• GM's Plug-In Hybrid Car at Auto Shanghai 2017

GM's Plug-In Hybrid Car at Auto Shanghai 2017 (Photo : Getty Images)

China is aggressively pushing to increase the number of electric vehicles in the country as automakers promoted the use of electric vehicles at the recent Auto Shanghai 2017, an NPR.org article said.

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A commercial for an electric vehicle made by Chinese automaker BYD featured American actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who comes with the message: "Let us reconnect with nature, fill our lungs with clean air instead of pollution, let us see beauty more clearly. With new energy, we can see this future. Now let's make it ours."

But the message was not only for Chinese automakers at the showroom of this year's exhibition; it was also shared by foreign brands.

"China's been pushing very aggressively to move to a greater mix of electrified vehicles," Trevor Worthington, vice president of product development at Ford Motor Co. in Shanghai, said.

Last year, Ford sold nearly 1.3 million cars in China and it plans to electrify about 70 percent of its cars in the country by 2025. The move came as the Chinese government urged manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles to curb vehicle emissions as well as reduce reliance on foreign oil imports.

By next year, China wants automakers to make at least 8 percent of all the vehicles they manufacture to be electric.

In 2016, the number of electric vehicles in China reached more than 1 million, an 87 percent increase from the previous year. The price of electric vehicles ranges from $6,000 to $20,000.

"It's the largest automotive market in the world and will continue to be in the foreseeable future," Worthington said. "And you look at the number of mega-cities that there are in China, the density of their populations, so finding alternative solutions is not an unreasonable thing to expect the Chinese government to be doing."

To encourage the use of electric vehicles, China has supported the building of charging stations, which now reach a total of 300,000. The government also rewards people who buy electric and plug-in hybrids with incentives and subsidies.

But regardless of incentives, the demand for electric cars is high, according to Tong Xiuying of Chinese automaker Chang'an.

"In cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, traffic is very heavy and gas prices are high, so people prefer driving electric cars," Tong said. "But it certainly helps that these cities are offering big incentives if you purchase these vehicles."

Among cities, Shanghai has the biggest incentive for electric car buyers, the report said.

"In Shanghai, you normally have to pay around 15,000 U.S. dollars for a license plate, and that's after you win one in a lottery!" Lu Chengzhong, a participant in the auto show, said. "If you buy a plug-in hybrid, the city will give you a free license plate, just like that. That makes it pretty alluring."