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China goes to war against pollution in a road

Sinotruk signature trucks

Every year, in China they are manufactured
two million trucks. And about 30 million are currently traveling their roads. They are one of the pillars of economic dynamism that has made the Asian giant the second world power. But they are also a big headache for the government of the country that pollutes the planet most: the inefficient engines disel of the majority are an environmental and public health pump

The Government has taken action on the matter. "It has decreed that the new China VI standards (equivalent to Euro VI) for new trucks be met next year, and the objective is that in 2025 between 10% and 20% of the entire market belongs to non-polluting vehicles ", Retina Xuan Gao, deputy director of the Shaanxi Commercial Vehicle Company, known abroad as Shacman, tells EL PAS.

The problem is that manufacturers are still far from those quotas. In fact, Shacman herself recognizes that only 4% of all the trucks she sells are powered by clean energy. "The Authorities are forcing producers to modernize both vehicles and production systems," adds Xuan in Baoji, where Shacman has inaugurated its new assembly line, which is firmly committed to automation.

But communist leaders do not want to wait for all companies to follow in the footsteps of Shacman and have already begun to limit the circulation of the most polluting trucks. Cities like Pekn have banned this year the entry of heavy vehicles that do not meet the most demanding standards, and the northern provinces, the most affected by the pollution of trucks, restrict their movements in days with
atmospheric pollution high. In addition, although China has implemented European emission standards with a delay of between 8 and 10 years, it has now decided to take the lead and China VI-b, which will enter into force in 2023, is even stricter than its Old Man counterpart Continent.

Hybrids before electric

Until that time comes, hybrids are the strongest bet in the industry. "A profound transformation of the sector is coming. But electric trucks will only be attractive vehicles for transport when we manage to substantially increase the autonomy of batteries," says Xuan. Meanwhile, the technology that combines both worlds is seen as the only way out to comply with the regulations without losing competitiveness.

Aware that all of the above remains insufficient to successfully combat pollution, the Government has already activated additional plans. For example, raise the quality of the disel to reduce the most harmful emissions. Two years ago, the northeastern provinces also approved a plan to reduce the transport of their products by road and increase the use of the railroad, which pollutes thirteen times less but is underutilized in its carrying capacity.

Sinotruk signature trucksSinotruk signature trucks

Undoubtedly, the fact that the State controls the main industrial companies makes it easier for this type of plan to be fulfilled. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has made the construction of an ecological society one of his main priorities, and when he was five years ago he came to be able to declare war on pollution. The replacement of coal as a source of energy for renewables, the modernization of the industry, the reduction of its excess capacity, and the closure of a multitude of polluting factories have yielded positive results, especially in the large metropolises.

But much remains to be done. Between January and April, for example, smog in the northern provinces grew again. In the 337 cities that are taken as a reference, the suspended particle levels remain stable, but outside the parameters that China itself considers acceptable – 35 micrograms per cubic meter – and around twice the maximum stipulated by the World Organization Of the health. This situation is related to up to one million premature deaths a year and even natural abortions, and has an estimated economic cost of about 34,000 million euros annually.

Trucks without driver

In the automotive sector, key to solving the problem, the green revolution also adds another technology: the one that boosts the development of
autonomous trucks. "We already have several of
Level 4 – without driver, but with preset routes – designed to operate in controlled environments such as ports and mines. The former have been in operation at Tianjin port for a year and a half, and the latter will be ready shortly. The development of the system is complex, and requires that everything is checked to the millimeter to avoid failures that can lead to accidents, "explains Tian Lei, chief engineer of the China National Heavy Duty Truck, known as Sinotruk.

During a visit to the company's Jinan plant, Lei emphasizes that this technology significantly increases the efficiency and safety of vehicles. However, he believes that the deployment of level 5 autonomous trucks – unable to move without a driver in any environment and outside of predetermined routes – takes time to materialize. "The rules of circulation are still not suitable for them, but they will arrive," he adds.

And, when they do, the sector will shake again. "Because one of the difficulties involved is in the transformation that they require within the manufacturing companies, since their technology is different: it is necessary to include a very powerful software that, in general, is developed by technological companies with which there are that increase cooperation, "explains Lei. However, when Sinotruk has its electric and autonomous trucks ready, do not hesitate to market them outside its borders.

"In our plans it is to take all our products to international markets – Sinotruk currently sells between a fifth and a quarter of its production abroad – because we believe that we can have a great competitive advantage in the price, but its adaptation to the regulations local takes time, "says Lei. And Xuan thinks the same: "The fact that Chinese products have special acceptance in developing countries can also be an incentive for them to adopt the cleanest ones. In fact, we are already cooperating with countries like Russia to introduce electric vehicles. and determine new standards. 'Made in China' no longer represents a bad quality, but a good value for money, "he concludes.