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GREASELESS LIGHTNING

The future of ride-hailing in China’s Silicon Valley is electrifying

The Chinese technology hub of Shenzhen already has an all-electric bus fleet. Soon it’s going to have an all-electric ride-hailing car fleet as well.

The municipality of Shenzhen announced via a messaging app Wednesday (June 6) that starting Aug. 1, it will no longer give ride-hailing licenses to vehicles that aren’t pure electric, part of a shift to make its entire taxi fleet electric.

The city unveiled plans for an all-electric taxi fleet back in 2010. Things moved slowly at first, until it picked up steam around 2015, and now over 60% of the fleet is electric. The city is seeking public comment from taxi drivers and others on the ride-hailing announcement until June 22. Non-electric vehicles with an existing ride-hailing license will still be allowed after August 1, but those licenses will be phased out, most likely by 2020.

A government mandate of this sort is unusual. While ride-hailing services all over the world have encouraged the adoption of electric vehicles in their fleets—all Uber London drivers must use hybrid or fully electric cars by 2020, the company has said—these have been voluntary business decisions.

China is already the world’s biggest market for private electric cars. Last year it registered sales of more than half a million of them. Now, some of its biggest electric-vehicle companies, such as the Shenzhen-based BYD, are increasingly focusing on public transport. Much of the Shenzhen electric-bus fleet and many of Shenzhen’s existing electric taxis are manufactured by BYD.

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