Electric vehicles have been growing in popularity among fleet operators, and soon, Beijing may find itself earning a reputation as the hub of the electric taxi. The Chinese city is home to one of the most important taxi fleets in the world, numbering around 70,000, and under a new program for air pollution control that will begin implementation this year, those taxis will be going electric.
According to a report by National Business Daily, the transition to electric cars will cover all new taxis registered in the region. “All newly added or replaced taxis in the city of Beijing will be converted from gasoline to electricity, according to a draft work program on air pollution control for Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and surrounding areas in 2017,” the report reads.
The city isn’t the first to push for electric taxis. Previously, Shenzhen and Taiyuan both announced similar policies for their taxis, but the move is significant for a municipality of over 20 million people.
The total fleet conversion is expected to cost around 9 billion yuan ($1.3 billion USD), but the cost is worth it. Electric cars will potentially save taxi companies from gas expenses and could lower maintenance costs. They will also help save the city from pollution, as Beijing’s populace is exposed to hazardous air quality on a semi-regular basis.
The move to electric cars isn’t cheap, though, which is why Liu Jinliang, chairman of Geely’s ride-hailing arm Caocao, hopes the government will provide subsidies to taxi companies. National Passenger Cars Association secretary-general Cui Dongshu also hopes that the government will speed up the construction of charging facilities.
This new mandate, coupled with the Chinese government’s recent relaxation of restrictions on car manufacturing in an attempt to draw more electric vehicles, demonstrates the country’s seriousness in investing in electric cars. According to Electrek, the nation is now the world’s biggest electric vehicle market, with a fleet of over 600,000 electric cars — more than both the U.S. and European markets combined. Soon, they’ll be adding another 70,000 to that total.