Zhangjiakou in North China's Hebei Province is speeding up its efforts to create a clean and green Winter Olympic Games in 2022.
It is transforming itself from a small city near the capital Beijing to a skiing destination dubbed "international Zhang."
One of the city's major moves is to fully develop its abundant wind resources to promote the industrialization of hydrogen, a key energy source to help the city become China's first energy transition pilot city.
As a part of its efforts, the city government is now replacing traditional gas-powered vehicles with fuel cell buses powered by hydrogen. Zhangjiakou aims to withdraw all gas-powered public vehicles and build a low-carbon and environmentally-friendly public transport system.
Zhangjiakou's resolution is in accordance with President Xi Jinping's pledge to prepare for an "extraordinary" Winter Olympic Games.
While inspecting the game venue in Zhangjiakou on January 23, Xi ordered relevant departments and local governments to ensure high-quality preparation.
The president said Zhangjiakou's plans should abide by the principle of conserving resources and using funds effectively. He said that projects in the Games should be managed under the principle of sharing, openness, cleanness and being eco-friendly, the Xinhua News Agency reported in January.
The Games will be the first major global sporting event held in China since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Co-host Zhangjiakou, located approximately 200 kilometers from Beijing, has been identified as having a strong renewable energy resource endowment, with abundant wind, solar and biomass potential in the region.
During a visit to the major departure stations of Zhangjiakou's public transport system, this Global Times reporter found that the buses and commuting shuttles in the city are new energy vehicles.
Zheng Taipeng, an official from the city's Bus Group, told the Global Times that the city has replaced all of its traditional buses with new-energy buses, 25 percent of which are hydrogen fuel cell buses.
The fuel cell vehicles are powered by hydrogen and are more efficient than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles with no tailpipe emissions. They emit water vapor and warm air, Zheng Yuanchun, brand director of SinoHytec, one of China's leading enterprises that focus on the study of hydrogen fuel cell engines, told the Global Times.
Zheng said that most of the buses in Zhangjiakou were installed with the company's energy transformation devices that create electric energy by means of an electrochemical reaction with the combination of hydrogen and oxygen.
During the process, no burning occurs and the byproducts are only electricity, water and heat with zero pollution and low noise, he explained.
A hydrogen-powered bus can run for 400 kilometers, and only takes three minutes to refuel, he said.
According to Zheng, the company now is building a hydrogen plant which will provide a sustainable source for the city's public transportation and for Beijing in future.
However, experts noted that the biggest challenge lies in that under current laws, stations for hydrogen, which is highly flammable, can only be set up in industrial parks in suburbs.
Back in 2008, China shut down polluting factories and implemented anti-smog regulations during the Games. For the 2022 Winter Olympics, besides reforms on public transportation, the city is also taking others measures to boost renewable energy use and enhance environmental protection.
According to media reports, in the spring of this year, Zhangjiakou completed 272,666 hectares of land preparation and completed 152,000 hectares of afforestation.
Meanwhile, the city government plans to invest 2.6 billion yuan ($375 million) to green the Winter Olympics core areas, a land area totaling 58,000 hectares.
Separately, in March, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) signed a cooperation agreement with the Hebei provincial government to provide Zhangjiakou with a renewable energy roadmap to support its ambitions.
The agreement will support the establishment of a "low-carbon Olympic zone" in Zhangjiakou, with plans for both the Olympic center and Olympic stadiums to be powered by renewable energy, according to the official website of IRENA.