Wan Gang, a former Audi executive who went on to become the science and technology minister of China, convinced the country's leaders two decades ago to trust in the then-untested vehicle electrification technology. As a result of this, his vision of placing China at the centre of vehicle electrification revolutionised the global auto industry's take on the subject. Gang's strategy of using government subsidies to bring vehicle manufacturers and buyers on board with the electrification led to one of every two EVs sold globally to belong to someone in China.
Wan Gang, who's been called the father China's electric car movement, now says that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the future of clean emissions mobility. “We should look into establishing a hydrogen society,” Wan said in an interview to Bloomberg, adding: “We need to move further toward fuel cells.” Gang, 66, who’s now a vice chairman of China’s national advisory body for policy making, a role that ranks higher than a minister and gives him a voice in the nation’s future planning.
That means the government will commit resources to develop such vehicles, he said. While China plans to phase out the long-time subsidy program for the maturing EV industry next year, government funding for fuel-cell vehicles may stay in place to some extent, Wan said.
Shares of some hydrogen-related companies rose. Jiangsu Huachang Chemical Co., which develops hydrogen pumping stations, advanced as much as 4.3 percent Thursday in Shenzhen. Shanghai Tongji Science & Technology Industrial Co. and Lanzhou Great Wall Electrical Co., which are both invested in the fuel-cell vehicle industry, rose in Shanghai.
In China, buses appear to be particularly ripe for fuel cells, which use a chemical process to convert hydrogen into electricity, emitting only water vapor. China is by far the world leader in using electric buses -- accounting for 99% of them worldwide last year, according to researcher BNEF -- but they’re mostly used in cities for short distances.
Hydrogen buses are capable of driving beyond 500 kilometers (310 miles) on a full tank, versus about 200 kilometers for electric ones. That presents a big opportunity because there are five long-distance buses in China for every inner-city one, according to Wan.