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Govt urged to back electric truck R&D

Hou Liqiang
Updated: Mar 15,2021 07:01 AM    China Daily

China's legislators and political advisers have called on the government to prioritize the research and development of electric heavy duty trucks as China endeavors to go carbon neutral, saying it could play a significant role in relieving the country from its dependence on imported oil and saving its foreign exchange reserves.

Wang Yili, a national political adviser, said the use of such trucks could be a win-win scenario for the country and its enterprises because of their huge potential in reducing carbon emissions and lowering operating costs.

"The countdown has begun. It's for sure that vehicles powered by diesel or gasoline will be replaced by new energy ones," said Wang, also chairwoman of China Energy Power Group.

"Based on the consideration that electric heavy duty trucks could help reduce not only carbon emissions but also companies' costs, I think it's better to phase out diesel-powered heavy duty trucks earlier," she said, citing the example of a 480 horsepower homegrown heavy duty truck.

When running fully loaded for 100 kilometers, the truck needs to consume diesel worth almost 196 yuan ($30). If it is powered by electricity, however, the cost could be just one-ninth of that by making full use of time-of-use rates in the country's power supply system, she told a carbon neutrality webinar on March 7.

The price of 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity is only about 0.3 yuan during hours of low demand at night.

A large number of diesel-powered heavy duty trucks are used to transport coal to coal-fired power plants. These trucks, if changed into electric-powered ones, could each reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 48.5 metric tons a year, she said.

These trucks, which are often run all day long, produce a lot of air pollutants, Wang said, with the emissions from one such truck equal to those of 300 noncommercial cars.

China aims to realize carbon neutrality - net zero carbon emissions - before 2060.

She said electric heavy duty trucks are much more expensive than diesel-powered ones because of the cost of the high-power battery packs they require. Wang said R&D efforts should be ramped up to further reduce the weight of the batteries, which would help increase the trucks' range.

Liu Hanyuan, a national legislator and chairman of Tongwei Group, a new energy company specializing in solar cell manufacturing, said a switch to electricity to power vehicles will help greatly reduce the amount of foreign exchange the country has to spend on oil imports.

China depended on imports to meet 72 percent of domestic oil demand in 2019. Last year, the ratio increased to 73.5 percent. Based on current prices, the country will have to spend $250 billion to $300 billion on importing oil this year, Liu said, adding there were also safety risks in transporting oil to China over long distances via the Strait of Malacca.

A barrel of crude oil cost $60 to $70, but the electricity needed to propel a vehicle over the same distance made possible by that barrel cost only around $10, he said.

"It's not only not cost-friendly but also unsafe (to import oil)," Liu said.