United NationsDépartement des Affaires Économiques et Sociales Développement Durable

Ms. Jia Fu, Market Analyst, Bejing, China

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The Role of Electric Two-Wheelers in Sustainable Urban Transport in China:
Market analysis, trends, issues, policy options
FU Aia (Ms.), Market Analyst, Beijing, China (fujia316@163.com)
Abstract
As a synchronous happening of the expansive and deepening urbanization in China, motorization is
increasingly challenging the country's traffic system, affecting the daily life of its urbanites through
traffic congestion and air and noise pollution. Is electric motorization the answer? Probably, but yet
to come, while electric two-wheelers are already serving as a better alternative to private car
ownership (by being more affordable and less pollutive) and public transport system (by being more
flexible and efficient for personal use and for the last mile transport). China, as the old day kingdom
of bicycles, is today the world’s largest manufacturer, exporter and market for electric two-wheelers,
with the current ownership of about one electric two-wheeler for every 10 people. However,
electric two-wheelers, as a competitive solution for fast and “green” transportation, are yet to be
bettered off. Lead poisoning, traffic accidents, lacking of charging facilities in general are the
elements that affect and restrain the further development of the market. Through extensive
reviewing of academic papers, professional reports, news articles and blogs upon electric
two-wheelers, this paper begins with a systematic introduction into China’s electric two-wheeler
system and pertaining laws and regulations, followed by a comprehensive analysis of China's
current market and trends, especially the many existing issues, aiming to come up with sensible
policy options to provide meaningful references to policy makers, industry regulators, relevant
associations, manufacturers, two-wheeler drivers, market researchers and other interested
stakeholders.
Keywords: China, urban transport, sustainability, electric two-wheelers
(electric bicycles & electric scooters & electric motorcycles)
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Contents:
1 Introduction.....................................................................................................................................3
1.1 Definition.................................................................................................................................3
1.2 Categorization..........................................................................................................................3
1.2.1 Electric bicycles (e-bicycles) ............................................................................................3
1.2.2 Electric scooters (e-scooters) and electric motorcycles
(e-motorcycles)...................................4
1.2.3 Electric two-wheelers spectrum.........................................................................................4
1.2.4 Electric two-wheelers and carbon emission reduction.....................................................5
1.2.5 Charging infrastructure......................................................................................................5
2 Market analysis...............................................................................................................................6
2.1 World market at a glance..........................................................................................................6
2.2 Chinese market.........................................................................................................................7
2.2.1 Affordability...................................................................................................................7
2.2.2 Manufacturers and distributors........................................................................................8
2.2.3 Battery technology...........................................................................................................8
3 Market trend....................................................................................................................................9
3.1 Down-slowed growth, and demand for industry transformation..............................................9
3.2 Domestic relocation..................................................................................................................9
3.3 Acceleration of industry consolidation, with market fragmentation........................................................9
3.4 Battery materials from SLA to Li-ion......................................................................................9
4 Issues..............................................................................................................................................9
4.1 Ambiguity existing in regulations............................................................................................9
4.2 Law and rule violations as the common practice....................................................................10
4.3 Electric two-wheeler safety and regulation.............................................................................10
4.4 Lead poisoning, battery recycling and the environmental concern.........................................11
4.5 Health risks and protection......................................................................................................11
4.6 Lack of a well established distribution channel abroad...........................................................11
4.7 Charging facilities needs to be fastly developed.......................................................................12
5 Policy options and perspectives for international cooperation.......................................................12
5.1 More reality-sensible and meaningful regulation on e-bicycles and e-scooters......................12
5.2 Effective management system.................................................................................................13
5.3 Establishing effective monitor system to regulate battery recycle and disposal.....................13
5.4 Battery and motor improvement..............................................................................................13
5.5 Electricity supplying infrastructure.........................................................................................13
5.6 Electric two-wheelers and public renting system....................................................................13
References........................................................................................................................................15
Bibliography.....................................................................................................................................17
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1 Introduction
Two wheel vehicles, due to their low cost and easy operatability, especially in congested traffic,
have traditionally been a very popular mode of transport in China, India and many other
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), compared with other regions in the world.
Besides mobilizing individual people, they are also used to carry additional people and cargo. China
used to be the kingdom of bicycles, by end of 2011, the ownership of bicycles was 470 million.
Along with the arrival of electric vehicle age by and large, given the already deep penetration of
traditional two wheel vehicles in these areas, electric two-wheelers, claimed to be “greener” and
more sustainable transport option, find their rapid adoption and expansion in the region.
Accelerating urbanization, increasing demand and income for transportation, traffic congestion and
environmental pollution, sometimes underdeveloped public transport system are the main drives.
Thus, emerging about a decade ago, the market and industry of electric two-wheelers have
experienced a rapid growth ever since (Pike Research, 2012d).
Electric two-wheelers, by its swiftness and dexterity, easy operatability and easy maintainability,
affordability and low pollution, are most welcome among city dwellers, short distance commuters
and frequent road drivers and users of special needs. Besides personal use, electric two-wheelers also
increasingly find their place in public service, such as urban sanitation and domestic and short
distance patroling, in delivery service, etc.
1.1 Definition
Electric two-wheelers, as indicates itself, is electricity-powered two-wheelers. A battery pack and a
motor are installed to store and transform the electricity. A user control is usually attached to the
handle bar to brake and adjust the speed.
Under this abstract definition, a variety of types and styles are available to consumers in the market
and still developing. This paper follows the mainstream definition and mainly focuses on the
Chinese market.
1.2 Categorization
Having operating pedals or not divides electric two-wheelers into two categories, electric bicycles
(e-bicycles) and electric scooters (e-scooters) or electric motorcycles (e-motorcycles). And, these
two categories are also different in the defined top speed, in terms of which, legal definitions vary a
lot among areas and countries, as shown in Table 1.1 and Table 1.2 in below.
1.2.1 Electric bicycles
By appearance, e-bicycles have pedals as traditional bicycles do, and have two types (Pike Research,
2012a):
 Pedal-assisted (or pedelec), which has a torque sensor that engages the motor without the
driver operating a throttle.
 Throttle-controlled (or twist-and-go), which permits a driver to accelerate without having
to pedal;
By top speed an e-bicycle is designed and could reach in real driving, different regulations exist:
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Table 1.1 E-bicycle Definitions by Region, World Markets (Pike Research, 2013a)
Note: According to Electric bicycles - General Technical Requirements of People’s Republic of China (The
National Standard GB17761-1999), the electric motor size in China should not surpass 240 W (Baidubaike,
b).
1.2.2 Electric scooters (e-scooters) and electric motorcycles (e-motorcycles)
Wikipedia defines e-motorcycles and e-scooters as plug-in electric vehicles that can be recharged
from any external source of electricity, and the electricity stored on board in a rechargeable battery
powers one or more electric motors to attain locomotion. E-motorcycles, to distinguish from
e-scooters, do not have a stop-through frame (Wikipedia, b). Besides, e-scooters have a floorboard
designed to let the drivers put their feet on.
Like the case of electric bicycles, regions and states have different regulations on the top speed as in
Table 1.2:
Table 1.2 Electric scooters and electric motorcycle definitions by region (Pike, 2012f)
Region E-scooters E-motorcycles
Nother America 20 mph (32 kph) 30 mph
motor size >3 kw
Western Europe 15.5 mph (25 kph) 28 mph
Eastern Europe 15.5 mph (25 kph) 28 mph
China 12.4 mph (20 kph) 40 kg (max weight)31 mph
Rest of
Asia Pacific
15.5 mph (25 kph) Vehicle weight over 40 kg Top speed >31 mph
Middle
East/Africa
15.5 mph (25 kph) Vehicle weight over 50 kg Top speed >31 mph
E-scooters and e-motorcycles belong to motorized vehicles, thus running on motorized lanes
according to regulations on motorized vehicles.
1.2.3 Electric two-wheelers spectrum
These three types of electric two-wheelers can be illustrated at the spectrum below in terms of
speed.
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China 12.4 mph (20 kph) 31 mph (50 kph)
Europe 15.5 mph (25 kph) 28 mph (45 kph)
Rest of Asia Pacific,
Middle East, Africa 15.5 mph (25 kph) 31 mph (50 kph)
North America 20 mph (32 kph) 30 mph (48 kph)
Table 1.3 Electric two-wheelers spectrum
For e-bicycles, obviously, Western Europe and some Eastern Europe markets only allow pedelec
type of e-bicycles, while other regions have the throttle-controlled type also. Among all regions,
China sets the lowest top speed (equal or less than 20 kilometers per hour) and weight limit (max
weight being 40kg), while an e-bicycle can drive on North American roads (United States and
Canada) as fast as 32 kilometers per hour, and highest at 25 kilometers per hour in the rest of the
world.
To note that e-bicycles belong to non-motorized vehicles in China. Hence, though the top speed
limit for an e-bicycle in China is 20 kilometers per hour, when it runs on non-motorized lanes, the
speed is limited to 15 kilometers per hour.
For e-scooters and e-motorcycles, to contrast, e-scooters in China have a wider speed range than
that in other regions, and e-motorcycles are regulated and thus designed at a slightly higher speed,
and both e-scooters and e-motorcycles belong to motorized vehicle.
Of note, this paper discusses electric two-wheelers in general, differentiations concerning
respective type will only be mentioned when necessary, except that statistics is only available
regarding certain type at the time of writing.
1.2.4 Electric two-wheelers and carbon emission reduction
According to the calculation of Bywin (a well-known Chinese manufacturer from Shandong
Province), instead of riding on a gasoline motorcycle for one year, the carbon emission reduced by
riding on an electric two-wheeler equals the cleansing effect of 12 trees. Given the current Bywin
five million users worldwide, the carbon dioxide emission reduced in ten years surpasses the
cleansing effect of 60 million trees (Peoplenet, 2013).
At the Nanjing Forum on Electric Bicycles Consumption themed “Environmental friendly, healthy
and safe driving” this year publicized the latest statistics of the environmental contribution of
electric vehicles. It is estimated that every 10 thousand kilometers an e-bicycle covers, if in place of
bus, saves the energy generated by 137 kilograms of standard coal, if in place of motorcycles,
reduced carbon dioxide emission of 479 kilograms, if in place of private cars, saves electricity of
1380 degrees. The total energy reduction of 150 million electric two-wheelers in China within one
year equals the power generation of four Qinshan Nuclear Power Station (Dayoonet, 2013).
1.2.5 Charging infrastructure
In general, charging infrastructure consists of four elements, charging piles, concentrator, battery
management system and charging management and service platform.
Several Chinese cities have initiated building up charging stations since 2006.
Table 1.4 Charging infrastructure development in China (Baidubaike, c)
Year City Infrastructure
E-bicycles
low speed
E-scooters
medium speed
E-motorcycles
high speed
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2006 Shenzhen BYD1 built up the first charging stations for electric cars;
2008 Beijing Setting up the first domestic centralized charging station for the Olympics, which
can provide charging for 50 pure electric buses;
2009 Shanghai Shanghai Power Company invested the first commercial charging station in China.
2009 Beijing The first demonstration charging station project which has the complete
intelligent control system;
2009 Shenzhen 2 charging stations with 134 charging piles in operation;
2010 Tangshan The State Grid sets up its first modelling charging station, which can charge
10 electric cars, in two models: fast charging and slow charging.
However, these charging stations are mostly for electric cars and bicycles. Most electric
two-wheelers are charged either at home or at the workplace.
2 Market analysis
2.1 World market at a glance
In 2012, more than 30 million units of electric two-wheelers are sold worldwide, generating a
revenue of $6.9 billion. If the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) maintains 7.5 percent
between 2012 and 2018 as predicted by Pike Research, the global sales in 2018 will reach 47
million units and $11.9 billion revenue (Pike Research, 2012d).
Consumers’ demographic features vary a lot among different regions. drivers from Europe and
North America tend to see electric two-wheelers more as a lifestyle or style choice (being green and
fitness workout), while those from Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin America use electric
two-wheelers more as a practical transportation means. In terms of age group, North American
consumers are around 45 ~ 65 and affluent, while consumers from other regions tend to be younger
and working (Pike research, 2010).
Outside Asia, Europe has the biggest market for e-bicycles, currently containing 1.94 million
e-bicycles and a CAGR of 17.3 percent between 2009 and 2016. However, e-bicycles sold at
Western Europe market shows a significant higher price per unit compared with at Asian market.
Such disproportion leads to a 3.4 percent market share of West Europe but 12 percent revenue
contribution to the global market. North America possesses the same feature but at a lesser degree
(Pike Research, 2012a).
A well established traditional two-wheeler market in Asia Pacific countries, such as in China, Japan,
India, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, etc., are passing on the
market share to electric two-wheelers. India and Indonesia are the two emerging markets following
China. In the case of India, widely available and already existing electricity net, popularity density
and rapid urbanization are making India ready for an exciting transformation to the age of electric
two-wheelers (Pike Research, 2012b).
1 BYD is the world well-known Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer and exporter. Website:
http://www.byd.com.cn/views/home/indexe.htm
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Table 2.1 Major market comparison of electric bicycles
Asia Pacific / China West Europe North America
General description
-The biggest & most concentrated area for
manufacture, distribution & market;
-Fragmented marketplace;
-Low-cost products and batteries, sealed
lead acid battery as the mainstream;
High-cost,
high-quality;
Underperformance
Mergers
and acquisitions;
Estimate sales in 2012
/ global share 28 million / 92% 782,512 105,682
Anticipated sales in 2018
/ global share 42.4 million / 89% 1.5 million 342,526
Average cost $167 $1,546 $815
Lithium ion (Li-ion)
battery penetration 4% 65% 56%
(Source/based on Pike Research, 2012a; Pike Research, 2012c)
Three major markets show distinct contrasts. But in general, sales in Asia Pacific market will grow
by 50 percent reaching 2018, still maintaining the absolute domination of the electric two-wheelers.
Sales in West Europe will double while sales in North America will thrice in 2018.
Currently, e-bicycles sold in Asia Pacific region is at a price on average almost one-tenth of that in
West Europe and one-fifth of that in North America. Lithium ion (Li-ion) battery sees a much
higher adoption, more than half, in West Europe and North America, while in Asia Pacific where
consumers are more price sensitive, it is only 4 percent at the time being.
2.2 Chinese market
China, as the world largest electric two-wheeler manufacturer and exporter, accounts for 92
percentage of the global market in 2012 (Pike Research, 2012e). Though as No.1 exporter, China
itself digests the vast majority of its output. In 2012, the output is 35 million, with the annual
growth of 26.3 percent. The export in 2012 is 1.29 million, taking up 2.5% in the total output. The
major export destinations are Netherlands (USD 60.5 million), Germany (USD 46.2 million), US
(USD 41.7 million), Italy, Bangladesh, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, UK and Spain. Netherlands is
currently the largest export destination, taking up 14.2% of the total export of China.
According to MA Zhongchao, chairman of China Bicycle Association, the number of e-bicycles in
use in China now reaches 142 million (Xinhuanet, a). To note that these figures have not count
those converted ones, which are normal bicycles by adding a battery pack and a motor, either by
the consumers themselves or by some specialists.
After a highway developing period, the CAGR slows down since 2011 with a growth rate slipping
by 28 percent compared with the previous year, but able to sustain a moderate and stable growth at
an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent until 2018 (China Electric Bicycle Industry Report 2012-2015,
2012; Pike Research, 2012b).
2.2.1 Affordability
For initial purchase, battery and motor are the two major determiners, especially for low and middle
end market, while high end consumers demand more on vehicle design and style. Latest statistics
show that low end electric two-wheelers are sold at 1400 ~ 1800 RMB (≈228 ~ 294 USD) in China,
while high end electric two-wheelers could be sold as high as 4000 RMB (≈652 USD) (Taobao,
2013). Li-on electric two-wheelers cost on average 1000 RMB (≈160 USD) more than the sealed
lead acid (SLA) electric two-wheelers. Other factors affecting sales price also includes motor size,
quality warranty and after sale service.
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Usually, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of electric two-wheelers sees payback on the vehicle
with a year or two of purchase. Hence, a continuing growth in individual and household income will
contribute substantially to the sales growth, especially in Asia Pacific region.
2.2.2 Manufacturers and distributors
Manufacturing companies are divided mainly between those making whole vehicles through their
own production lines and the component companies (original equipment manufacturers-OEMs)
which produce parts and components of electric two-wheelers for domestic and international
markets and which have successfully lowered the entry threshold for new comers (Pike Research,
2012e).
By end of 2011, there are approximately 2,600 licensed whole-vehicle manufacturers and
assemblers, among which, 800 are of high productivity, among which, up to 50 percent of the
total output comes from 50 manufacturers (Baiduwenku, undated).
The geographic distribution of the manufacturers and distributers coincides with China’s three
strategic economic zones, Yangtze River Delta, Bohai Economic Rim and Pearl River Delta, while
several cities are the most concentrated area as the manufacturing bases. They are: Tianjin, Wuxi,
Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc. B y t h e en d of 20 1 2 , Tianjin, as the traditional bicycle production
center, locating 9 special industry parks of 9.58 million annual output, becomes world No.1
production base and market distribution center for electric two-wheelers by (China Bicycle
Association, 2012).
Exporter manufacturers are mainly located in Jiangsu (39.64%), Zhejiang (30.46%) and
Guangdong (10.28%), with the premium suppliers come from Changzhou, Jinhua, Ningbo and
Wuxi. Some of the main manufacturers are listed in Table 2.2.
Table 2.2: List of selected electric two-wheeler manufacturers and distributers in China (by
alphabetic order)
Among the manufacturers, some are traditional world famous bicycle manufacturers, like Forever,
Phoenix, some are battery makers, while some are totally new entrants. Brand like Giant and
Merida originate in Taiwan, meaning investment comes from Taiwan and design in Taiwan but
manufactured in mainland.
2.2.3 Battery technology
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In China, as in many other Asia Pacific countries, lead-acid batteries, much cheaper than Li-ion
batteries, occupy the vast majority battery market for electric two-wheelers. However, Li-ion,
cleaner, much lighter and of longer life circle, is predicted to represent 10 percent adoption in
e-scooters and 15 percent in e-motorcycles in 2018 along with the gradual declining cost and large
scale production of Li-ion cells (Pike Research, 2012b).
Table 2.3 Contrast of Li-on batteries and SLA batteries
Merits Defects
Sealed
lead acid
batteries
Low cost; Heavy, short durability (approx. 300
cycle times, long charging time (6~8
h), lead poisoning, poor performance
in low temperature;
Lithium
batteries
Light, larger capacity, long durability (Lithium iron as
much as 2000 cycle times), fast charging (2~3 h), clean
in production & use;
Low stability;
3 Market trend
3.1 Down-slowed growth, and demand for industry transformation
The domestic market shows homogeneous competition, more emphasis on price instead of product
design, feature, etc. Both the market demand and output began to slow down since 2011, while the
trend of enhanced sales revenue and added-value is nonetheless visible. The whole industry points
to upgrade their product to be healthier and more fuel-efficient. Meanwhile, product customization
and stronger distribution networks are increasingly the urgent need challenging domestic
manufacturers.
3.2 Domestic relocation
Instead of focusing on the almost saturated markets in Yangtze River Delta and Bahai Economic
Rim - the more developed east, north and south urban and semi urban areas, main market players
begin to relocate their bases and distribution network into central regions to develop new markets.
Furthermore, deeper and greener urbanization will also generate continuous huge market demand
for electric two-wheelers, especially in areas in transformation.
The status quo of the market reveals a lower penetration rates of electric two-wheelers in rural areas
than in urban areas. Though urban and semi-urban middle income classes are still the main targeted
consumers, potential users in rural areas are now also drawing the market attention.
Another innegligible factor is the overseas market, with a upgraded product and distribution channel,
sales in overseas market will also grow in both quantities and average vehicle price.
3.3 Acceleration of industry consolidation, with market fragmentation.
The concentrative crack down of sealed lead acid manufacturing facilities in 2011 shut down about
80 percent of SLA battery makers, with many others suspended. This left the major players
st ronger and ready for industry upgrade and consolidation to further expand their market, while
small firms increasingly face stricter check, thus merger or bankruptcy.
3.4 Battery materials from SLA to Li-ion
According to Pike Research, the global penetration of Li-ion battery will grow from the current 6%
to 12% in 2018. Though the current Li-ion battery penetration in Chinese market only takes up 4%,
far less than in the West European and North American markets, it is expected to have 10%
e-scooters and 15% e-motorcycles using Li-ion battery in 2018 along with the reduced cost of
Li-ion in the near future and large scale of production (Pike Research, 2012b).
4 Issues
4.1 Ambiguity existing in regulations
Ambiguity and contradiction exist in the national standard and the national law on road traffic
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safety. According to China’s Law on Road Traffic Safety (2004), e-bicycles in China belong to
non-motorized vehicles, and the top speed limit for non-motorized lanes is 15 kilometer per hour.
Given that the national standard prescribes that the top speed of an e-bicycle be 20 kilometers per
hour, it is very likely that an e-bicycle could easily surpass the top limit of the non-motorized lanes.
Such ambiguity and contradiction tempts e-bicycle drivers to break the traffic rule “unconsciously”.
This also makes the implementation and monitoring of observance of the traffic rule in real roads
more difficult.
Furthermore, by definition, e-scooters belong to motorized vehicles and can run much faster. But in
China, e-scooters are always sold as e-bicycles. Thus, it is very possible that uninformed e-scooter
drivers, consciously or unconsciously, take the advantage of such ambiguity to drive their vehicles
however fast and convenient at real roads, leaving the traffic situation in potentially dangerous
complication.
4.2 Law and rule violations as the common practice
However, neither “top speed limit” would effectively limit the speed of e-bicycles on real roads. In
China, it is not an uncommon nor an unknown practice that originally many manufacturers design
and make the motor of an e-bicycle to run at a higher, if not much higher, speed than the claimed
speed on Product Description or User Instruction Brochure. By cutting the speed limiter, as many
dealers might wish to inform their willingly clients, an e-bicycle could run much faster than the top
speed. Many e-bicycles can run as fast as 35 kilometers per hour on Chinese roads, to know that
during traffic congestion, even cars can only move at a speed of 15~30 kilometers in the inner city
area. This well explains the reason why e-bicycles got the nickname of “road killer” in recent years,
notorious for the drivers’ careless driving behavior and high incidences of traffic accidents
(Baidubaike, a).
4.3 Electric two-wheeler safety and regulation
In recent years, Chinese governments at different levels are increasingly tightening up surveillance,
site check and punishment to motor vehicle violations of the road traffic safety law due to the
increasing traffic congestion and pertaining issues. However, less attention and administrative
resources are given to electric two-wheelers, thus leaving the monitoring and management of
electric two-wheelers a “gray area”.
E-bicycles driving at motorized lanes, or driving beyond the speed limit of non-motorized lanes are
the common violations. Driving at an excessive speed poses danger to motor vehicles, bicycles and
sometimes pedestrians, and eventually to the two-wheeler drivers themselves. It is the actual speed
capacity of an e-bicycle and the drivers’ willingness to drive faster that cause that electric
two-wheeler drivers tend to violate traffic rules more often than traditional two wheel drivers do.
Noiseless during driving makes electric two-wheelers less noticeable to bicycles drivers and
pedestrians when they get close and pass by. Even a horn or pre alarm is sounded, there is usually
not enough time for bicycle drivers and pedestrians to make way or shun away.
In China, no horn, front, rear or turning lights are mandatory in electric bicycles. Crossroads,
intersection of motorized and non-motorized lanes, especially during evening and night time, are
areas of high traffic incidence. The casualties caused by electric two-wheeler involved accidents
increase year by year. In 2007, 2,500 people died of such accidents, and more than 3,600 died in
2009, which is 6 times more than the number in 2004 (Baidubaike a). What’s worse, since no
registration nor driving license nor insurance is required in China for electric two-wheelers, when
such accidents happen, the compensation is either not guaranteed or not available
(KnowledgeWharton, 2011).
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From August 2002 to January 2006, electric bicycles were banned in some areas of Beijing due to
the concerns over environment, safety and city image issues. Beijing had re-allowed use of
approved electric bicycles as of January 4, 2006, while some cities in China still ban electric bikes
(Wikipedia, a).
The recent decade has seen a fast growth of private car ownership in China, especially in large cities,
which far outpassed the development of its traffic system and infrastructure, parking, as well as the
management and monitor system. It is quite often the case that parking cars take up most space of
non-motorized lanes, which forced non-motorized vehicles running into motorized lanes. What
worsen the real road situation further is that the increasingly narrowed pedestrian lanes also forces
pedestrians to walk on non-motorized lanes. Hence, pedestrians, bicycles and electric bicycles can
be found to coexist and move on non-motorized lanes, and electric bicycles running in motorized
lanes, leaving the road traffic in disorder and raising traffic accident risks.
Given the traffic congestion during peak hours and Chinese urbanites’ comparatively low awareness
of traffic safety, together these elements further degrade the driving environment for electric
two-wheelers in China.
4.4 Lead poisoning, battery recycling and the environmental concern
Large scale of SLA battery application in electric two-wheelers, the production and recycling of
these batteries had become a high public health concern for long. Frequent accidents of lead
poisoning forced Chinese government to launce a nation wide crack down of sealed lead acid (SLA)
manufacturing facilities in 2011. Significant number of small and medium-sized battery
manufacturers were shut down or production suspended during this period. By the end of July of
2011, it is estimated that about 80 percent of the 1930 registered SLA production, assembling and
recycling companies in China were closed (Sina news, 2011).
Currently, in spite of explicit regulations on SLA battery disposal and recycling, illegal recycling
and disposing of SLA batteries widely exist in China. One reason is that the entrant threshold for
companies qualified for SLA battery recycling and disposal is comparatively high in China. By
August of 2011, there is only one qualified company in Beijing for SLA battery recycling and
disposal.
Given the short life circle of SLA batteries, one or two years’ use before replacement, together with
SLA battery’s vast application in electric two-wheelers, an estimate of 30,000 ~ 50,000 ton SLA
batteries need to be recycled and processed in Beijing every year. However, due to the high profit of
lead recycling, severe price competition, and lack of effective monitoring system for illegal
recycling, only very few goes to qualified companies, which hardly covers the cost of the
equipment operation. Instead, the illegal chain or workshops absorbed most of the waste SLA
batteries. In Beijing in 2011, estimated 80 percent of the recyclable SLA batteries went to illegal
channel (Sina news, 2011). Besides lack of competitive recycling price, lack of wide spread
recycling channels is the other main cause for the underperformance of licensed recyclers.
Hence, the illegal recycling and disposal of waste SLA batteries is still a severe concerns,
continuously raising issues of public health and environment if not checked and regulated.
4.5 Health risks and protection
Like in the case of motorcycles, health risks also exist in electric two-wheeler driving. When
driving too fast and frequently, especially in windy and cold weathers, without protection, arthritis
and headaches might be caused at a later stage. In China, helmet is mandatory for motorcycle
drivers but not for electric two-wheelers yet. Hence, in China, many drivers drive without helmets
or other necessary protection.
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4.6 Lack of a well established distribution channel
According to many manufacturers, finding a combination of independent dealers, mass retailers,
and online sales that will together provide an effective marketing, delivery and after sale service has
long been one of the key barriers both in domestic and abroad market (Pike Research, 2012b).
4.7 Charging facilities needs to be fastly developed
Though more and more cities begin to build up the charging piles or stations for electric vehicles,
the charging facilities is still lacking at large and lagging far behind the actual demand from electric
two-wheeler owners.
5 Policy options
5.1 More reality-sensible and meaningful regulation on e-bicycles and e-scooters
The long expected new national standard on e-bicycles is said to come out this year. In the new
standard, the top speed of e-bicycles is lifted up to 26 kilometer per hour. The change is deemed to
better reflect the actual driving need of drivers and the driving capacity of current e-bicycles, given
the traffic congestion and road condition in China (Xinhuanet, undated).
Besides, the weight limit of e-bicycles in current standard also seldom finds its application in reality.
Thus, the new standard redefines the weight limit by types and by road conditions. In rural areas,
electric two-wheelers are allowed a higher speed and a heavier weight given the road condition and
less traffic, as well as the comparative long distance commute which needs a larger battery. Other
major modifications can be found in Table 3.1.
Table 5.1 Current national standard vs. The new standard (Xinhuanet, undated).
Note: Three types of e-bicycles as categorized in the new standard are:
1. An intelligent e-bicycle (max weight 40kg) needs pedaling first to start the motor to move the wheels.
This type is greener and more environmental friendly, and could better suit the comparatively narrow roads
in cities;
2. A pedal-assisted e-bicycle (or pedelec, max weight 50 kg) is flexible to pedal or electric, which enables
commute in small cities or urban-rural transfer;
3. A pure e-bicycle (max weight 55kg) better suites rural areas where the road condition is good and the
distance is bigger.
However, in the case of inner city driving, the same ambiguity still exists, namely, with the speed
limit of 15 kilometer per hour at the non-motorized lanes, it is still difficult for actual
implementation and monitoring of observance.
Policy makers, industry regulators and other authorities in concern are expected to figure out
effective management to put a stricter industry supervision for the manufacturing process and
product check, as well as limit speed of e-bicycles on real roads. Meanwhile, for e-bicycles beyond
The current
national standard
The new standard
Year of effect 1999 2013 (provisional)
Top speed 20 kph 26 kph
Speed limiter Have but dismountable; Indismountable speed sensor to cut off the
electricity if beyond the limit;
Sub-categorization None, top speed ≤ 20 kph,
max weight: 40kg
Into three types:
Intelligent, pedelec and pure electronic type
based on road condition and locations;
Number of
technical terms
34 54 with more terms addressing safety.
13
standard, some suggest that they be registered as motor vehicles. Plates application and registration
is necessary before driving on roads. When e-bicycle involved accidents take place, they be treated
as other motor vehicles. It is also suggested that dedicated insurance be applied to e-bicycles
(Xinhuanet, undated).
5.2 Effective management system
It is advisable that license and registration system be introduced into electric two-wheeler
management. This is good for: (1) Collecting information of electric two-wheelers, including
vehicle numbers, vehicle conditions, and various indications of consumption market to better
inform management and the industry at large; (2) Bonding drivers to their vehicles, thus effectively
holding them responsible for their driving behavior, especially when accidents happen; (3)
Monitoring the vehicle using and battery recycling.
This might involve setting up ad hoc agencies at different levels, as well as install necessary
monitoring system on roads. Further more, concepts of safety, in terms of mechanical safety,
electricity safety, and driving safety, should also be introduced by policy makers and industry
regulators in making industry regulation and road traffic laws. Drivers of better awareness of safety
and traffic rule observance are especially crucial to reduce traffic accidents. Thus, it is highly
recommended that besides mandatory requirements and punishment to rule breakers, public
promotion and educational programmes be initiated by the management authority or associations in
concern to enhance the awareness of driving safety and responsible driving behavior.
5.3 Establishing effective monitor system to regulate battery recycle and disposal
Illegal SLA battery recyclers usually offer higher prices than the registered and qualified recyclers.
To address this, besides exerting strict control and punishment to the illegal recycling market,
management authorities are advised to subsidize qualified recyclers through tax relief or special
fund support to enhance their competition in price. Since SLA will continuously account for the
major battery technology in electric vehicles in the next few years, it is also necessary to effectively
lower the entry threshold for recycling and disposal companies.
Like in many other countries, environmental tax could be adopted to encourage and motivate
manufacturers or retailers to recycle SLA batteries. This well solves the lack of recycling channel
for that manufacturers and retailers have wide spread retailing network available to consumers,
which could be used as recycling channel.
Besides, management authority could also designate licensed agents or organizations to collect used
SLA batteries, and send them to the qualified recyclers collectively. Similarly, it is highly
recommended that management authorities and associations in concern initiate public promotion
and educational programmes to enhance the awareness of solid waste poisoning and promote
environmental responsible behaviors.
5.4 Battery and motor improvement
Li-ion batteries, as the trend indicates, will find larger application in China in the years to come.
Besides the price, li-ion battery technology also needs to enhance the stability and safety to enable
better endurability in extreme weathers. Furthermore, manufacturers are also encouraged to explore
new internal components for Li-ion batteries like Lithium iron or fuel batteries to enable an early
adoption, thus upgrading the industry to be more competitive and greener.
5.5 Electricity supplying infrastructure
An available and convenient charging network will determine to a large degree the sales of electric
vehicles in the near future. Such charging facilities could be designed at parking lots, commercial
areas, office buildings, recreational sites, etc. Urban planner and the land developer are advised to
14
design the charging facilities in the initial land developing stage, or they are advised to make use of
the available facilities and transforming them into charging resources. The investment and
management of such facilities could well involve multiple stakeholders.
5.6 Electric two-wheelers and public renting system
Electric two-wheelers could also be involved in public transportation system. Wuhan municipality
announced that 100 electric bicycles will be available for renting by end of June. Cities like
Chongqing, Hangzhou also began their trials recently.
Combination of e-bicycles and public renting system will further amplify the positive
environmental effect of electric two-wheelers and better solve the traffic congestion and pollution
issues in cities.
In such public renting system, e-bicycles of li-ion battery can have a better promotion through the
initiative adoption by and in the public transport sector. Such renting system could also be jointly
invested by local governments, electric two-wheeler manufacturers, as well as interested private
companies and individuals.
15
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