EV CHINA: THE NEW WAY
In a widely praised article based on firsthand observations during a recent (pre-quake) China visit, EV and electric bike authority Forbes Bagatelle-Black lays out a new vision for the transition from oil-addicted transportation to a pedal-fueled, battery-assisted tomorrow.
Bagatelle-Black: “I recently spent two weeks traveling all over China on business. The huge numbers of people traveling on various forms of two-wheeled electric vehicles were simply staggering.”
Bagatelle-Black admits surprise at discovering the Chinese people’s motivation for leading the “charge” to electric transport in a nation choked with world-famous air pollution and suffering an unprecedented rise in the incidence of lung disease: “Chinese people do not, in general buy e-bikes and e-scooters due to any sense of environmental altruism. No… they buy electric because a gas scooter costs five times as much as an e-bike does. It is as I (and others) have been saying for many years now, electric vehicles cost much less than ICE-powered vehicles once they are mass-produced…”
Bagatelle-Black readily observed the avalanche of western capital transforming China and the fading power of the U.S. dollar. Noting rising affluence, he pondered: “Soon, the average Chinese worker may be able to afford a car. Will they choose to abandon their hyper-efficient e-bikes in favor of passenger cars when they can? If they do, will those cars be powered by electricity or by fossil fuels? Anyone who cares about the world hopes that they will continue to choose the most efficient EVs possible, but anyone who studies human nature must have his/her doubts…”
Nevertheless, Bagatelle-Black came away from China with a 3-paragraph observation so crucial it should be emblazoned over the archways of the room where next fall’s presidential debates take place:
“I am not saying we should look to China as an example of a “green” society. I saw with my own eyes, and felt in my own lungs, the terrible pollution problem China is producing with its massive coal-burning power plants, lack of environmental controls on industry, etc. No rational human being would argue that China’s environmental policies are anything short of horrific.
“However, in the one single area of personal transportation, China is demonstrating an important point. Publicists and corporate lackeys everywhere want us to believe that our environmental problems are hard to solve, that they require decades of research and trillions of dollars just to begin.
“My trip to China proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that these naysayers are wrong. In order to save our planet, all we need to do is act. The answers are as simple as conserving energy, building wind turbines, having fewer children and/or strapping an electric motor and a battery pack on a bicycle. If we can get beyond the forces of greed and laziness, the answers are right in front of our faces.”
A Chinese electric bike. (From EV World - click to enlarge)
China’s EV Future Is Now
Forbes Bagatelle-Black, May 12, 2008 (EV World)
Bagatelle-Black: “…most people who buy their first electric vehicle are increasing their carbon footprint when they do so. That’s because almost every electric vehicle sold in the world today is the first motorized vehicle the buyer has ever owned. Every day in China, thousands and thousands of electric bicycles and scooters are sold to people who are “upgrading” from bicycles or walking shoes…”
Chinese-made electric scooters and bikes at a Shanghai rally. (From MSNBC - click to enlarge)
Bagatelle-Black: “I saw a broad range of EV choices available and in use [in China]. The majority used lead-acid batteries, although use of lithium-ion batteries was on the rise. Most of the EVs had two wheels, although I also saw many electric tricycles used for hauling larger loads. Almost all of them used small motors mounted in the hub of one of the wheels…”
Bagatelle-Black: “…At rush hour [in Suzhou City, ~50 miles from Shanghai], the right lanes of the streets looked like rivers of electric vehicles….”
The Kulla, a Chinese EV 2-seater with a ~70 mile range. (click to enlarge)
- Bagatelle-Black: “In Suzhou City…electric bicycles and scooters outnumbered passenger automobiles by at least ten to one…”
- Bagatelle-Black: “…[while] people on the mainland rode electric vehicles, people in Taiwan rode small two-stroke scooters…”
- Bagatelle-Black: “…most people who buy their first electric vehicle are increasing their carbon footprint when they do so. That’s because almost every electric vehicle sold in the world today is the first motorized vehicle the buyer has ever owned…”
- Bicycle motors ranged from 100 watts to 250 watts, the majority in the 180 to 250 range.
- Most scooters had motors of 1 horsepower (746 watts) or less. (U.S. cars are 100 horsepower+.)
- Frequent: Folding bicycles w/16 inch to 20 inch wheels due to dense population and the need to carry bikes up apartment/office building stairs.
- Most popular: Electric “mopeds” w/pedals
- Also: Scooter like old Vespas w/ “vestigial pedal assemblies allowing them to be licensed and sold as electric bikes.
The Flybo: An EV made in China with a 70 mile range and an 8-10 hour recharge time. (click to enlarge)
Bagatelle-Black: “That’s right; simple economics have dictated China’s transformation into an EV culture. Which begs one question, since price is the primary factor driving Chinese people to buy electric vehicles, what will happen when an average citizen of China has much more wealth?”