Chinese carmaker wins Zayed Future Energy Prize

With China's electric vehicles market witnessing rapid growth, one of the country's leading auto manufacturers has been recognised for its contribution to creating environmentally friendly technology for electric cars

Chinese car manufacturer BYD Co. was awarded the Zayed Future Energy Prize last week in Abu Dhabi, recognising China’s growing role in the clean energy and electric vehicles space.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, was chosen for The Large Corporation category prize for its contribution to the development and production of environmentally friendly battery technology for electric cars. Wang Chuanfu, who started BYD in 1995 in Shenzhen, received the award at the opening of the annual World Future Energy Summit 2016. 

BYD has become the world's largest rechargeable battery supplier and new energy vehicle producer. Its rise is a reflection of the country’s large investments in renewable energy and the robust growth in its electric vehicle market. According to recent data, clean energy investment in China alone has outpaced that in the US, the UK, and France together. Data shows across 55 of the biggest non-OECD countries, including India, Brazil, China, and Kenya, investment in clean energy hit US$126 billion in 2014, a record high and 39 percent above 2013.

The technology BYD was awarded for is the BYD Iron-Phosphate Battery. According to its website, the battery is “fire-safe, completely recyclable and a long-cycle solution that has become the core of the company's current clean energy platform of transportation and storage”. It is estimated that around 160 cities in China and globally use BYD electric buses and taxis, China’s official news agency Xinhua said.

China is on a drive to lower pollution caused by emissions and seeks to have five million electric vehicles in operation by 2020. It is therefore accelerating the construction of charging stations, removing one of the obstacles facing urban residents who don’t have their own charging stations at home.

“China will be the epicenter for electrification of the auto industry globally,” Bill Russo, Managing Director at Gao Feng Advisory Co. in Shanghai told Bloomberg News. Russo estimates China’s investments in new-energy vehicles would reach US$15.5 billion by 2020.

This drive comes from the very top, with President Xi Jinping announcing electric vehicles as a strategic initiative that would prop-up the automobile industry, competing head-to-head with companies such as Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co.

Another emerging economy seeking to increase its power generation from renewable energy sources is the UAE. This month, the country announced targeting 30 per cent power generation from clean energy by 2030.

“What we know is that at least 25 per cent [of electricity] is going to be from both nuclear and solar,” Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei said. “But there is potential to go to 30 per cent. It will depend on the number of projects we have and we are evaluating and putting these things together now.”

The bulk of power generation from non-hydrocarbon sources will come from nuclear power, with four new nuclear reactors due to start operations between 2017 and 2020. These will supply around a quarter of the UAE’s electricity demand by the end of the decade, removing the need to burn natural gas to generate electricity. Additional clean energy will mainly be supplied by solar power.

BYD, which is partly owned by US billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is also growing its operations in the solar power generation sector, as part of its strategy to achieve a zero emissions energy ecosystem, staring from generation to storage and transportation.