In a bid to curb urban smog, China has unveiled plans to replace all 67,000 of Beijing’s internal combustion taxis with electric vehicles, at an estimated cost of US$1.3 billion for taxi operators.
“The changeover won’t happen right away,” CleanTechnica reports. “It begins with a mandate that any new taxis placed in service must be electric, but that means it could be a decade or more before all older vehicles are replaced.”
The announcement is the latest response to air pollution levels that are causing up to 4,000 premature deaths per day across the country, according to a 2015 study. “China is paying the price for its rapid economic expansion, most of which has been powered by electricity generated in coal-fired facilities,” CleanTechnica notes. “During the recent Olympic games in Beijing, it ordered many factories to shut down for weeks and banned buses and vehicles from its streets. The plan worked, as millions of Beijing residents saw the sun for the first time in months, but it came at a huge economic cost.”
The climate benefits of the policy will depend on continuing shifts in China’s electricity supply mix—since an electric vehicle powered by fossil generation helps clear the city air, but still pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. CleanTechnica also points to the need for an EV charging network in a city where electric taxi drivers often have to wait hours for access.
“There are 200 electric taxis on the streets of Tongzhou in Beijing, but only about 100 are on the road, while the other 100 are waiting to be charged,” one driver told a local business newspaper.