Ford says China should embrace electric cars as traffic worsens

 

Shanghai

Ford's chairman said China should take steps against traffic congestion as its cities become increasingly crowded.

An estimated 350 million people will move into Chinese cities in the next two decades, threatening to worsen air quality and traffic, Bill Ford, executive chairman and great- grandson of the automaker's founder, said in Shanghai Wednesday. To avoid gridlock in its roads, China should facilitate the adoption of electric cars and embrace new technologies that help motorists find parking spots and avoid traffic, he said.

"Unless we change something, we're going to run into a huge problem of moving people in the major cities around the world, particularly in China," said Ford, who spoke at a ceremony handing out grants to conservation groups. "I was in Beijing yesterday and the air quality wasn't what I would consider great."

China, which the World Bank estimates to be home to 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities, will probably fall short of its target for electric-vehicle sales to reach five million by 2020 because they're expensive and lack charging infrastructure, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

To encourage consumers to adopt electric cars, China needs more charging stations, a power grid that can provide sufficient energy and generation plants that run on cleaner fuel, Ford said.

Still, electric vehicles can only address part of the problem, Ford said.

"Even if they're clean cars, a clean traffic jam is still a traffic jam," Ford said.

The number of cars in China may surpass 200 million by 2020, a trend that will require intelligent traffic management, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on July 31, citing the Ministry of Transport. Beijing and Guangzhou are among the major cities that have imposed vehicle ownership restrictions to control pollution and ease congestion.

"The technology to deliver electric vehicles is here today," said Ford. "If those issues are addressed, then I think the electrification of the Chinese auto fleet can and will happen and that will have a measurable impact on air quality."

Ford Motor has said it plans to introduce 15 new vehicles and 20 new engines and transmission in China by 2015. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company currently operates five manufacturing plants in China and is building five more with its partners.

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