China Gives Automakers More Time in World’s Biggest EV Plan

China unveiled a comprehensive set of emission rules and delayed a credit-score program tied to the production of electric cars, giving automakers more time to prepare for the phasing out of fossil-fuel powered vehicles in the world’s largest auto market.

Under the so-called cap-and-trade policy, automakers must obtain a new-energy vehicle score — which is linked to the production of various types of zero- and low-emission vehicles — of at least 10 percent starting in 2019, rising to 12 percent in 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on its website. The rule applies to carmakers that manufacture or import more than 30,000 traditional vehicles annually, and those who fail to comply must buy credits or face fines.

“Political considerations must have weighed in on the decision to delay the commencement date by a year,” said Cao He, chairman of Quanlian Auto Investment Management Co. “Local automakers will likely benefit from this as they will have more buffer time to get ready on the technology front.”

China previously proposed starting to implement the policy next year, a target that was viewed by automakers as overly ambitious. China, which has vowed to cap its carbon emissions by 2030 and curb worsening air pollution, joins the U.K. and France in seeking a timetable for the elimination of vehicles using gasoline and diesel. The country needs to use alternative energy to power some 200 million vehicles that ply its roads and reduce dependence on oil imports.

“China is sending a clear signal to large automakers that had been dragging their feet on EVs that it’s time to get on board,” said Colin McKerracher, a London-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The targets look achievable for the industry as a whole, McKerracher said. Considering the credit structure, 12 percent in 2020 would translate to about 4 percent to 5 percent of actual vehicle sales, he said.

Honda Motor Co., which plans to sell an electric vehicle in China next year and plans to expand that business going forward, will work to achieve the credit-score target, a company spokeswoman said.

GM’s Plans

“We are expanding our NEV product portfolio in China, with both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles in the pipeline,” Patrick Morrissey, a General Motors Co. spokesman said in an email Thursday. “Continued joint efforts by the government and companies are essential to build broad-based consumer acceptance for NEVs.”

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