Dec. 28 (UPI) -- State media in China reported Thursday that commuters in Beijing started using special license plates to designate alternative vehicles for the first time.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security in November announced the introduction for special green license plates for alternative vehicles in 12 cities, with a full-country roll-out planned for the first half of 2018.
Xinhua, the country's official news agency, said the green license plates are attractive in major cities like Beijing where local governments use special plate quotas for congestion and smog. According to national data, there were around 825,000 electric vehicles on Chinese roads to date.
Beijing commuters applied for their first special plates on Thursday, the news agency reported. In August, capital city leaders said they would expand the number of electric vehicles in the public transportation sector.
Data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show total sales of 2.19 million vehicles marked a 5.3 percent increase from August 2016. Sales and production of alternative vehicles like hybrids and electrics increased more than 60 percent from last year. At 68,000, sales are up 76.3 percent and, at 72,000, production is up 67.3 percent year-on-year.
China is the second-largest economy in the world and, for eight years running, the largest car market in the world. Beijing's air pollution levels have raised public health concerns and, globally, the International Energy Agency said that, if no improvements are made to the global fleet of heavy trucks, oil demand from the sector will account for about 40 percent of the projected 2050 total demand growth.
The IEA said it expects EV sales to quadruple by 2020, though cost remains a prohibiting factor to further deployment. Based on 2016 figures, however, they make up 0.2 percent of the total market.