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January 22, 2013

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Low-key start for new-energy car plates

SHANGHAI'S new-energy car plates made a low-key entrance to the city's transport scene yesterday with only one being issued on the first day they were made available.

The plates are free as the city, China's first pilot city for the development of electric vehicles, encourages a move to cleaner energy cars.

However, only one vehicle management office issued a plate yesterday and the owner declined to be interviewed.

The city has three such offices at present that can issue plates for new-energy cars.

The plates are similar to normal car plates but start with the letters "DZ."

The issue of new-energy car plates comes at a time when the average auction price for a conventional car plate has soared above 75,000 yuan (US$12,045).

To encourage individuals to buy new-energy cars, the municipal government will pay a subsidy of 40,000 yuan for electric vehicles and 30,000 yuan for plug-in hybrids. Each type of vehicle will also get a free license plate.

Adding in the maximum 60,000 yuan offered by the central government, people who buy new-energy cars in Shanghai can save nearly 175,000 yuan when the free plate is taken into account.

Within a week of the introduction of subsidies, more than 200 cars had been sold at one new energy car showroom in Shanghai, with many more people coming to see what was on offer and booking vehicles for future delivery.

But customers also have concerns.

One is the problem of charging, with most residential communities around the city lacking such a facility.

Zhang Yiyi, a city resident who was among the first to drive an electric car in a pilot program, said the power company had to install a charging point at his home. But the charge time was relatively long, at about 16 hours.

"It's still quite good for me," said Zhang, whose ordinary car cost him more than 1,600 yuan a month in gasoline. The electricity charge should be around 150 yuan a month, he calculated. Zhang drives about 60 kilometers a day for commuting.

It is not yet clear whether there will be a quota for new- energy car plates or how big it could be.

Previous media reports, citing insiders, said 20,000 plates for energy-saving cars would be granted in the first batch.


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