Thu Apr 18, 2019, 06:21 PM

The man who ushered in Chinas battery vehicle boom wants to do the same for fuel cells | Echo Huang in Shanghai, China | April 17, 2019

It took only a decade for China to build the world’s largest battery-powered electric vehicle market. Now the architect behind it, Wan Gang, wants to do the same for hydrogen-powered electric vehicles.

“The fuel cell is the future development direction,” said Wan Gang on Wednesday (April 17) on the sidelines of the Shanghai Auto Show.

Wan’s words carry great weight in China’s auto industry because of the role he played starting two decades ago in convincing China to take the steps—including lavish subsidies for manufacturers and buyers—that turned it into the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles.

Wan came back to China in 2000 from Germany, where he worked at Audi, at the invitation of the Chinese government. His idea of “leapfrogging (link in Chinese)” in the auto industry—going from internal combustion engines to “new-energy vehicles”—impressed the State Council, China’s cabinet. In 2007, only seven years later, the auto engineer was the first non-Chinese Communist Party member to be appointed science and technology minister. He retired last year (link in Chinese) from the position and now chairs a key association for China’s science professionals.

It’s no secret that the 66-year-old began his return to China by studying and researching the fuel cell industry himself—he developed three FCVs under a series called Chao Yue (meaning “to surpass”) during his time from 2003 and 2005 (link in Chinese) as chief scientist for China’s 863 Program. That was a national plan launched in March 1986 to help China catch up with the West in advanced technology. But, possibly due to the challenges of promoting fuel-cell technology in the early 2000s, China instead focused on advancing the manufacture of hybrid and pure battery vehicles...

Full Speed Ahead for Hydrogen - in the nation that can get things done

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