All Shenzhen Buses and Taxis to Be Electric in Five Years

By · November 21, 2011

Shenzhen electric vehicles

I just returned from a trip to China. Among other activities, I visited the headquarters of BYD Co. in Shenzhen, and toured an electric vehicle charging facility in Shenzhen. I came away impressed with the Shenzhen government’s plans for making the city a center of electric vehicle use and development. But I am more convinced than ever that China needs to decide on an EV connector (plug) standard soon, one that follows international standards.

Shenzhen is among a number of Chinese cities that are ambitiously expanding their electric vehicle fleets. It is fleets that will make China the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, not consumer demand. Chinese consumers have even more questions about electric vehicles than those in the US, and less disposable income. Indeed, local fleets may be the rule in China—if China’s central government doesn’t announce a nationwide charging unit connection standard soon.

Evidence of growing electrification is everywhere in Shenzhen. On the way in from the airport, we passed several electric buses, including a diesel hybrid electric bus produced by Shenzhen Wuzhoulong Automobile Co. Much more prevalent, however, were pure electric buses produced by BYD Co., which is also headquartered in Shenzhen. BYD has 200 ebuses on the road in Shenzhen. It also has 300 e6 pure electric vehicles in service in taxi fleets in Shenzhen.

The Shenzhen government aims to replace its entire bus and taxi fleets with electric vehicles within five years, Leona Zhang, a public relations representative for BYD, told me. That would be quite a feat—Shenzhen has some 10,000 buses and 13,000 taxis. Of course, it would represent a boost to the local economy as well. All the taxis are likely to be BYD branded, after all. And many of the buses will likely come from companies that are headquartered in Shenzhen.

Shenzhen electric vehicles

The 2011 Universiade university games held in Shenzhen in late 2009, were the springboard for Shenzhen to begin aggressively electrifying its public transportation fleet. Dubbed, the “green Universiade,” Shenzhen deployed 253 full-sized battery electric buses; 26 mid-sized battery electric buses; and 300 battery-electric taxis. It also deployed 1,350 full-sized plug-in hybrid electric full-sized buses and 20 full-sized regular hybrid buses. All are still in service, I assume.

To charge the electric fleet, Shenzhen is constructing charging centers around the city. Its 2010-2015 fleet electrification plan calls for 150 charging centers to be in place before the end of 2015 according to local media reports.
Several BYD PR people and I visited what is currently the largest charging center in Shenzhen. On one side of the central building a long row of battery-electric buses were recharging. A few BYD e6 taxis were recharging on the other side of the building.

In a sign that the central government had its hand in the operation, the charging stations were not manufactured by a local firm such as BYD, which does produce them. Rather, they were made by Putian (which also goes the name Potevio), a company owned by the central government. We wanted to ask the manager at the station on duty some questions. But he refused, saying we had to go through the company’s public affairs division if we wanted to interview him.

Shenzhen electric vehicles

According to a report in the Chinese press, however, Putian invested more than 20 million RMB, or $3.1 million at current exchange rates, in the charging center. It also includes a monitoring center that tracks the electricity usage and battery state of all the vehicles. A problem with a battery cell can be immediately detected. “As far as the government is concerned, safety is the number one priority,” a Putian manager was quoted as saying. “The Putian control center satisfies this demand.”

The manager at the Putian charging center did tell us is that the company wanted to build such centers nationwide. One problem it might face is achieving economies of scale in building the charging stations, however. That’s because China has yet to settle on a national connector standard. So Shenzhen, and the other Chinese cities that are building a charging infrastructure, can each chose their own type of connector. I also talked to people from Argonne National Laboratory and SAE who happened to be in China for conference while I was there. They said China is still dithering about what the standard will be.

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