Electric bicycles, which are convenient in saving time and labour, should be greatly promoted in China to help improve the air quality and alleviate traffic congestion, industry experts said yesterday.
"Electric bikes, which run on battery-operated motors, are the transportation means that suits China's national conditions," said Ma Guilong of the China Bicycle Association.
Powered by rechargeable batteries, such bikes make little noise and do not emit waste gas as automobiles do. They are winning over more and more environment-conscious riders throughout the world, said Ma.
The speed and convenience of electric bicycles are also a magnet for those using ordinary pedal-pushing bikes, said Ma, a pioneer in developing electric bicycle technology in China.
At a time when private cars are still a luxury in China and many regions are plagued by choking air pollution and traffic jams, affordable and environmentally friendly electric bicycles are a good way out, he said.
Sui Songjiang, another official from the association, said production of electric bicycles has doubled annually since 1998, indicating that the product is gaining popularity.
Last year, the industry output reached 580,000 bikes and it is well on the way to reaching 1 million in 2002, Sui said in an interview yesterday.
The Chinese products have already been exported to more than 30 countries and regions in Europe, America and Asia, Sui said.
However, China so far does not have unified regulations for the use of such bicycles.
Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong and Hebei Provinces and Shanghai and Shenyang cities have given these vehicles the green light. But Beijing has decided to ban or limit their use to certain roads or speeds, citing safety and battery disposal pollution as concerns.
Both Ma and Sui claim that traffic accidents caused by electric bicycles are far fewer than those by automobiles, and improvements in battery quality and battery disposal systems have reduced pollution to a minimum.
The Jiangsu-based Chunlan Group Corp, one of China's top-50 enterprises, announced last week it had developed a high-power NI-MH battery, whose lifespan is three times longer than the currently used lead-acid battery. It also causes little contamination when properly disposed of.
Wang Yongli, 50, a Beijing resident who bought an electric bicycle this May, said the bicycle has made life easier for men of his age and middle-aged women who have to commute a long distance.
"It is very flexible to control," he said. "I don't see riding it more dangerous than a regular bike."
(China Daily September 20, 2002)