The Chinese city of Beijing has become notorious for its horrific and noxious pollution, but local authorities are hoping a new fleet of green taxis might be the first step toward reducing the soupy smog.
As reported last week by the local National Business Daily newspaper, a new mandate would convert a significant number of taxis from traditional gas-guzzling vehicles to electric ones that produce zero emissions.
The replacement plan would apply to all new taxis for the rest of 2017 and would cover areas such as Tianjin and Hebei. The effort would be herculean; officials were quoted in the NBD story as estimating that engineering a shift in the ground transportation infrastructure ultimately could cost as much as US$1.3 billion—a significant portion of which would benefit the local automobile industry.
A separate report on Mashable noted that about 67,000 of Beijing’s 71,000 taxis currently run on petroleum gasoline. (To put that number into perspective, New York City has fewer than 14,000 taxis.)
Over time, Chinese officials hope to change over almost all of the vehicles to electric automobiles. The Mashable article mentioned that, eventually, the switchover would also incorporate the addition of charging stations all over the region. The story also noted that Beijing will need to roll out these stations tactically since the addition of 200 charging stations in 2014 caused up to six-hour delays among the few taxicab drivers with electric cars at that time.
Officials made no secret of the fact that this effort is almost exclusively driven by a push to reduce smog. Earlier this year, Beijing canceled multitudes of flights at its airport and canceled bus service due to near-gray-out conditions caused by an excess of particulates in the air. In December, TravelPulse published pictures of Beijing’s smog on a bad day; the photos are alarming, to say the least.
The pollution is causing more than just inconvenience. A 2015 study from the University of California, Berkeley, indicated that roughly 4,000 people die every day in China due to pollution.
Whatever happens with the taxi conversion, let’s hope Beijing—and all of China, for that matter—gets the smog issue under control soon.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com