More electric bikes will be exported from China as the industry matures here, a top industry official predicted yesterday.
"Although the shipments are still quite small, they have begun to pick up speed and the potential is huge," said Wang Fenghe, chairman of the China Bicycle Association.
According to Wang's organization, more than 870,000 Chinese bicycles were exported last year, compared with 430,000 units the previous year. Europe, the United States and Japan were the major destinations.
The estimated annual demand in Europe is 2 to 3 million electric bicycles, while US consumers buy 1 million every year.
China's electric bicycle industry has begun to mature.
"The industry just started in the early 1990s, but we have been seeing sales of electric bicycles double every year," said Wang.
Statistics from Wang's organization show that more than 400 Chinese manufacturers produced 1.6 million electric bicycles last year and the figure for this year may reach 2.5 million.
"Some manufacturers have been bothered by increased roadblocks to conduct health checks during delivery and difficulties in face-to-face communications with customers, but supplies and sales went very well in the past several months," Wang said.
Wang said he believed that the recent deliberation of a new draft road and traffic law would further boost the industry's development.
According to Wang, the law is expected to classify electric bicycles as non-motor-driven vehicles and this would let them travel in bicycle lanes, which may cut down traffic accidents.
If the draft is passed, electric bicycles will get a green light in law, it is believed.
Two major advantages of electric bicycles, especially in small and medium-sized cities, is that they require no petrol and are cheaper than most other forms of transport, Wang said.
The average daily cost of riding an electric bicycle is 0.60 yuan (7 US cents), but the cheapest one-way bus ticket in most Chinese cities is 1 yuan (12 US cents), according to Wang.
However, electric bicycles are forbidden in some Chinese cities, such as Beijing and Fuzhou in East China's Fujian Province. This is because of their comparatively high speed and because they are perceived as increasing the danger of traffic accidents, as well as pollution problems due to the use of a lead-acid battery.
The Fuzhou city government ordered that no electric bicycles should be sold from June 1 this year and that people who have bought electric bicycles can apply for a licence and use them for the next five years.
(China Daily July 4, 2003)