Electric Scooters and Motorcycles

Battery-powered bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles are a remarkable technology now sweeping China.41 These electric two-wheelers (E2Ws) are the first and most successful mass-marketed battery-powered electric vehicles in the world. They hold out hope for slowing the embrace of full-sized vehicles in China and fragmenting the transport monoculture in the United States and elsewhere. They have immediate air-quality benefits, accelerate the development of the low-cost battery industry, and set the stage for a shift toward three- and four-wheel electric vehicles. Annual sales of E2Ws in China grew from 40,000 in 1998 to 13 million in 2006. Nothing like this exists anywhere else in the world.

□ Bicycle □ Motorcycle or scooter ■ E-bike

FIGURE 8.2 Observed two-wheel vehicle use in selected Chinese cities, 2006-2007. Source: Jonathan Weinert, Joan Ogden, Dan Sperling, Andrew Burke, "The Future of Electric Two-Wheelers and Electric Vehicles in China," Energy Policy 36 (2008): 2544-2555, figure 2, page 5. Note: Data were obtained by observing vehicle flows at various intersections throughout each city. The total number of observations was 8,297, as follows: Hangzhou 364, Chengdu 487, Nanjing 224, Jinan 356, Xian 193, Shanghai city 3,226, Shanghai suburbs 1,270, Tai An 219, Weifang 41, Tianjin 976, Shijiazhuang 600, and Beijing 341.

Electric two-wheelers make up an increasing share of two-wheeled transportation in many cities of China. Limited surveys in 10 relatively affluent Chinese cities suggest that E2Ws made up about one-fourth of total two-wheeler traffic in those select cities in 2007, with bicycles accounting for more than half and gasoline-powered motorcycles about 15 percent (see figure 8.2). Some cities restrict bicycles because they disrupt traffic flow, and motorcycles because they're noisy and polluting. These restrictions on bicycles and motorcycles are what jump-started E2Ws. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, with little expertise and capital, began selling simple electric bikes in this new market segment. The batteries didn't last long and the bikes didn't go far, but they were very cheap—costing as little as $200. The technology and quality rapidly improved, and the market exploded.

What might E2Ws lead to? Hundreds of companies are gaining experience in mass-producing batteries, electric motors, and other electric-drive components. Intense competition is squeezing costs and spurring the development of inexpensive manufacturing techniques. Millions of consumers are becoming acquainted with operating, charging, and owning electric vehicles. Just as bicycle makers in the United States in the late 1800s became the first carmakers, manufacturers of E2Ws might well diversify into building small electric cars and trucks. And that might well lead to exports and worldwide adoption of electric vehicles.

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Hybrid Cars The Whole Truth Revealed

Hybrid Cars The Whole Truth Revealed

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