Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The Chinese government said Monday it would take a world leadership position in alternative vehicles with the establishment of a new technology center.
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, meanwhile, have raised public health concerns.
The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology called Monday for the establishment a new technology and innovation center for new energy vehicles. The official Xinhua News Agency said the goal of a new center should be stimulating the technology needed to keep up with demand.
"Leading resources in the industry, and higher learning and research institutions are encouraged to participate in the building of the center," the report read.
According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, there were 770,000 alternative-fuel vehicles sold in China last year, more than any other country. The government set a goal of hitting 2 million in sales by 2020.
Sales and production of alternative vehicles like hybrids and electrics increased more than 60 percent from 2016 and in November, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security 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 this year.
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.
The International Energy Agency expects electric vehicle sales to quadruple by 2020, though cost remains a prohibiting factor to further deployment. Based on 2016 figures, they make up 0.2 percent of the total market.
Fatih Birol, the head of the IEA, told the U.S. Senate last week China is winning in terms of the pace of renewable energy development. By 2040, China will have 30 percent of the new wind and solar power capacity and 40 percent of the global investment in electric vehicles.