China mulls petrol car ban, boosting electric vehicles

Parts of the central business district being shrouded in a dust storm in Beijing. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2017

China mulls petrol car ban, boosting electric vehicles

SHANGHAI: China is gearing up to ban petrol and diesel cars, a move that would boost electric vehicles and shake up the auto industry in the world’s biggest but pollution-plagued market.
The plan would follow decisions by France and Britain to outlaw the sale of such cars and vans from 2040 to clamp down on harmful emissions.
While the government did not give a date for the ban, the announcement drove up the shares of Chinese automakers, with domestic electric car leader BYD soaring by as much as 7.39 percent.
Xin Guobin, vice minister of industry and information technology, told a weekend forum in the northern city of Tianjin that his ministry has started “relevant research” and is working on a timetable for China.
“These measures will promote profound changes in the environment and give momentum to China’s auto industry development,” Xin said in remarks broadcast by CCTV state television.
“Enterprises should strive to improve the level of energy-saving for traditional cars, and vigorously develop new-energy vehicles according to assessment requirements,” he said.

While Xin did not give a deadline, the head of the National Passenger Car Association, a Chinese auto industry group, said it would be “a long process.”
“It will be hard to stop producing traditional fuel-powered vehicles for the next decade or two decades,” the association’s secretary general, Cui Dongshu, told AFP.
“We may make significant headway in passenger cars in 2040 or even earlier, but for other products like the heavy-duty trucks it would be difficult.”
Automakers “have not really tried hard in this sector” and consumers are not so familiar with new-energy vehicles, Cui said, though he predicted that the “impact will be big” when China decides to ban petrol vehicles.
China produced and sold more than 28 million vehicles last year, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.
The sale of new-energy vehicles topped 500,000 in the world’s second largest economy in 2016, over 50 percent more than the previous year, according to national industry figures.
The government in June introduced draft regulations compelling automakers to produce more electrically-powered vehicles by 2020 through a complex quota system.
Xin said the policy would be implemented “in the near future,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.

As the measure looms, foreign automakers have announced plans to boost the production of electric cars in China.
Volvo will introduce its first 100-percent electric car in China in 2019, while Ford will market its first hybrid vehicle in early 2018. It envisages that 70 percent of all Ford cars available in China will have electric options by 2025.
Market leader Volkswagen sold four million cars in China in 2016 but only a few hundred were “green.”
The German manufacturer plans to begin making an electric car in China next year, in a joint venture with Chinese group JAC. Jochem Heizmann, CEO of Volkswagen China, said in April that VW expects to sell around 400,000 new-energy vehicles in China in 2020.
French carmaker Renault, which started producing cars in China last year, will roll out two new-energy vehicles in the country — a sedan and small SUV — in 2018 and 2019, said Florence de Golfiem, its communications vice president for China.
Renault entered the Chinese market knowing that it was moving toward electric cars, she said, so the company has been co-developing such vehicles through a joint venture from the beginning.
“We already have a very advanced technology,” she told AFP. “We do co-development in China with Chinese standards and batteries, adapted to Chinese electric (car) norms.”


Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII review: The car of kings and presidents

Updated 20 May 2020

Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII review: The car of kings and presidents

  • Our reviewer gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury

DUBAI: You can reel off all the petrolhead data you like about the Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII — 6.75 liters, 560 brake horse power, V12 twin-turbo engine, 900 newtons of torque and a maximum speed of 250kph — but all of that pales into insignificance before the Spirit of Ecstasy.

The classic sculpture that sits on top of the hood tells you this is a Rolls-Royce, probably the best car in the world. And it is not just any old Rolls, either. This is a Phantom, the British carmaker’s top-of-the-range, most elite model.


Phantoms have been conveying kings, presidents and other rulers for decades. When Sir Winston Churchill wanted to impress his new ally, King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, he gave him a Phantom III variation as a gift. The car is still much loved by royalty throughout the Middle East, and is the ultimate symbol of power, status and luxury.

Our reviewer Frank Kane gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury: Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. (Supplied)

Just getting behind the wheel of one boosts your ego several notches. People turn their heads to stare, nudge their friends to take a look, and take photos for immediate Instagramming. A Phantom owner is an influencer.

For a long time it was the ultimate chauffeur car, and no doubt those who own one will be sufficiently well off to afford a driver, too. But it would be unforgivable to miss out on the opportunity to drive this incredible piece of engineering yourself.

German car manufacturer BMW, which has owned Rolls-Royce since 1998, realizes this and is increasingly aiming the car at the self-drive market.

The one I was lucky enough to drive, courtesy of the AGMC dealership in Dubai, was extra special: an extended wheelbase version, some 22 centimeters longer than a “normal” Phantom. This provides even more space in the back for a head of state to spread out while reviewing crucial documents, host a mini-summit, or simply relax.

You might think a car this big will be difficult to drive, but that is not the case at all. The power- assisted steering is as light as a feather, and the four-wheel steering eases you effortlessly round any sharp curves. The German sensor technology makes parking and maneuvering simple, even for such a big, powerful car.

Our reviewer Frank Kane gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury: Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. (Supplied)

On Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, you really get the chance to put the thoroughbred through its paces. An eight-speed automatic gearbox zips you from standing to 100kmh in 5.4 seconds, which is fast enough to overtake almost anything else on the road, even in super sports car-crazy Dubai.

When you hit 120kmh, the windshield display politely reminds you of the fact. It needs to do that, because inside the car is as silent as if you were still stationary. Engine noise is virtually non-existent even at high speed, and the suspension is so perfectly balanced you feel like you are gliding along on a cloud, more like a hover vehicle than rubber-on-the road.

Where to begin on the interior? The dashboard on the Phantom I drove was a classy display of Burgundy red leather — matching the seat and deep-pile caret — and polished chrome instruments.

It oozes British craftsmanship mixed with German technology. The dash itself can be customized — “bespoke”, as Rolls-Royce calls it — with any number of stylish motifs. In the Arabian Gulf, Islamic calligraphic themes are popular, as are ocean features such as shells and waves.

Our reviewer Frank Kane gets behind the wheel of the ultimate symbol of motoring power and luxury: Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. (Supplied)

The rear is like a double-seat, first-class cabin on an aircraft, complete with in-flight entertainment in seat-back consoles, a drinks cabinet and curtains that close at the touch of a button to envelop you in luxury. If you want to doze during a long, chauffeured journey, the starlight ceiling display should help you drop off.

“I could live here,” said one passenger I treated to a drive. Which is appropriate, because the Phantom VIII will cost about the same as a reasonably sized Dubai apartment. About AED 2.2m ($600,000) will get you started, before adding those “bespoke” features.

For these, the sky is the limit.

I’ve driven quite a few luxury cars in Dubai and make a habit, when I finish a test-drive, of telling the showroom staff: “That’s the best car I’ve ever driven.” They appreciate the compliment, even when I am faking it.

With the Phantom VIII, I sincerely meant it.