Goal, Activities and Strategy
The overarching goal of C-CET is to provide fundamental understandings of China’s evolving energy and transportation sectors through joint research with our Chinese partners as well as through our original, independent analysis. C-CET seeks to build the leading international center for the study of transportation energy activities in China – one that will build on ITS-Davis’s existing network of leading analysts and scholars from around the world. Future plans include a second office located in Shanghai or Beijing. The program described here is multi-year. Near-term activities are highlighted below.
1. Establish Collaborative Research and Information Relationships
ITS-Davis is now building on its strong, existing connections with experts in China. We are honored by the participation of senior Chinese scholars in C-CET, including professors Ouyang Minggao and Lu Huapu of Tsinghua University, and professors Ma Jianxin, Chen Xiaohong and Ma Jun of Tongji University. President Wan Gang of Tongji University personally leads one of the major government-funded research programs on advanced vehicles in China. He also works directly with C-CET. All of these senior faculty are leaders on motorization and advanced energy system research in China.
U.S.-based advisors to C-CET include Dr. Feng An, Dr. Lee Schipper (head of EMBARQ at World Resources Institute), Dr. Dennis Scheutzle (former VP of international research for Ford Motor Company), Dr. Michael Wang (Argonne National Laboratory), and Douglas Ogden (Energy Foundation) all of whom have agreed to be part of the C-CET Advisory Board. C-CET is also collaborating with researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the World Bank to develop national energy models for China.
2. Analyze Consumer Demand for Vehicles and Fuels
Motorization in China is growing quickly but unevenly. Few cars are sold in rural China (where small indigenous “Chinese rural vehicles” dominate), and most are purchased by high-income individuals in coastal, urban areas. There is considerable variation across cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. As affluence increases, jobs and homes become more dispersed, and more expressways are constructed. These themes raise important questions about future trends in light-duty vehicle purchase behavior. Importantly, what role will key variables play in explaining and predicting vehicle sales?
In particular, C-CET resources will address key questions. Will Chinese car buying follow the same patterns as the U.S., Europe or Japan? Do Western social theories, approaches and methods apply to China? To what extent will rational actor models explain purchase behavior and motorization? How important is status, especially at this early stage of motorization, and how will the importance of status change as the market expands? Are Chinese consumers likely to be more or less conservative about alternative fuels than consumers in the U.S.? We will consider differences in household and family dynamics, use of vehicles for business and personal use, government policy, and new lifestyles in investigating demand for vehicles.
We began our studies in the cities of ITS-Davis’s principal university partners, Tsinghua University in Beijing and Tongji University in Shanghai. We have begun with an in-person survey that for the first time carefully explores how Chinese consumers are similar to or different from car buyers in the U.S. and elsewhere, adjusting for income and local circumstances. Building on the pilot project by one of our Ph.D. candidates studying in China, we will expand into a multi-city, multi-year survey of vehicle purchase behavior and vehicle use behavior in Beijing, Shanghai and a third major city. These surveys will help us build new theoretical and empirical insights about China’s consumers that will be used to develop more robust explanatory and forecasting models of transportation and energy use in China. For the same purpose, we will further expand our survey to the wealthy rural areas of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.
3. Analyze Fuel Distribution and Supply
In the area of analysis of fuel distribution and supply we are beginning our investigations into key questions. Will China rely on oil for the rapidly expanding motor vehicle population, or will it turn to alternative sources such as liquids and gases made from coal and biomass? What path will China follow? Will it follow the fuels-motorization model of the U.S.? Or might China “leapfrog” conventional automotive technologies and fuels? Or, more likely and in a more limited way, might China “leapfrog” the most classic fuel development pathways that have taken place in other regions of the world, but not necessarily by pioneering any particular fuel or technology?
We will investigate alternative pathways for building new infrastructure – for petroleum fuels, liquid synthetic fuels (from coal or biomass), and/or hydrogen. We will estimate the costs of each fuel infrastructure for petroleum fuels, biofuels, and coal-derived liquid fuels. Our cost measurements will include feedstock extraction, fuel production, distribution and delivery, and refueling station cost.
We will adapt and build upon engineering/economic models and GIS-based optimization methods developed at UC Davis for studying regional energy systems. In collaboration with our Chinese partners, we will enhance and broaden those models and extend them to China. Another of our Ph.D. candidates has recently finished a research study on Chinese cities’ transition to e-bikes and the reasons behind their explosive growth. This same student has also contributed to a cost comparative study on four types of hydrogen refueling stations in Shanghai.
4. Develop Transport Energy Models and Database
Transport energy use data are sparse and unreliable in China. As a result, models that project energy use are based on a “top-down” approach, relying on macro-level variables to predict trends in energy demand. A “bottom-up” modeling approach, based on detailed analyses of energy end-uses and evaluation of specific end-use technologies, is more accurate and far more valuable for forecasting, investment planning, and policy analysis.
Together with our Chinese partners, we will build the transportation energy database using the LEAP (Long-Range Energy Alternatives Planning) software package developed by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (LEAP, 2004). We will estimate China’s transportation energy demand by developing a better understanding of vehicle populations, use and emissions, and market penetration. One of the C-CET Ph.D. candidates is making strong headway in this area and we wish to expand this aspect of our work to involve more Chinese and U.S.-based scholars.
5. Analyze Government Management and Policy
To complement other research initiatives described above, we will also investigate government behavior and policy. While the overall thrust of this ITS-Davis led China research program is based on original research on markets and consumers, we will consider the different stakeholders in China’s unique decision-making process and roles those stakeholders play in the use of fuels and the transition to alternative fuels through different meanings. California’s leadership in adopting a new generation of environmentally-friendly policies and ITS-Davis faculty members’ contribution to these policies—most recently California’s new low carbon fuel standards for transport fuels -provide a strong foundation for our work in this area. Meanwhile, most recent development in China provides inspiration for better environmental standards back in California. C-CET will use the Californian experience as the foundation for our research and information exchanges with our Chinese counterparts.