Lets hope that pressure coming from the emerging Chinese automakers will be enough, along with the pressure already coming from the Japanese, to make American carmakers and government move faster in the direction of energy conservation and efficiency. Where are the plug-in hybrid prototypes?
Lately, the economy of China has been growing at a rate usually reserved for credit card debt. Their energy consumption has also been going through the roof, and since oil is getting more expensive and harder to find all the time, the Chinese have devised an oil strategy in 2002 to try to mitigate and delay potential problems as much as possible. Part of it is strict fuel economy regulations, the first phase of which has come into force this year. 38 miles per gallon (mpg) for lighter cars and 19 mpg for the heavier trucks. In 2008, these standards will rise to 43 mpg and 21 mpg respectively. I can't remember how long it took for fuel economy standards to rise by 5 mpg in the US; I suspect it's because I haven't been born for long enough. Another advantage of the Chinese regulations is that the fuel economy standards apply to each individual vehicle and not to fleet averages, which makes it harder for automakers to create a few poor-selling fuel efficient cars while they sell gas-guzzlers by the truckload.Because the Chinese standards apply to each individual vehicle, rather than a vehicle class average as in the United States, American automakers may struggle to sell their vehicles, especially oil thirsty trucks, in the Chinese market. China is not stopping with efficiency requirements. They are also purchasing hybrids from abroad for immediate use and developing their own hybrid and fuel cell designs and manufacturing capabilities for the future. Already one of the largest markets for alternative fuel vehicles, they are the third largest ethanol producer in the world and are committed to expanding their fleet of natural gas- and biofuel-powered vehicles.