Can Taiwan Transition to Electric Scooters?
Source：flickr@lohasteru, CC BY 2.0
Nearly as many motorcycles and scooters are registered in Taiwan as there are people. Despite their tremendous convenience and low cost, scooters clog both the atmosphere and city sidewalks, diminishing quality of life for everyone. Can the advantages of electric scooters and emerging shared motorcycle services convince enough consumers to complete Taiwan’s transition to electric vehicles by 2030?
Can Taiwan Transition to Electric Scooters?By Bingyu Chiu
Editors' Note: This article is translated from an op-ed from Opinion@CommonWealth
In the effort to reduce air pollution, more and more countries have set target dates for the cessation of sales of new diesel and petroleum engine vehicles. Norway and the Netherlands are aiming for 2025, Germany and India for 2030, and the United Kingdom and China are targeting 2040.
Meanwhile, Taiwan is set to ban the use of two-stroke motorcycles and old Phase One and Two diesel vehicles. Premier William Lai has gone even further, proposing the idea of a blanket ban on combustion engine-powered automobiles and motorcycles by 2030.
In response to Premier Lai’s idea, the Minister of Transportation and Communications, Ho Chen Tan, relates that in order to prevent making petroleum engine vehicle owners from feeling unfairly targeted, there must be a transitional period when electric and internal combustion engine vehicles are permitted to co-exist. How long that period will be is a political decision.
Shared Electric scooters: Premium Experience at Low Cost
William Lai and Ho Chen Dan surely know that in order to make internal combustion engine vehicles dwindle and eventually disappear from Taiwan, in addition to turning a portion of petrol vehicle owners into electric vehicle owners, a segment of internal combustion engine vehicle owners should also be convinced to no longer want to own personal cars, instead using public transportation and “shared modes of transportation.”
An increase in the number of people using shared modes of transportation can reduce the number of private vehicles on the roads while increasing the public transportation usage rate. Each shared car can replace 15 private cars, and each shared motorcycle can supplant 10 privately owned motorcycles or scooters.
Naturally, Taiwan should not use vehicles with internal combustion engines as shared vehicles in the future. Kaohsiung has already taken the lead in promoting shared electric cars, and is projected to have nearly 100 public-use electric cars and 50 rental depots by 2020.
Electric scooters not only align with government policy and objectives, but would benefit users, allowing them to use higher-quality vehicles than their own privately owned motorcycles for less cost. The user experience delivered by electric motorcycles on city streets is superior to that of internal combustion engine motorcycles, offering such advantages as no vibration and faster acceleration. In addition, each vehicle in a shared vehicle fleet undergoes frequent inspections, and is insured for two to three times more than the average motorcycle. In addition, factory hardware upgrades and wireless software updates can further improve the user experience, while a replacement rate of under five years is shorter than average.
Quintupling Electric Scooter-Sharing Services within a Year
Over 14 million motorcycles are currently registered in Taiwan, one million of which are registered in Taipei. Since beginning operations in October 2016 with 200 vehicles, the electric scooter brand WeMo Scooter has expanded services to 1,000 scooters. The service’s 50,000 members handle everything via a mobile app, from locating vehicles to rentals, turning the ignition on and off, and returns.
The five-fold expansion of WeMo Scooter’s fleet within just one year has been expedited by the flexibility of not having fixed rental stations. Charging and maintenance is handled by WeMo employees and multiple partnered motorcycle service shops that circulate to parked scooters, replacing batteries and running diagnostics.
As a single enterprise can only afford to take on limited business risk, the government should create a favorable environment for the development of electric scooter sharing, enabling multiple operators to concentrate their efforts in this field and provide a large volume of shared electric scooters, in turn giving the public greater incentive to give up their own personal petrol-fueled motorcycles and scooters.
Things Government Can Do
How can a favorable environment for the development of electric scooter sharing be forged? The government would have to turn around the status quo under which “the cost of using petrol-fueled scooters is significantly lower than the level it should be,” because this is disadvantageous to the promotion of shared electric scooters.
Despite the fact that both pollute the environment and occupy a significant amount of public space, internal combustion motorcycles and scooters are far less expensive than gas-fueled cars.
Additionally, current government transportation policy is beset with various contradictions. For instance, while on one hand it is concentrating efforts on rail transportation construction, at the same time it is offering higher subsidies for automobile owners replacing old petrol-powered vehicles with new cars than to those that choose not to buy a new car after retiring their old petrol-fueled cars. This amounts to more subsidies for vehicle owners than people that do not own cars – clearly, this does not make sense.
Moving forward, the government should establish a transportation vision that encourages green transportation and discourages privately owned petrol-fueled modes of transportation, on the one hand clearly informing the public through debates in the halls of government and policy promotion of the government’s transportation vision and the benefits to individuals and society of giving up individual petrol vehicle ownership; and on the other hand, raising the cost of private petrol vehicle ownership – especially combustion engine-powered motorcycles and scooters - from driving instruction, to license testing, vehicle purchasing, taxes and levies, to speed limits and parking.
Translated from the Chinese article by David Toman
Following undergraduate studies in international business at National Taiwan University, Chiu received a Master’s Degree in spatial planning from University College London. Chiu has spent time as an exchange student in Beijing and Lyon, and held internships in London, Seoul, and Tokyo. He has worked as an analyst at an engineering consulting firm, a planning expert for the Taipei city government, and is currently focusing on writing about urban issues in Taiwan. He is the author of the book We Deserve A Better City.
Opinion@CommonWealth website is a sub-channel of CommonWealth Magazine. Founded in January 2013 with its main focus on social, humanity and policy issues and opinions, Opinion@CommonWealth is dedicated to building a democratic, diverse platform where multi opinions can be presented.
Currently, there are approximately 100 columnists and writers co-contributing on Opinion@CommonWealth to contemplating and exploring Taiwan's future with the Taiwanese society.