Beijing plans to have 50,000 electric cars by 2015, 30,000 of which will be owned privately, the rest used as public transit, taxis and other public uses, Legal Evening News reports.

On Sunday, the first electric car rental service in Beijing opened in the Wudaokou area of the city as part of the Electric Beijing Partnership Plan, according to Caixin News, a financial news website. As part of the launch, dozens of charging posts were installed. The partnership between Yika Car Rental Service and Beijing Automotive Group, or BAIC Group, one of China’s largest state-owned automakers, has rolled out the first batch of electric cars, 15 vehicles produced by BAIC.

Electric Car, Shanghai A Chinese woman contemplates an electric car at a car show in Shanghai. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

This is part of the initiative to popularize electric cars in Beijing, in the hopes of alleviating the city’s infamous congestion and pollution problems. The plan is to have 50,000 electric or hybrid vehicles in Beijing by 2015, which will include 30,000 private vehicles, 8,000 public buses -- a third of the total number of buses in Beijing -- 10,000 taxis or government vehicles and 2,000 for uses in logistics, environmental, postal and rental sectors, Legal Evening News, a Beijing newspaper, reports.

“BAIC has made a promise to the city of Beijing to launch electric cars in the first half of 2013,” said Lin Yi, the Managing Director of New Energy Automotive, Ltd., a subsidiary company of BAIC. “We are now looking for volunteers to purchase he first batch of electric cars in Beijing; there will be dozens of them in the first half of the year.”

To promote electric vehicles, the city and the central government are each offering a 60,000 yuan ($9,800) subsidy to private citizens willing to purchase an electric car. Anyone can sign up to test-drive electric cars on

Cost is a central concern for consumers who are considering electric cars. An electric vehicle retails usually for more than 200,000 yuan. With the 120,000 yuan combined government subsidy, a consumer can expect to pay a price par with the cost of a traditional vehicle.

“The front-end cost is about the same, but an electric car and a traditional car have vastly different maintenance costs,” Xu Heyi, the president of BAIC, said. “A traditional car will run around 20,000 kilometers (12,430 miles) per year and cost 20,000 to 30,000 yuan to maintain. One of BAIC’s electric cars, however, only costs 12 yuan to run 100 kilometers, so the cost of maintaining an electric car for a year will only be 2,400 yuan.”

As an extra incentive, Beijing has just built the largest electric car charging station in the world. The station can service and charge up to 400 electric vehicles per day. Beijing boasts of four other charging stations and 15 groups of charging posts around Beijing, Legal Evening News reports.