China's government is to subsidise sales of 'green' vehicles in five cities selected for a pilot programme as it boosts efforts to promote environmentally friendly vehicles in a bid to cut fuel emissions.

A statement on the main government website late on Wednesday said Beijing would hand out rebates to private car buyers for the first time but did not provide further details, Reuters reported.

Beijing will also expand its pilot scheme to subsidise the purchase of clean energy vehicles for public transport fleets in 13 to 20 cities, it said, without giving a timetable or naming the cities.

The trial scheme, first unveiled in February, will promote the use of electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles by public transport operators, taxi firms and postal and sanitary services.

Subsidies will be based on the gap in prices between more energy-efficient vehicles and those with traditional engines, with subsidies running up to CNY600,000 (US$87,880) for fuel cell powered large commercial buses.

Many Chinese automakers, such as BYD -10% controlled by US billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc - have unveiled self-developed electric or hybrid models.

But it is difficult for the industry, still in its infancy, to take off without aggressive government support, industry executives and analysts told the news agency.