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China

Wind to charge zero emission car fleet

General Motors (GM) has announced plans to run a fleet of electric automobiles charged on wind energy. The fleet will operate on the Chinese island of Nan'ao where most of the electricity is generated from the wind. The demonstration project would be the first ever "zero-emission" transport system anywhere involving a car or van.

The world's largest motor vehicle manufacturer, GM Motors (GM) of the United States, has just announced plans to run a fleet of electric cars and trucks charged on wind energy. The fleet will operate on the Chinese island of Nan'ao where most of the electricity is generated from the wind. The demonstration project would be the first ever "zero-emission" transport system anywhere involving a car or van.

Electricity on the Nan'ao island, in Guangdong province in the South China Sea, is generated by 8.7 MW of Nordtank turbines, a total of 43 units. Also on Nan'ao, three Swedish Sentic Mark-3 turbines were installed in the earlier days of China's wind development.

The vehicles to be shipped to the island are the two-seat EV1 and the S-10 pick-up truck, says GM, based in Warren, Michigan. The remainder of the small fleet of General Motors vehicles will be evaluated on-shore in selected cities in Guangdong province, an area of China that is booming economically.

"Plans are being finalised between General Motors, the State Science and Technology Commission, and the Guangdong provincial government for a three year electric car demonstration programme to begin in 1998," GM's Kit Green told the Corporate Futures Conference in Atlanta last month.

Technological partnership

The auto giant will start training local service technicians early in 1998 in China, in Lansing, Michigan, and Shreveport, Louisiana, where the vehicles are built. The pilot project is part of a technological partnership to help combat pollution from China's fast growing industrialisation and transport sector.

China has built about 150 MW of wind power to date in a series of wind farms. Total installed capacity is expected to reach nearly 170 MW by the end of the year. Guangdong is one of four provinces -- along with Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Liaoning -- that host wind power plants.

The topic of combustion engine cars and their resulting pollution is a hot one right now because of last month's Tokyo Motor Show and the upcoming Kyoto global warming conference. In a surprise statement, top GM executives visiting Tokyo for the show said on October 21 that US petroleum prices should be hiked by about 50 cents a gallon -- or by one-third -- to force Americans to curtail their voracious use of fossil fuels.

"We recognise that there has been an increase in CO2. It is cause for concern," GM chairman Jack Smith told a news conference. "We feel very strongly that there needs to be a significant effort to improve the technology that will reduce CO2 emissions."

Such statements from the world's largest car maker, a company that makes much of its profit from larger than ever gas guzzling vehicles, are at odds with the standard sentiment in Detroit, the centre of the US auto industry. Many auto executives do not even acknowledge that global warming is a problem.

Toyota Motor Corp made a huge splash in mid October by announcing the world's first low pollution gas electric car. Toyota's vehicle, known as the Prius, does twice as much mileage per unit of fuel than an ordinary petrol driven car and thus produces half the emissions. Also on the eve of the Tokyo auto show, Honda Motor Co Ltd claimed it had made a breakthrough in car emissions technology by developing a super clean gasoline engine that produces exhaust cleaner than the air it breathes in.

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