BYD from Shenzhen. It is showing off 3 new alternative-energy models. The most exciting of which is the fully electric E6. It can run 400 kilometers on a 20 minute recharge. Last October, investment legend Warren Buffett purchased a 10 percent stake in BYD, based on the huge potential of electric cars.

Xu An, PR Manager of BYD Auto Sales Company said "We're the world's top producer of cell phone batteries, so batteries are our core competence. We have advantages in developing electric cars, which we think will be a huge trend in the future."

BYD isn't the only company showing off greener cars. Just about every company at the event has an electric concept car, with BMW even putting its hybrid model at the center of its display.

Automakers are boasting about their commitment to alternative energies, but Chinese consumers say the cars are a long way from being practical. For most buyers of new energy vehicles, the added value isn't better mileage or reduced emission, it is gaining face by proving they are concerned about the environment.

Being green isn't cheap, however. The Toyota's Pirus was the first fuel-cell hybrid vehicle to go on sale in China, back in 2006. About 1,200 of the cars are sold every year on the mainland, less than 2% of the model's global sales. That is probably due to its 250,000 yuan price tag. Even BYD's cheaper hybirds cost twice as much as a normal car.

Mr Jin, Shanghai resident said "I won't buy a new energy vehicle as my first family car, only as my second or third family car. They are kind of like a big toy, but not reliable enough for the road."

Automakers say there are several issues hindering the development of new energy vehicles, with convenience and policy topping the list.

Chen Wenkai, President of Gasgoo.com said "For new energy cars to get around, there must be a very complete network for battery recharging or hydrogen refilling. Even if there is such a network, all new energy cars must have very good battery life. Take the Prius for example, its fully charged battery can only run for 13 kilometers."

Jia Yaquan, Vice President of Great Wall Motor Company said "The country is giving more policy support to cars with smaller engines than those with new energy solutions. Naturally, it's better for us to focus on smaller cars."

For now, policy to encourage new energy vehicles is limited in China. While the Ministry of Finance in February offered a maximum 250 thousand yuan subsidy each to buyers of new energy sedans, that money is mainly aimed at government buyers, rather than individuals. Analysts say that won't help much if China truly hopes new energy vehicles will account for 5 percent of annual automobile production within 3 years.

(CCTV April 25, 2009)

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