China To Test Fuel Cell Bus in Late 2005

October 25, 2004 by Jeff Shepard

China has announced plans to test its first fuel cell bus on the streets of Beijing late next year, said a professor of Tsinghua University in charge of the project. Ouyang Minggao, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and the director of China's National Laboratory of Automotive Safety and Energy, believes China has an edge, given its cheap and abundant research labor pool.

"Now the development of fuel cell technology is still labor-intensive, and Western high-tech labor still has a very high price. But we have the advantage of very low labor costs," stated Ouyang. "I think in three to five years, we will have a large-scale diesel market in China. Of course, this depends on the government's energy policy. If the fuel tax is implemented, diesel car sales will go up very quickly. I think it will be implemented very soon."

Ouyang reported that China can now produce prototype fuel cells at about half the cost of those made in "foreign countries," and the cost could go as low as one-eighth. Ouyang also stated that China is also able to mass-produce cheaper buses. In China, a regular bus costs between $30,000 and $50,000. In comparison, the cost could run up to 10 times that amount in the US.

Should the road trials for China-made fuel cell buses go smoothly next year, Ouyang said that he expects the buses could become commercially viable by 2010. However, he doesn't see commercial fuel cell cars being available until 2020 at the earliest, because more research and preparation for commercial readiness is required, such as setting up refueling stations.