Shenzhen Continues Path to Electric Fleets
The east China city of Shenzhen—home to EV manufacturer BYD—is the world capital of electrified public transportation. At least, that’s what the city’s transportation bureau claims. To be sure, Shenzhen did start electrifying its bus and taxi fleets fairly early. Although there’s been at least one high-profile accident involving an electric taxi, it didn’t seem to slow down the municipal government’s drive to electrify public transportation, and boost local businesses in the process.
Shenzhen made its claim in early November, according to Chinese media reports. The city now has 2,350 “new energy” vehicles in its municipal fleet, it said. New energy vehicle is the term China uses for alternative fuel vehicles. Shenzhen’s fleet includes 1,751 large hybrid buses and 20 double-decker hybrid buses; 253 large pure electric buses and 26 medium-sized pure electric buses; and 300 pure electric taxis. By the end of 2012, Shenzhen plans to have 1,000 large pure electric buses and 500 pure electric taxis. Within 20 years, the city aims for 7,000 new energy vehicle buses and 3,000 pure electric taxis, said the media report. By that time, 50 percent of the large buses in Shenzhen will be new energy vehicles, said the report.
The report is interesting on several levels. For one, Shenzhen seems to have dialed back its plans for a larger pure electric bus fleet in favor of other alternative fuels. I draw that conclusion from the use of the generic term “new energy vehicle” in the 20-year plan rather than a specific technology. China’s central government is pushing cities to electrify their fleets, but Beijing has recognized that battery technology is not mature enough to make pure electric vehicles economically viable in the near term. It looked down on hybrid technology because that wasn’t something China could take the lead in. Now, Beijing has gotten more realistic and so, apparently, has the Shenzhen government. In any case, a local business will benefit whichever technology the government favors—Shenzhen Wuzhoulong Automobile Co. produces diesel hybrid electric buses, a number of which are already on the road in the city, and BYD produces pure electric buses.
Despite a high-profile accident in May involving a BYD electric taxi catching fire after being struck by a Nissan Nissan GT-R traveling 112 miles per hour, Shenzhen remains committed helping out local business BYD by making a portion of its taxi fleet pure electric. But Shenzhen has slowed down expansion of its pure electric taxi fleet. A year ago, at the invitation of BYD, I visited Shenzhen and toured a recharge facility for its electric buses. At that time, a BYD public relations person told me BYD had 200 ebuses and 300 etaxis on the road in Shenzhen. The number of electric buses has grown; the number of taxis has not.
Can Shenzhen claim to be the world capital of electrified public transportation? I’m not sure of that. But it is sticking to its plans to electrify its fleets. I figure it will continue down that path since doing so will make Beijing happy and boost the local tax base as well. Can U.S. cities learn from Shenzhen’s example? Only if the federal government sticks to plans to incentivize fleet electrification and continues to support companies creating that technology.
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