China’s 180 million cars

It was only decades ago that many Chinese cities could have been considered models of green urban living.

While most western cities were coming to grips with the negative impact of the car-dependent lifestyle, Beijing and other Chinese cities were flooded with cyclists and pedestrians and millions lived in its tightly-connected network of Hutongs, dense, low-rise neighbourhoods inter-weaved with alleyways and courtyards where shops and schools were never very far from home. China gave up that model in exchange for a much more American style of get-rich-quick development and its newly highway-mangled cities are now plagued by round-the-clock traffic jams, and worse, lung-choking air pollution that ranks among the worst in the world.

According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the Chinese government is now aiming to lure the Chinese out of their 180 million smog-spewing, gas-guzzling vehicles and into, sensibly enough, electricity-guzzling ones. Having nominated Shanghai “electric city”, the government is poised to open 13,000 recharging stations around the city by the end of 2012 (up from the 1000 in operation today). The government is also subsidising the purchase of electric vehicles with up to 100,000 yuan rebates (or more than $20,000US) to get people buying.

While this may bode well for Chinese urbanites’ lungs, it still looks depressing for the country’s energy dependence. According to the article, China still relies on coal for 70% of its energy needs and the number of cars on Chinese roads will double within 15 years, leading to an even greater reliance on oil imports and domestic energy production.

See the full El Pais article (in Spanish) click here.


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