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City-wide e-scooter share launched in ChiaYi, Taiwan

Shared transportation in shared economy

Imagine an "individualized" public transit system where reliable electric-powered bikes/scooters are available for use within walking distance in a city. In base stations, located in major public transportation nods and residential areas, after registration, members are able to swipe their Metro card to release a two-wheelers electronic vehicle (EV) from an auto locking system, fully charged and ready to travel up to 40-60km. After the journey, users return the share EV and pay for the mileage/time used. With designated mobile apps, members can make a reservation and find out where the nearest base stations are and how many shared EV are available now. Taiwan is now operating an two wheeler EV share program along with a state of arts battery exchange system (BES) in ChiaYi City, Taiwan.

Mr. Hong, CEO of City Power Inc, Mayor Twu,Shiing-Jer, & City Council Spokeperson Ms. Hsiao Shu-Li trying shared e-scotter in ChiaYi, Taiwan December, 2015.  

The idea of BES stations is similar to gas stations where petro-powered vehicles fuel up. Twelve BES stations equipped with 26 batteries each are available for EV users 24/7 in ChiaYi City (population:271,000). In BES stations, riders can exchange an exhausted battery for a fully charged one within 1 minute and the entire process is automatic. The value of the BES system is that it ensures an instant battery supply and professional management of the battery stock. Mr. Hong, the founder and CEO of City Power Inc., a Taiwanese e-bike/scooter share company and BES solution provider, said that the most critical part of promoting low carbon electric vehicle as alternatives to the dominant petro-powered one is an instant and convenient battery/power supply. "The benchmark we are pursuing is to have BES stations as convenient as conventional gas stations in the city and most importantly without the gas smell", he said as he smiled.

"The shared EV is also cheaper than using petro-powered motorized 2 wheelers (M2Ws) under the same mileage travelled" CEO Hong said. Because getting fuel for petro-powered vehicle is convenient, there is a need to build a network of BES stations that reaches critical density to attract people switching to EV from petro vehicles. City Power has developed and manufactured BES network with the supports from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), Taiwan. The EPA Taiwan has promoted standardized battery system for two wheelers EVs. City Power also develops public e-bike docking system and kiosk currently deploying in other cities in Taiwan and also testing in a few cities in China.

High prevalence of petro-powered motorbikes/scooters – a major source of air and noise pollution and biggest challenge in maximizing active mobility and public transportation

About 80 percent of the 300 million two-wheelers worldwide are in Asia, as are 90 percent of world two-wheeler sales and it is estimated that the number of M2Ws will grow to 600 million in 2020 (PCFV 2010). Taiwan has a population of 23 million, with 14 million M2Ws, including motorbikes and scooters, plus more than 8 million cars, of which 99% are petro–powered. Trasportation sector has been a main source of air pollution, including PM2.5, i.e., tiny particle can be inhaled to the deep of lungs, a dangerous carcinogen. Taiwan's high vehicle density is equal to nearly one vehicle per person or more than two vehicles for each household. This has made Taiwan as one of the countries with world highest prevalence in personal vehicles per capita- cars and M2Ws combined. This spread use of individual, petro-powered vehicles is the main source of CO2 emission, air pollution and noise in the cities. In Taipei metropolitan, nearly 70% of ambient air pollution is from transportation sector. Most critically, the high personal vehicle usage has shown no sign of decline in the recent years even the city has operated a new affordable Metro Rapid Transit (MRT) since 1998. The Taipei Metropolitan has seen an unprecedented growth in subway capacity in the last 15 years with daily passengers from literally zero in 1998 to more than 2 million per day in 2014. However, the rapid growth of subway service has literally no impact on the car and motorbike usage, especially the M2Ws. The overrun of Taipei by M2Ws is a peculiar feature for a developed country which literally does not happen in other rich countries. Some trasportation schoalrs are hoping that the share model of e-bike can be an alternative solution.  

Graphic: Daily subway passenger has grown to more than 2 million while the numbers of cars and motorized two wheelers per 1,000 population show no signs of decline in Taipei, Taiwan.

Photo: First city-wide unmanned smart e-scooter share program in ChiaYi, Taiwan since 2015

Photo: The dominance of M2Ws usage in Taiwan, a result of externalized cost of usage, such as free of charge, unregulated ubiquitous parking permission, low licensing fees, and under-regulated riding rules, has been the biggest challenge to the increase of public transportation usage and promotion of non-motorized mobility in Taipei, Taiwan.

According to the IEA, at least a fifth of all vehicles on roads should be electric by 2030 if global warming is to be limited to 2 degrees. In China, there are 230 million electric bikes on the roads. A national two and three-wheeler strategy that started 10 years ago has resulted in electric two and three wheelers having all but replaced petrol motorbikes in China's major cities(ENS, 2015). Now, ChiaYi city in Taiwan took a step furture by promoting shared electric vehicles to save resource and energy, and precious city parking space.

Photo: Potentially, enormous on-street parking can be transformed for biking if vehicle density in city can be reduced through a shared transit model.

The UNEP has announced a new global program to support emerging economies to move to electric mobility. UNEP's Ligia Noronha, director of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, believes, "The continued use of fossil fuels for vehicles is costing too much – in terms of climate, air pollution and economies," said Noronha. "To get the necessary benefits we need to ensure this will indeed be a global shift – in all regions and countries." (ENS, 2015).

The result of ChiaYi city's new vehicle eletrification initiative through a shared, smart and sustainable strategy will continue to be reported at Sustainable City Collective.

Photo: M2Ws dominance in transportation is a huge challenge in many emerging economies.