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China's EV Strategy Architect Sees Hydrogen Vehicles as Key Player

19 Sept 2023

China's electric vehicle (EV) journey, orchestrated by Wan Gang, the mastermind behind the nation's remarkable EV push, may soon see the inclusion of hydrogen vehicles. Wan Gang, speaking at a German-Chinese conference during the IAA car show in Munich, expressed his conviction that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles would have a significant role to play in the world's largest auto market.

Hydrogen in China's Northwest

Wan Gang emphasized the potential importance of hydrogen vehicles, particularly in China's vast northwest region. This area features extensive distances between cities, which makes electric car adoption challenging due to limited charging infrastructure. In such regions, Wan Gang believes that plug-in hybrid and hydrogen cars could even surpass fully electric models in popularity.

The Green Hydrogen System

To support this transition, Wan Gang emphasized the necessity of building a green hydrogen system as a foundational step. He highlighted the versatility of hydrogen as a fuel, pointing out its potential applications in maritime and rail transport, especially for China's commercial vehicle fleet.

Wan Gang, a former Audi executive who later became China's Minister of Science and Technology, is credited with convincing Chinese leaders two decades ago to invest in vehicle electrification. His visionary strategy, which utilized government subsidies to incentivize carmakers and consumers to embrace EVs, turned China into the world's dominant EV market.

Germany's Support for Hydrogen

Germany, a strong advocate for hydrogen technology, welcomed Wan Gang's remarks. BMW, a prominent German automaker, has been actively involved in hydrogen vehicle development. Oliver Zipse, CEO of BMW, expressed the company's commitment to hydrogen as an essential component of zero-emission vehicles. Zipse encouraged the expansion of hydrogen refueling stations in China's urban centers to enhance the technology's appeal to private customers.

Despite their potential benefits, hydrogen vehicles have faced challenges, including high production costs and limited refueling infrastructure. While some automakers have discontinued hydrogen models, others like BMW continue to explore their potential. BMW operates a test fleet of 80 hydrogen-powered iX5 sport utility vehicles and is considering serial production in the coming decade.

Wan Gang's vision for hydrogen vehicles in China signals a potential shift in the nation's automotive landscape, where alternative fuel options could complement the nation's successful EV strategy. With ongoing advancements in green hydrogen technology, China's northwest region may soon witness the emergence of hydrogen-powered mobility solutions.

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