Beijing plans to spend $1.3 billion to convert its fleet of 70,000 taxis to electric power. This would give the city a reputation as an electric taxi hub.
The electric-taxi mandate would cover all new taxis registered in not just Beijing itself, but the surrounding regions as well. According to a report by National Business Daily, “All newly added or replaced taxis in the city of Beijing will be converted from gasoline to electricity, according to a draft work program on air pollution control for Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and surrounding areas in 2017.”
The city isn’t the first to introduce electric taxis. Previously, Shenzhen and Taiyuan both announced similar policies for their taxis, but the move is significant for a municipality of over 20 million people.
China is the world’s biggest electric vehicle market, with a fleet of over 600,000 electric cars — more than both the U.S. and European markets combined.
The plan is primarily motivated by the need to address the hazardous air pollution. Electric cars will also potentially save taxi companies from gas expenses and could lower maintenance costs.
The initial cost of purchasing an electric car is, however, not cheap. Liu Jinliang, chairman of Chinese automaker Geely’s Caocao ride-hailing service, said the government should offer subsidies for electric taxis.
Charging infrastructure will also need to be expanded in order to accommodate large numbers of electric taxis, Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the National Passenger Cars Association, has stated.
Such infrastructure would include providing readily available charging stations for the ever increasing demand. China has aggressively incentivized electric cars but it has been slower to adopt regulatory measures to streamline their deployment. The country only recently began rolling out a national charging standard, which goes a long way toward ensuring compatibility between electric cars and public charging stations.
Nevertheless, this new mandate, coupled with the Chinese government’s recent relaxation of car manufacturing restrictions in an attempt to draw more electric vehicles, demonstrates the country’s seriousness in investing in electric cars.