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Eco-friendly vehicles take center stage at Shanghai auto show

Government push is fueling green car development in China

Toyota senior managing officer Kiyotaka Ise speaks at an event the night before the Shanghai auto show.

SHANGHAI -- Eager to tap into China's growing market for electric vehicles, more than 1,000 manufacturers have descended on Shanghai for the 17th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition.

The focus of this year's auto show is on green energy as automakers worldwide compete to develop vehicles that rely less or not at all on fossil fuels. The exhibition is displaying some 1,400 cars, 113 of which will make their world premiere and 159 of which are "green" vehicles, 96 from Chinese companies and 63 from foreign ones.

Toyota is one such company and has been tackling the green car market from all angles. On Tuesday, the night before the opening of the event, the Japanese automaker revealed that it will begin road testing its fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai, in China in October. Toyota will bring two test cars for the effort. It also will release a plug-in hybrid in 2018.

Volkswagen also revealed Tuesday plans to sell 1.5 million electric vehicles in China by 2025. The German automaker announced a self-driving, electric concept car as well as a partnership with an AI company. Volkswagen is actively trying to introduce advanced technology to the Chinese market, where CEO Matthias Muller believes the future lies with automated driving, electric vehicles and digitization.
 
The Chinese government has classified autos like electric cars and plug-in hybrids as green vehicles and plans to impose production quotas for them on automakers starting in 2018, hence the focus on green technology here. New-car sales in China recorded double-digit growth in 2016, reaching about 28 million units and maintaining China's place as the world's largest car market for the eighth consecutive year. Sales of small cars are also expected to grow thanks to the extension of a tax break that was set to expire at the end of 2016.

The Shanghai exhibition two years ago drew 928,000 guests. The show is likely to gain much attention again this year because it is located in the world's largest market. The event will open to reporters on Wednesday and Thursday and to the general public from Friday to April 28.

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