Beijing wants to replace traditional taxis with electric cars

Beijing's taxi fleet includes around 70,000 taxis. It would cost about $1.3 billion to convert to electric power, according to reports.

Jason Lee/Reuters/File
Vehicles drive on the Fourth Ring Road during a smoggy morning in Beijing.

China's latest effort to promote electric cars focuses on taxis in its capital city of Beijing.

The country that is now the world's largest new-car market already offers generous purchase incentives for electric cars bought by individuals.

Now the city also plans to replace its entire fleet of gasoline taxis with electric cars.

That fleet currently includes around 70,000 taxis, and would cost around $1.3 billion to convert to electric power, according to the local National Business Daily (via Futurism).

The electric-taxi mandate would reportedly cover all new taxis registered in not just Beijing itself, but the surrounding regions as well.

As with other Chinese electric-car projects, the Beijing taxi plan is primarily motivated by the need to address rampant air pollution.

Electric taxis have already been deployed in other world cities, but the scale of Beijing's plan seems unprecedented.

From four Nissan Leafs tested for a few months in New York City to large numbers of Teslas in Norway, electric cars have proven much cheaper to run once drivers get past the higher purchase prices.

But those higher prices may require significant government investment to convince Beijing's taxi operators to cooperate.

Liu Jinliang, chairman of Chinese automaker Geely's Caocao ride-hailing service, said the government should offer subsidies for electric taxis.

Charging infrastructure will also need to be expanded in order to accommodate large numbers of electric taxis, Cui Dongshu, secretary general of the National Passenger Cars Association, told National Business Daily.

While China has aggressively incentivized electric cars, it has been slower to adopt regulatory measures to streamline their deployment.

It only recently began rolling out a national charging standard, which goes a long way toward ensuring compatibility between electric cars and public charging stations.

The government is also considering rolling back rules that require foreign automakers to partner with Chinese automakers in order to manufacture electric cars in the country.

But even the policies in place so far have gotten results.

In 2016, China's BYD produced more battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrids than any other automaker—for the second year in a row.

This story originally appeared on GreenCarReports.

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