Karela Fry

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China leads in non-polluting transport

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What I saw recently in the streets of China is a green-transport revolution that featured in TIME a couple of years back:

Of all the things that have changed in China over the past 30 years, transportation has undergone one of the most obvious of transformations. Where city streets once swarmed with bicycles, they are now full of automobiles. Cars clog intersection and expressways. Their exhaust clouds the sky and the air is full of the sound of horns. But zipping through the congestion is the vanguard of another transportation revolution: vehicles that use no gas, emit no exhaust and are so quiet they can surprise the unwary pedestrian.

Electric bike: China dragon

In China, electric bicycles are leaving cars in the dust. Last year, Chinese bought 21 million e-bikes, compared with 9.4 million autos. While China now has about 25 million cars on the road, it has four times as many e-bikes. Thanks to government encouragement and a population well versed in riding two wheels to work, the country has become the world’s leading market for the cheap, green vehicles, helping to offset some of the harmful effects of the country’s automobile boom. Indeed, as engineers around the world scramble to create eco-friendly, plug-in electric cars, China is already ahead of the game. Says Frank Jamerson, a former GM engineer turned electric-vehicle analyst: “What’s happening in China is sort of a clue to what the future will be.”

E-bikes that are basically pedal-powered machines with an electric boost are common in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but e-scooters with heavier motors and top speeds of around 30 mph, fast enough to rival mopeds, are growing in popularity.

Chinese market leaders like Xinri and Yadea have partnered with top schools like Tsinghua and Peking universities to improve battery technology. And like a slew of other Chinese companies, some e-bike makers are already working on electric cars. Yadea plans to create electric cars for special uses such as shuttling sightseers at tourist destinations. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Xinri provided e-bikes and an electric car for use by police at the Bird’s Nest stadium.

When he worked at GM, which filed for bankruptcy on June 1, Jamerson said he once suggested the company give away an electric bike with every new car, just to get customers used to the idea of a means of transportation you plug in every night. His bosses thought he was joking. When the electric revolution final comes, China’s e-bike makers could have the last laugh.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

November 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm

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