Jiexun.jpgChongqing, the megalopolis of 31m souls in southwestern China, has ambitions to become not just one of the biggest cities in the world but also one of the greenest.

The city government plans to subsidise the purchase of hybrid cars to the tune of 43,000 yuan — almost $6,300.

But, and here's the big catch, the subsidies will only be available to those who buy Chang'an Automobile's Jiexun brand hybrid car. As if you had not already guessed, Chang'an, one of China's big five car makers, is based in Chongqing.

In similar vein, Shenzhen is offering offering discounts up to 60 percent for those who buy an electric vehicle.BYD, China's best known electric car maker, is based in Shenzhen.

These are a perfect example of modern-day pork barrel politics, promoting local industry and dressing it up as green livery — lets not forget that hybrid vehicles are out of the budget of most Chinese car buyers, even with this generous subsidy.

But at least China's cities can claim their initiatives will go some way to reducing carbon emissions, unlike the proposed Cash for Clunkers programme in the US, which requires that buyers scrap an old car and buy a new one that is Made in the USA, irrespective of its carbon footprint or fuel consumption. The Scientific American has a good critique on the US scheme.

A similar subsidy scheme in Germany, immensely popular with new car buyers, has also been criticised as researchers have found that most buyers who benefited from the subsidy where planning to buy buy a new car anyway.

Chongqing's subsidy for hybrid vehicles is designed to level the playing field by making the hybrid Jiexun comparable in price to the standard version. The subsidy also includes an exemption in road fees over three years.

The hybrid Jiexun was launched during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and various cars were used as taxis for the athletes and spectators. The power electronics for the hybrid drive used in these vehicles were supplied by Germany's Infineon Technologies, which is one of the largest makers of automotive electronics.

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