June 1998
1990, Kaifeng Cryogenic First LNG vehicle
Back to Car Truck Busses
In an effort to reduce air pollution in Beijing, the municipal government
in 1999 ordered city vehicles to convert to liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas.

By 2002, Beijing had the largest fleet of natural gas buses in the world - a total of 1,630 vehicles.
Subway and light rail systems in Beijing also are being expanded.
China  China Gas china news China Offshore O&G Chna Petroleum Industry China To Use More Gas

natural gas BUSSES General Motors  IMPCO  In Xi'an, 150 conversion packages high-pressure refueling Daqing NG vehicles Cryenco Inc
China Fleet Vehicles 500,000 busses
Alternative Vehicles and Fuels  Sichuan province Chengdu China's 1st lng bus Hainan
Natural gas vehicles in China up to 1998
Chinese Motor Vehicle Manufacturing 
1990, Kaifeng Cryogenic First LNG vehicle
China Fleet Vehicles 500,000+ busses
China Alternative Vehicles and Fuels 
Gas Vehicles Sichuan province
high-pressure refueling Daqing
General Motors and IMPCO 
NG vehicles Chengdu
China natural gas buses
In Xi'an, 150 
China's 1st lng
Cryenco Inc
Alternative Transportation Research and Development in China* 
By James Cannon
 * Adopted from "China at the Crossroads - Energy, Transportation, and 21st Century," published by INFORM, June 1998.

Although China's fleet of motor vehicles is dwarfed by the estimated 600 million bicycles that ply its roads, the use of motor vehicles is growing much faster than any other  ground-based transportation alternative. While the last twofold increase in the world's motor vehicle population took 20 years to occur, in China it took just three years. 

Motor Vehicle Manufacturing 

Despite this recent explosive growth, China's automotive market has barely been touched.  There is still only one motor vehicle per 115 people in China, compared to one vehicle for every 1.3 people in the United States.  China's motor vehicle population is only 6 percent that of the United States. If its vehicles per capita were the same as ours,  there would be 920 million vehicles in China alone--47 percent more than the entire motor vehicle population of the world today. 

Motor vehicle manufacturing in China has nearly tripled this decade, to about 1.5 million vehicles per year, the great majority of which are trucks. (The United States manufactures 10 million vehicles annually.)  An additional 100,000 vehicles are imported annually.  Most automotive manufacturing in China is performed by joint ventures involving foreign companies.  The first, and for a long time only, foreign automobile company licensed to build passenger sedans in China was Volkswagen.  Working through a joint venture with the Chinese-owned Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation, Volkswagen is by far the largest car manufacturer in China, producing 122,000 cars in 1994 (including the popular Santana, which is widely used as a taxicab). 

Daihatsu is the second largest automotive manufacturer in China, producing 58,000 cars per year.  As of 1994, other automakers operating in China included Citroen and Peugeot, with total car production by all companies totaling 239,000 annually. 

During the past few years, new joint ventures with foreign partners have led to a major expansion in automotive manufacturing in China.  Arrangements for the first joint  venture with an American company to produce a passenger sedan were completed in March 1997.  This $1 billion deal between General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Industries will result in the manufacture of up to 100,000 Buick Regal and Century automobiles at a new assembly plant to be built in China around the end of the decade.  These full-size cars, which have very low fuel efficiency (under 25 miles/gallon), will burn both leaded and unleaded gasoline and will not be equipped with catalytic converters.

China Fleet Vehicles
In contrast to the US vehicle fleet, which is vastly dominated by passenger cars, China's fleet is mainly composed of  trucks, buses, and other heavy vehicles used by government and industry. These include over 500,000 buses, compared to only 65,000 in the United States. Most of China's commercial trucks and buses are manufactured by companies that are wholly Chinese-owned. One US company, Chrysler, has been manufacturing the light-duty Cherokee truck for years in China, first for the military and  more recently for purchase by private citizens. Unlike commercial vehicles, nearly all automobile production involves joint ventures with foreign partners. Joint-venture manufacturing agreements exist with Peugeot, Daihatsu, and Suzuki.

China's large motorcycle population accounts for about 10 percent of the motor vehicle fleet.  Motorcycle manufacturing, like car production, occurs largely through joint  ventures.  It, too, is growing rapidly, despite steep registration fees and safety-related restrictions on the use of motorcycles in 

Taken together, there were 123 motor vehicle manufacturing plants operating in China in 1997, the 13 largest of which are responsible for over 90 percent of the industry's output.  Most motor vehicle manufacturing occurs near Shanghai and in the northeastern province of Liaoning, where Dalian, China's version of Detroit, is located.

Because the number of motor vehicles in China has only recently begun to expand, transportation accounts for less than 7 percent of the country's total   energy use (compared to 27 percent in the United States).  As in the United States, however, virtually every motor vehicle in China depends on an internal   combustion engine powered by either gasoline (leaded and unleaded) or diesel fuel.  Since most Chinese   automobiles and trucks are small vehicles, their fuel economy tends to be good. Large trucks and buses,  however, are equipped with older, more inefficient engines. Vehicles in China are equipped with virtually no pollution controls.

Alternative Vehicles and Fuels 

The dependence of China's motor vehicles on oil-derived fuels and conventional internal combustion engine technology appears certain to continue into the foreseeable future, unless current trends are modified. Development of alternative transportation fuels and advanced propulsion systems that do not rely on oil has barely begun in China. Only a few encouraging signs of change have emerged. There is significant commercial use of natural gas, as well as considerable interest in developing electric-battery vehicle technology, especially for motorcycles.  There are also several small-scale demonstrations under way involving other alternative fuels and propulsion systems. 

Natural Gas Vehicles

The use of natural gas as a transportation fuel in China dates to the 1950s. According to the Institute of Natural Gas Vehicles in Beijing, there are approximately 2500 natural gas vehicles in China today, nearly all of which are buses, which must rely on only 35 refueling stations.  In the United States, by contrast, there are over 60,000 natural gas vehicles in operation, including nearly 2000 buses, and 1200 refueling stations.

Most natural gas vehicles in China are found in the natural gas-rich Sichuan province.  Fleets of hundreds of natural gas buses are operating in the provincial capital city of Chengdu and in Zigong. 
Smaller fleets are operating in other Sichuan cities as well. 

The design of these natural gas buses is not at all like that of natural gas buses in the United States and other countries.  In conventional designs used elsewhere, natural gas is stored either in a highly compressed form in metal storage cylinders or in a super-cooled, cryogenic liquid state.
In Chinese buses, on the other hand, the gas is typically stored in  large rubber bags that sit atop the vehicles like balloons.  The pressure in these bags is only 6 to 7 atmospheres, compared to 200 to 300 atmospheres of pressure in the storage cylinders. Because of the low pressure, the bags must be huge--typically the size of the bus frames on which they sit--in order to accommodate sufficient quantities of fuel.  Even so, the range of  these buses before refueling is typically less than 100 miles.  As the gas is consumed, the bags gradually deflate, providing an obvious indicator of  the need to refuel. 
Although this fuel storage technology is primitive, it has been used successfully for decades.  The bags are cheaper than tanks and the refueling equipment is simpler.  One problem, however, is that the bags can snag and rip if they catch on overhead branches or power lines. They can also restrict access to tunnels and underpasses.

In addition to the bus fleets of Sichuan, few vehicles in other regions are using natural gas produced as a by-product of oil production and traditionally vented or flared. One conventional high-pressure natural gas refueling station has been built near the Daqing oil fields in northeastern China to service a fleet of 200 natural gas trucks. In Beijing, the city's first fleet of 10 natural gas vehicles is planned as soon as a refueling station is connected to a recently completed natural gas pipeline.  Entex  Fuels, Inc., of Houston, Texas, is a leading US participant in this project. 

In Xi'an, 150 conversion packages that will allow conventional cars to burn natural gas have been sold by Clean Vehicle Systems, a New York-based company. The packages are to be installed by a joint-venture company in China.  A small fleet of natural gas vehicles is also operating in Xinjiang province. 
 In September 1997, China's first commercial busses powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) took to the streets of Haikou, capital of China's island province of Hainan in the South China Sea. The buses are the first stage of a much larger effort, valued at over $4 million, to convert 5300 cars and buses in Haikou to LNG.
In early 1997, LNG storage and fuel handling equipment made by Denver, Colorado-based Cryenco Sciences, Inc., was licensed for sale in China for the first time, further signaling the country's growing interest.
An earlier LNG demonstration project took place in 1990, when Kaifeng Cryogenic Devices Manufacturing Company converted a bus to LNG in the eastern interior province of Henan. 
Numerous other natural gas initiatives have been  reported over the past six months.
In May of 1998,  Volvo displayed various natural gas-powered vehicles to Beijing city officials seeking solutions to the city's traffic and pollution problems.
Also in May, Beijing officials and automotive experts completed a six-month technical training program conducted by General Motors and IMPCO Technologies, Inc., in cooperation with the Beijing Science and Technology Commission. The officials are developing standards and infrastructure to facilitate conversion of Beijing's buses and taxis to natural gas. As part of the program at IMPCO's technology center in Irvine, California, Chinese engineers converted a five-passenger taxi designed by Beijing Automotive Industrial Corp. Group to natural gas.