The country’s industry regulator has mandated carmakers to conduct compulsory inspections of the safety of domestically produced environmentally friendly vehicles, calling the probes necessary after certain battery-powered buses had issues with fires.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced in a posting on its website Thursday the automakers were given a close deadline – October 20 – to report their findings. The vast majority of Chinese and global automakers have started developing green autos in preparation of the country’s fuel economy standards that grow tougher towards the start of the next decade. Among them is BYD Co Ltd, the automaker in which Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc has invested, and the producer of China’s top grossing “new energy” (battery electrics, fuel cell electrics and plug-in hybrids) vehicle the BYD Qin. According to the ministry, the buses that had caught fire had inherent safety defects from the product design sheet and hidden flaws in their every day usage pattern, though it refrained from delivering specific details about the cases. Back in April, BYD announced an electric bus was engulfed in flames in Shenzhen and that the automaker was not the one that produced the vehicle.
The recent safety issues now add to the numerous problems faced by electric vehicles in China, the world’s largest auto market, with consumers weary of green cars because of their price and “range anxiety” due to the lack of a nation-wide charging infrastructure. In a separate, related statement on Wednesday, the ministry also added the number of new energy vehicles – their coined term for electrics and plug-in hybrids – built in China has more than doubled in 2015.