Beijing’s air pollution was so bad last December that hundreds of flights were canceled at the city’s international airport due to poor visibility. In an effort to clean up the capital’s notorious smog, China just announced a plan to replace the city’s 67,000 gas-powered taxis with electric cars – and it will require all new taxis to be electric. The gas-to-electric cab conversion project is expected to cost taxi operators $1.3 billion (9 billion yuan).
Electric vehicles in China currently cost around $20,000, which is twice as much as conventional cars. Besides the high price tag for EVs, another challenge for taxi companies looking to electrify their fleets is the lack of charging stations in Beijing. When the city added 200 electric taxis to its fleet in 2014, drivers reportedly were waiting in lines of up to six hours at charging stations.
While China made improvements to air quality in 2014 with its “war on pollution,” smog is on the rise again because of increased industrial production in China’s steelmaking heartland south of Beijing, according to Greenpeace. Shifting wind patterns have blown air pollution north, with heavy smog settling into the Jingjinji national capital region (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei).
China also recently announced that its domestic railway will expand by nearly 19,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) before 2020, with one-third of the increased mileage to be high-speed rail. According to China’s Economic Daily newspaper, “by 2020, China will have built a comprehensive modern transportation system that is safe, convenient, efficient and green.”