China on Wheels

There was a time when Beijing was the unofficial cycling 
capital of the world. The humble bike was the ideal mode 
of transport for the Chinese worker and boss alike. 
The bike probably fitted in nice with Maoist proletarian 
ideas. But, more than that, the bike was just a practical 
and cheap mode of transport for a relatively poor country. 
However, with unprecedented economic growth, the bike was 
rapidly falling out of favour as people seeked to gain the 
ultimate middle class status symbol the motor car. It was 
estimated that nearly 1,000 new motor cars hit the roads of 
Beijing every month. It was one of the most rapid rise of 
the motor car in any city.



But for all the talk of China’s growing infatuation with automobiles, 
the world’s most populous nation continues to roll primarily on 
two wheels—and, increasingly, an electric motor drives them.
There’s a powerful desire for motorized personal transportation 
in China as its cities sprawl. The electric bicycle is an 
attractive option for commuters, service people, and couriers 
(pizza delivery boyz!)
At 1500 to 3000 yuan, an electric bike is buyable at a small 
fraction of the cost of an automobile. It is also exhilarating. 
Hop on and crank the throttle, and an electric motor built into 
the hub propels you to speeds of 20 km/h or more.

A BLEND OF NECESSITY AND OPPORTUNITY kick-started China’s
first electric-bike  manufacturer, Shanghai Cranes Electric
Vehicle Co., based in the Pudong section of Shanghai.1994.
A beta test of 100 of Shanghai Cranes’prototype bikes in 1995 
revealed that a lot more development work would be needed. 
The initial models had motors that burned out in 3 months 
(the lead-acid batteries—designed to be removed from the 
bikes and taken inside for plug-in charges— no longer could
take a charge. Still, they found  the bikes a blast to ride 
and handy for carrying parcels, suggesting that a more durable 
product would  find a ready market.R& D was bound to happen in a big way!



Sales mounted by the year, and now almost 800 companies
have e-bikes with various features, to make the ride smooth
and easy.Despite the obvious appeal of electric bikes, some 
Chinese cities have banned them altogether, alleging environ-
mental drawbacks and concerns about public safety. But that 
hasn’t stopped millions from buying electric two-wheelers in 
China—an astonishing development for advocates who have struggled 
for a decade to build a market for electric bikes in the United 
States and Europe.

Well, bicycles or e-bikes or scooters or cars,
life goes in china in interesting ways.





Photos by Leonardo Correa Luna 
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