Imagine if you could only drive on the freeway every-other day, or face stiff fines? That’s the reality for millions of drivers in Beijing, where the law dictates who can drive on the largest highways based on whether your license plate ends in an odd or even number. It’s a huge hassle, as you might imagine, and the local government is offering drivers a way around it by buying a plug-in automobile, according to Green Car Reports.
Since 2008, the odd-even license plate system has meant that many drivers were effectively banned from their most direct route home during rush hour, forcing them to drive on surface streets or take public transportation. Beijing officials implemented this system to reduce tremendous traffic congestion and cut back on vehicle emissions, which contribute heavily to Beijing’s epic smog problems. While all levels of China’s government are trying to push car buyers towards plug-in cars, with incentives ranging from skipping the costly license plate lotto and a growing network of free fast-chargers to thousands of dollars in tax rebates, green car sales are nowhere near what officials want.
Adding full-time access to the quickest route home could add an additional incentive that pushes some fence-sitters into a plug-in vehicle. Studies in California and Norway have shown that HOV lane access is one of the biggest motivators for plug-in car purchases, but so far only a little more than half of the 10,000 fee-free license plates set aside for plug-in car buyers in China have been claimed. Meanwhile, 6.2 million people applied for the 36,000 plates Beijing set aside for conventional vehicles. Chinese plug-in car sales still lag far behind much of the rest of the world on a relative basis, despite growing fast in 2014 and 2015.
What else can China do to encourage plug-in car sales to a stubborn buying public?