World’s Fastest Electric Taxi Fleet Overhaul

Location: Taiyuan, China

Population: 4,529,141 (urban area)

Climate: Cold semi-arid climate

Duration: 2015-2016

Sector: Transportation

Funding sources: Public

City networks: N/A

Savings: The taxi replacement system will save 222k tons of carbon dioxide (co2) each year.

Solutions: To replace Taiyuan´s entire taxi fleet with electric vehicles.

Multiple benefits: Economic, social, environmental and health co-benefits.

Taiyuan is an industrial city where poor air quality harms residents’ daily lives. Taiyuan’s new electric car fleet has helped increase investments in the electric vehicle (EV) industry by lowering tailpipe and CO2 emissions (source)

Objective – To become the World’s Fastest Electric Taxi Fleet.

Solutions – Taiyuan has been working on one of the world’s largest electric car overhaul projects since January 2016. The city replaced all of its 8,292 taxis with electric vehicles in just eight months, making it the shortest time to replace its entire taxi fleet with electric vehicles (excluding the private cars used by services like Didi and Uber). The taxis currently rely on almost 2,000 pieces of 40-kW high-power charging outlets, and the city will also erect 18 towers capable of simultaneously powering 7,200 cabs.

Like most Chinese cities, Taiyuan has a public taxi fleet owned by numerous businesses. In recent years, this has been complemented by an unofficial taxi sector that operates similarly to Uber, with private drivers providing their services via a mobile application.

Public taxi drivers purchase their vehicles (or lease them from companies). However, through mandated purchasing restrictions, the local government determines the type of cars that can operate as public taxis (source).

Funding – The agreement to purchase over 8,000 BYD cars, which retail for 300,000 yuan (US$46,000) each, was a positive indication for the EV sector.

Taiyuan’s government had the funds and the will to provide large consumer subsidies for EV vehicles. According to the Economic Observer, which is owned by the Chinese state media outlet Xinhua, subsidies were offered at approximately twice the provincial government rate (source).

Innovation – What is happening in Taiyuan is a key lesson for other cities as governments struggle to move economic growth away from heavy industries and toward more sustainable development models.

The city is addressing its car pollution problem while strengthening China’s status as a pioneer in clean technology by reducing the number of petrol cars on the road (source).

Success factors: 1) Taiyuan demonstrates how a city can rapidly develop with the correct policy assistance. However, the city still has many conventional cars on its roadways, and its experience shows the dangers of moving too quickly. 2) Taiyuan’s taxi fleet is very small (Beijing and Shanghai each have fleets of more than 50,000), making planning and financing the transportation upgrade easier. 3) Charging stations were strategically placed on the city’s ring road to make them more accessible to cars. 4) Timing. Taiyuan’s fleet was due to be replaced anyhow in 2016 (in China, municipal governments impose restrictions on how long fleets can operate until re-registration is required), so taxi drivers are expected to purchase new vehicles (source).

Significant outcomes:

  • Environmental: 1,78 million tons of CO2 emissions will be avoided during the course of the vehicle’s eight-year service life.
  • Economic: Taxi operators have saved a total of $7.95 million in operating costs since the project’s inception.

Synergies with local policies:

Political alignment:

Marketability: What is happening in Taiyuan is crucial for other cities and their administrations to learn. While replacing 8,000 cabs with EVs within a year is a significant accomplishment, it is merely the beginning of Taiyuan’s transportation changes. And these will be contingent upon far more than the will and capability of whoever is in command. Additionally, more charging stations and parking garages are required.

However, more concerning is that Taiyuan’s electricity is still primarily generated through harmful coal generation (source).

Learning from the experience in Taiyuan is key for other cities to replicate similar projects.

Cities 100