Electric taxis to triple in Beijing next year

Beijing will increase the number of its fleet of electric taxis from 50 to 150 by May 2012, said an official from Yanqing, a county in northwestern Beijing where an electric car pilot operation is underway.
The program in Yanqing is the biggest of its kind in North China, said Wu Shijiang, vice director of the transportation bureau of the county. The 50 electric taxis in operation were developed by Beiqi Foton Motor Co Ltd, the biggest commercial vehicle manufacturer in China in terms of production and sales.
The new batch of 100 taxis, called Midi 2.0, will extend the range by 10 percent to 165km, and the company will add thermal insulation designs to keep the batteries in a good condition during cold weather, said Tian Boshi, an engineer from the Foton research center.
"These electric taxis can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 466 tons every year, compared with conventional combustion taxis, and can save up to 30,000 yuan per car by using electricity instead of gasoline," Tian said.
The current Midi 1.0 version takes eight hours to be fully charged, while the charging time for Midi 2.0 will be "considerably reduced" by using a fast-charging technology, the company said.
Sun Gang, the driver of a Midi 1.0, said at first the citizens didn’t accept the electric taxis when the pilot operation started in March this year. "But now they prefer electric to the conventional because it is cheaper and quiet."
On average, a driver will pay 20 yuan per day for the electricity needed to run the car, much cheaper than filling up a tank with gasoline.
Although the application of electric cars is still limited, Wu said electric vehicles have big potential in certain markets.
"We cannot increase the range significantly in the short term, so we have to find the proper market, like small cities."
"The electric car can also be the second car of a middle-class family, as it is enough for the daily commute," Wu added.