NEVs gaining popularity among China's young generation

Photo taken on May 16, 2020 shows charging points at a newly-opened electric vehicle charging station in the underground parking lot of the Wukesong sports center in Beijing, capital of China. [Xinhua/Ju Huanzong]

Tan Boqian, a resident of Liuzhou City in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is the latest advocate of electric vehicles.

"I bought it in March and drive it to work every day. The journey is about 20 km, and the electric vehicle makes it very economical and eco-friendly," said the 32-year-old, adding that the battery range of his car is 120 km.

Tan's car, the Hongguang Mini EV, is an all-electric microcar manufactured by SAIC-GM-Wuling (SGMW), a joint venture between SAIC Motor, General Motors, and Liuzhou Wuling Motors.

In recent years, as a major production base of SGMW and an important industrial city in Guangxi, Liuzhou has rolled out a series of measures to boost its auto industry and make it a model city in embracing new energy.

Fang Hua, deputy director of the local development and reform commission, said Liuzhou's infrastructure for NEVs has significantly improved in recent years.

"More than 15,000 parking places for electric cars have been planned across the city, through better use of public spaces in business areas and the interspace between roadside green belts," Fang said.

Photo taken on Aug. 12, 2021 shows workers at a new electric vehicle production line in Liuzhou, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. [Xinhua/Li Hanchi]

Leveraging on a sound policy and a mature manufacturing industry, NEVs are gaining popularity in Liuzhou. As of April, the number of NEVs in the city reached 92,700 units, and about one in four vehicles running on the roads in Liuzhou is electric-powered.

"It is very convenient to park and charge the NEVs. We can simply open an app to search and find a parking spot nearby," Tan said.

"Young people need an affordable car for commuting while some families need it as an auxiliary tool for daily commutes. NEVs are also well-received as more cities opt for smart transportation and green economy," said Xu Bing, director of the planning department of SGMW.

China, the world's biggest car market, has seen a rising market enthusiasm for eco-friendly cars amid increasing public awareness of environmental protection and government push.

Sales of NEVs in China more than doubled in the first half of the year as production and demand continued to recover, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed.

Total NEV sales hiked 201.5 percent year on year to reach over 1.2 million in the January-June period, equal to total sales in 2019, and the NEV market penetration rate also increased from 5.4 percent at the beginning of the year to 9.4 percent for the first half of the year.

Photo taken on Aug. 12, 2021 shows workers at a new electric vehicle production line in Liuzhou, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. [Xinhua/Li Hanchi]

Young people, especially, are driving the trend to embrace NEVs. "Many of my peers and 20-somethings prefer to purchase NEVs and some personalize their car to make it more adorable," said Tan.

"When I bought my car, I immediately put a lovely cartoon sticker on it so that I can spot it on the street right away," Tan grinned.

As a leading NEV manufacturer in Liuzhou, SGMW's sales of small NEVs have exceeded 460,000 units since 2017. Sales growth continued to buck up in H1 this year, with 189,644 units of small NEVs having been sold, exceeding its annual sales last year, according to the company.

Among the Hongguang Mini EV owners, the post-90s generation accounted for 72 percent, and 60 percent were female. They are also the key force driving new growth in businesses such as vehicle refitting and paint jobs.

Liuzhou's air quality has remarkably improved thanks to continuous efforts in promoting clean energy and NEVs. Last year, the ratio of good air days in its urban areas was 96.7 percent, up 5.2 percentage points year on year, official data show.

"We are striving to further promote the use of new energy in the public transposition sector and explore new business patterns to further expand its application," Fang said.