Open Journal of Energy Efficiency, 2013, 2, 121-124 Published Online September 2013 (
Energy Conservation in China’s Road
Transport: Policy Analysis
Xiaoyi He1, Xunmin Ou1,2*, Xiliang Zhang1,2, Xu Zhang1,2, Qian Zhang1,2
1Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
2China Automotive Energy Research Center, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Email: *
Received May 31, 2013; revised July 1, 2013; accepted July 28, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Xiaoyi He et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which
permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Energy consumption for transport purposes has increased rapidly in China over the past decade. China’s transport in-
dustry has undergone remarkable developments in energy conservation through structural, technological and managerial
measures. The paper analyzes energy-conservation policies and measures related to road transport in China. The paper
also identifies constraints for these policies and measures. The transport management authorities face a series of diffi-
culties associated with methods, costs, public awareness, and management systems. Suggestions for improvement are
also offered, including promotion of energy-efficient private vehicles, advances in business vehicle energy conservation,
exploiting the energy potential of urban traffic and infrastructure development for energy-efficient clean vehicles.
Keywords: Energy Conservation; Road Transport; Policy Analysis; China
1. Introduction
Over the past decade, energy consumption for transport
purposes has increased rapidly in China. This escalation is
primarily accounted for by growing consumption of gaso-
line and diesel [1,2]. The freight transport sector has stead-
ily improved its energy efficiency and reduced its energy
intensity. The passenger transport sector, however, is likely
to see a moderate increase in energy intensity in the near
future because of a growing demand in service quality (i.e.,
speed, convenience, comfort) [3]. With the country’s con-
tinuing industrialization and urbanization, energy con-
sumption for transport purposes will continue to increase in
the foreseeable future, and transport will gradually become
a major energy user in the Chinese economy [4].
In recent years, China’s transport industry has undergone
remarkable developments in energy conservation through
structural, technological and managerial measures. Never-
theless, a number of major problems remain to be solved.
Through various policies, the local or national governments
have actively encouraged public transport, inter-city rail
transit construction, green travel, and energy conservation
by means of structural and technological optimization. De-
spite positive initial results, the industry still faces enor-
mous challenges, such as structural defects in the transport
sector, inadequate public transport capability, and ineffec-
tive energy-management mechanisms and policies [5].
2. Main Measures
Energy conservation can be achieved primarily through
two strategies (Figure 1): structural adjustment and tech-
nological advances. In practice, these strategies are re-
fined into schemes (at a relatively macro-level) and
measures (at a relatively micro-lev el). For these schemes
and measures to take effect, governmental policies are
required. With the continuing marketization of energy-
related sectors, the government regulates the op eration of
such sectors primarily by three groups of measures: price
policies, fiscal and taxation policies, and other manage-
rial policies [6,7].
Government policies take the form of laws and bylaws,
governmental plans, and guideline documents. For a new
policy to be effectively enforced in China, the government
has to consider carefu lly multiple aspects of the issues at
hand. In particular, the following elements need to be
clearly defined: 1) the objectives of the policy; 2) the target
objects of the policy; 3) the governmental departments re-
sponsible for policy enforcement; 4) procedur es required to
enforce the policy; 5) mechanisms for monitoring policy
enforcement; and 6) the relationship between the present
policy and preceding and subsequent ones.
Energy conservation in road transport is the key task in
*Corresponding author.
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Goal:achievementoftheenergyconservat ionstrategy
Figure 1. Relationship of the goal, strategies, and schemes
(measures) in energy conservation.
transport energy conservation, and numerous policies,
schemes, and measures are related to this task. The major
ones are listed in Table 1.
3. Restraints Analysis
With respect to energy conservation, transport manage-
ment authorities face a series of difficulties associated
with methods, costs, public awareness, and management
systems. They can be summarized as follows [8]: Finally,
complete content and organizational editing before for-
matting. Please take note of the following items when
proofreading spelling and grammar:
Technological conditions. Some energy-conservation
techniques are under development or at the demon-
stration stage and require funding support.
Cost issues. The implementation of energy-conserva-
tion schemes involves increased costs and thus re-
quires finan ci al assist ance.
Limited public awareness. The importance of energy
conservation and efficiency has not been widely rec-
ognized by corporate managers, appliances operators,
and the general public.
Weak management. Current systems for rating energy
efficiency, energy conservation, and environmental
protec tion are inadequ ate. Data are la cking. There ar e
delays in the dissemination of energy conservation-
related information. Management measures do not
function well.
Table 2 lists the constraints faced by transport man-
agement authorities in enforcing energy-conservation
In particular, the impact of these energy policies on
non-business (i.e., private-use) vehicles has been unsat-
isfactory. Achieving further improvement in the out-
comes of these policies would appear to be an enormous
challenge. The main factors that confine the outcomes of
these policies are as follows. First, the ownership of pri-
vate vehicles has increased rapidly. Correspondingly, the
energy consumption by private vehicles has accelerated.
Because of changing consumer habits, small vehicles are
unlikely to become the first choice of vehicle for most
people in the near future. Second, consumers are rela-
tively insensitive to gasoline prices, which impede the
transition to choosing more energy-efficient vehicles.
4. Policy Recommendations
4.1. Consistent Promotion of Energy-Efficient
Private Vehicles
Motorized vehicles are the leading factor in rising fuel
consumption. Experience in developed countries (Europe,
Japan, United States) indicates that the most effective
economic measures for improving the energy efficiency
of vehicles are as follows: 1) issuing energy-efficiency
standards and introducing fuel taxes; 2) requiring manu-
facturers to upgrade production techniques; and 3) en-
couraging consumers to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles.
China should introduce energy-efficiency standards and
promote the adoption of energy-conservation behavior
and technologies as well as alternative-fuel vehicles.
4.2. Comprehensive Advances in Business
Vehicle Energy Conservation
Energy conservation for business vehicles should pro-
ceed in terms of three aspects: vehicles, roads, and trans-
port organization. First, it is necessary to reduce the en-
ergy consumption of vehicles. This can be achieved in
two ways: energy-conservation techniques for new vehi-
cles and the maintenance of existing vehicles. The former
approach requires the regulation of manufacturers through
relevant standards and policies. The latter approach is
within the scope of transpo rt management author ities and
can be achieved in several ways: forced retirement of old
energy-intensive vehicles; encouraging structural im-
provement for vehicles by means of economic incentives;
rigorous monitoring of vehicle maintenance; and appro-
priate driver t r ai ni ng .
Second, energy consumption can be attained by im-
proving the road network structure and road conditions.
It can also be achieved by optimizing transport organiza-
tion and increasing transportation efficiency by improv-
ing the load efficiency.
Moreover, to ensure the long-term success of energy
conservation in road transport, it is necessary to promote
the inherent energy-conservation capacity in the transport
sector and make energy conservation a customary pro-
cedure in this industry.
4.3. Exploiting the Energy Potential of Urban
Urban traffic involves many complex factors, such as
management, policies and laws, planning, technology,
operation management, and finance. Improvement in one
or more of these factors can lead to advances in the traf-
fic environment and efficiency, thereby contributing di-
rectly or indirectly to energyconservation. Thus, there is
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Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OJEE
Table 1. Measures relevant to energy conservation in road transport.
No Energy conservation policies/measures Objectives
1 Recommend vehicle types for freight transport
2 Encourage the use of h eavy-load vehic les and van-typ e vehicles.
3 Promote diesel-fueled vehicles
Promote the use of energy-efficient vehicles
4 Eliminate old vehicles Eliminate energy-intensi v e ve h i c l e s fr om the transport market
5 Upgrade vehicle maintenance and tests
6 Recommend energy-efficient products Improve the energy efficiency of vehicles in operation
7 Encourage corpora t i za t i o n o f p assenger transport organizations
8 Promote the use of i n f o r mation techn o l o g y in freight and
passenger transport
Increase the transport efficiency
9 Quota management of energy use and reward/punishment
10 Driver training
Increase the awareness of energy conservation i n staff working in
the transport sector
11 Construct national expressway networks
12 Construct high-grade roads
13 Improve the pavement of roads
14 Control overweig ht and oversize in road transport
Improve the road network structure, road conditions, and its tra ffi c
15 Offer toll discounts for heavy-load vehicles Encourage the use of energy efficient vehicles
Table 2. Energy-conservation measures and constraints for enforcement in transportation sector.
Scheme Policy Actual constraint Type
Ensure the proportion of non-motorized
vehicles in traffic Local bylaws discouraging electric bikes;
inconvenience of traditional bikes Public awareness
Increase the proportion of train and water
transport in total transport load Unavailability of train passes;
low speed of water transport Cost
Increase the adoption of public transit in
traffic Crowdedness and lack of comfort in
buses; road congestion Public awareness
Increase the ratio of energy efficient
vehicles in passenger vehicles
Energy benefit of small vehi cles not necessarily
predominant relative to their advantages
(e.g., lack of impressive appearances) Public awareness
Adjustment of t ransport
Increase the ratio of energy efficient
vehicles in business vehicles Energy benefit of large vehicles not necessarily
predominant relative to their advantages (high costs) Cost
Improve the energy standard of new
vehicles Differences in technological statu ses of
vehicle manufacturers Technological
Eliminate energy intensive in-use
vehicles from the market Vehicle owners unwilling to abandon existing vehicles Cost
Increase the proportion of
diesel-fueled vehicles Limited diesel availability; emission of black
smoke and exhaust from diesel-fueled vehicles Cost
Improvement of fuel
economics of vehicles
Increase the proportio n of h ybrid
electric vehicles (HEVs) High costs of HEVs Cost
Promotion of alternative
fuels Increase the proportion of alternative-fuel
vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs) Technological defects of alternative-fuel
vehicles; inconvenience in recharging Cost
Improve the road network structure Road congestion Weak management
Improve the road conditions Road surface damage Weak management
Improvement of road
networks Improve the traffic capability Too many tolling points Weak management
Control energy use in subsectors Lack of clear goals Weak management
Upgrade energy conservation-related
monitoring and e xamination Lack of a clear system Weak management
Encourage the use of energy
conserving products and techniques Lack of motivation Cost
Perform comprehensiv e management of
energy policies Current laws need revisions Weak management
Other managerial
Improve the public concept of vehicle useLack of leaders Public awareness
enormous potential for energy conservation in urban traf-
Fuel use by urban vehicles accounts for over half of
total vehicular energy consumption. Additionally, urban
vehicles feature high spatial density, and there is a large
proportion of small urban vehicles. As a result, urban
vehicles represent a vast market potential for the applica-
tion of alternative fuels.
Global experience has shown that the operation effi-
ciency of urban traffic can be improved by such ap-
proaches as managing transport demand and improving
the traffic supply. More specifically, improvements can
be achieved by the following practices: limiting the use
of private vehicles; introducing (or increasing) the fuel
tax, exhaust emission tax, parking fees, and extra fees for
traffic during peak hours and in those regions congested
usually; creating bus-only lanes; using automatic traffic
control systems; and developing rail transit networks. All
these practices can contribute to improved energy effi-
4.4. Infrastructure Development for
Energy-Efficient Clean Vehicles
The government needs to expedite the infrastructure de-
velopment for clean vehicles. The infrastructure provides
the essential conditions and support for growth of the
alternative-fuel vehicle industry. Cleaner vehicles can
reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants.
Charging stations (or posts) and natural-gas fueling sta-
tions can be constructed in cities selected for the promo-
tion of alternative-fuel vehicles, such as hybrid electric
vehicles, electric vehicles, and vehicles fueled by com-
pressed or liquefied natural gas. Moreover, intensive re-
search should focus on the development of high-per-
formance batteries and energy-storage devices. Efforts
need to be made to develop technical capabilities and
standard systems for the manufacture, licensing, and
quality control of energy-supplying equipment.
5. Acknowledgements
The project is co-supported by the China National Natu-
ral Science Foundation (Grant No.71103109, and 71073095)
and the CAERC program (Tsinghua/ GM/SAIC-China).
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