Eco-Friendly Vehicles Taking Off In Hangzhou
And they are shared too.
As Tesla paves its way into the Chinese market this year, an innovative local rival is already making headway, with home ground advantage. Kandi Technologies produces compact EVs that can travel 75 miles on a full charge and reach a speed of 50 mph. Not exactly impressive if compared to Tesla’s Model S, which can go 300 miles and has a top speed of 130 mph, but Kandi’s cars serve the purpose of short range trips for the millions crowded into the populous city of Hangzhou, like a weekend trip to the mall, for instance. And with a patented side slide, quick battery swap technology in place, range anxiety can be eased somewhat.
According to Kandi’s CEO, Hu Xiaoming, 50% of urban particulate matter comes from vehicle emission (we venture that the remainder comes from the country’s archaic heating system), and with it becoming common for pollution index to hit dangerous levels and cities having to shut down as a result, the market is ripe for eco-friendly transportation solutions, like all-electric cars and car sharing.
In 2012, Kandi entered into an agreement with the city of Hangzhou to supply 20 000 of its vehicles for a pilot car sharing programme. The recently revealed Kandi garage is certainly impressive – an automated glass tower that stores the cars like, well, candies in a candy jar. The Kandi garage has been compared to a vending machine, which dispenses cars at an extremely affordable rate of only RMB20 an hour. If all goes according to plan in the next 4 years, there will be 750 of these garages in Hangzhou stocked with 100 000 cars, a feat which the EV automaker will accomplish with its joint venture partner, Geely, one of the largest automotive manufacturer in China. With the ubiquitous presence of Kandi garages around the city, customers can simply pick up a car at one garage and drop it off at another, another plus point that will further alleviate range anxiety.
The city’s car sharing programme comes after the success of the city’s bicycle sharing programme that began in 2008. From 61 bicycle stations during its launch, it grew to about 2700 stations in 2013 with 70 000 bicycles to be shared among its 9 million residents (according to the 2010 census). And get this – the first hour is free, followed by minimal rates for subsequent usage. This might explain why bicycle theft does not seem to be an issue for the programme operator.
Attempts to implement bike share programmes in the other Chinese cities have not always met with similar success. In Beijing, for instance, the 25 000 bicycles allocated by the government often stand idle in their stations. Each bicycle has an average usage of once a day, while Hangzhou’s bicycles are taken out on an average of 3.8 times each day. The reason for failure is uncertain, with some parties claiming that it is due to flawed programme design and initial profit-driven nature. Others claim that other modes of transportation are more appealing (electric bicycles, for instance).
Of course, duplicating Hangzhou’s success in other cities is not just a simple matter of imitation, for every city is a different sort of canvas. But if more cities around the world move towards reducing car ownership and inclining its citizens toward vehicles independent of petrol, city folks could live a lot healthier with less traffic jams and exhaust fumes in the air.