Americans usually move from a bicycle to a car around the age of 16 when they get a driver's license and money to buy their first car. And as China's middle class grows, so will the desire to move beyond bicycles. Whether it's a scooter, motorcycle or a car -- it is going to use gasoline.
Or will it?
Although we have been toying with the idea of electric cars for a while in the U.S., they are far from mainstream. In China, however, electric motorbikes have moved into the mainstream and come in an amazing variety of designs and shapes. Built like gas-powered scooters, electric scooters are very quiet and can go up to 40 kilometers on one charge and travel up to about 40 kilometers per hour. They recharge overnight, plugged into a standard Chinese 240 volt outlet.
Known as "electric bikes," they require less pedaling than a bicycle, but are not so good in hilly areas or for long distances. When the battery runs out the bike dies; although some have pedals and batteries can be changed out easily. In China, the electric bikes are treated like bicycles with no insurance or driving-license requirements, making them an easy upgrade option for Chinese.In some areas of China, electric scooters are the only option as sales of new gas scooters have been banned in an attempt to control pollution. Some people buy a second battery, which can allow one to charge while the other is being used. Special raincoats that fit over both the driver and bike are useful for rain; although watching the Chinese scoot along while carrying an umbrella is quite a sight. While electric technology still has a way to go before the dreamed-of electric car becomes a reality in the West; the Chinese have moved ahead with the electric scooter. Electric scooters can certainly reduce the demand for oil in China and the world, but their viability has many complicated factors, including cost, battery life, battery disposal, safety, and social acceptance. Gas scooters never really caught on in America; I wonder if we will ever see many electric scooters here?