China’s fuel cell vehicle policy: Exploring commercial vs passenger vehicle policies in The People’s Republic

Before the recent release of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) medium to long-term hydrogen energy promotional policy, the country had already implemented a new energy vehicle (NEV) strategy that included fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). This earlier strategy, known as the ‘Three Verticals and Three Horizontals’ plan, defined EV, PHEV, and FCEV as the ‘three verticals’ and battery, motor, and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the ‘three horizontals’.

However, despite this early policy support and high-profile and expensive FCEV bus programmes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai World Expo, commercial FCEV development in China only accelerated starting around 2016.

From 2016 to early 2022, over 8,000 FCEVs were manufactured in China. Of the 6,000 or so of these vehicles still operating, the vast majority are buses. In fact, China accounts for almost all of the 5,500 FCEV buses operating in East Asia; globally, China accounts for every fourth FCEV manufactured. The pace of manufacturing for FCEVs in China may also be increasing. Monthly production numbers used to hover in the low 20s range for 2016 to 2018, during the first few years of commercialisation, but reached an all-time high of 300 in July of 2022, the most recent month for which data on NEVs has been released.

So far this year, around 2,500 FCEVs have been manufactured in China, a continuation of the trend that began in 2016, continued through to 2018, and that was temporarily interrupted by the recent pandemic.

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