Beijing’s plan to flood the nation’s roads with electric cars has hit a bump: consumers don’t want them. But e-bikes – already a success story – could trigger a transport revolution, argues David Tyfield.
One of the most significant single developments for the “global environment” is the recent transformation of urban mobility in contemporary China. The number of cars in China, already the world’s largest auto market after the collapse of demand in the United States two years ago, increased from 9.2 million in 2004 to 40.3 million in 2010 and the total number of vehicles from 27.4 million to 90.9 million respectively.
Growth is expected to continue at 7% to 8% annually in the medium term, helping to sustain China as the global leader for absolute national greenhouse-gas emissions as well as catapult it towards a dauntingly high per capita carbon footprint.
This growth has many consequences, and not just for global climate change: so too for burgeoning urban areas being (re)designed around the “smooth” movement of cars; for intolerably unhealthy levels of atmospheric pollution; for car death and injury rates among the highest in the world; and for rapidly rising oil consumption, with the growing risk of geopolitical competition or even conflict. Indeed, American car intensity would seem impossible within China as this would mean some 970 million cars consuming 33 billion barrels per year, or 102% of current world oil output....MORE