As we enter the latter end of the year, busy months of traveling to Intertraffic shows in Jakarta and Mexico City await. Before those, however, I also have a trip to China to fit in.
Traffic in China always surprises me. From my first visit, six years ago, I was completely overwhelmed by the fact that all scooters were electric. And, after attending the last three editions of the Consumer
Electronics Shows (CES) in Las Vegas I am convinced that the most important automotive innovations are coming out of China and this is especially so in the field of electric transport and mobility. For instance, did you know that 95% of all electric buses worldwide drive in Chinese cities? And the top five largest manufacturers of these vehicles are Chinese: Yutong, BYD, Zhongtong Bus, CRRC and Foton.
“I am convinced that the most important automotive innovations are coming out of China and this is especially so in the field of electric transport and mobility”
Let me provide some more facts for you.
First of all, according to The Economist, (China’s plans for the electrified, autonomous and shared future of the car, April 4, 2019) “Chinese carmakers already make more cars than those of any other country. They also make more electric cars than anyone else, laying a claim to the industry’s future.
Beyond that, China’s rulers, carmakers and tech firms also want to take advantage of the upheavals in how people get around beyond driving their own car – ride-hailing apps, autonomous vehicles, bike- and scooter-sharing schemes, smart public transport and more.”
Secondly, in the city of Shenzen, there’s a silent revolution going on. All 16,000 buses in the fast-growing Chinese megacity are now electric, and soon all 22,000 taxis will be too. Getting the required charging infrastructure for taxis is proving more challenging. All of Shenzhen’s 22,000 taxis are now required to switch to electric, but the lack of charging stations is causing friction between taxi drivers with disputes over access to the charging stations supposedly a frequent occurrence.
Another issue is that the taxi drivers have to factor in the distance from the nearest charging station when picking up and dropping off customers.
China is an impressive country, and even though I’ve already visited 15 times, it still surprises me.
Politicians there probably have more power to accelerate progress than in the West (nothing works on Google, they have Baidu). And for me it is clear, China is in the driver’s seat regarding electric and clean mobility.
The big question I have is, what can we learn from the megacities in China that will help us to speed up the mobility revolution closer to home?
Richard Butter is director of traffic technology at RAI Amsterdam and is responsible for Intertraffic worldwide events, www.intertraffic.com