How cool are electric bicycles? Not all that cool, according to traffic authorities in China, where the number of e-bikes climbed from 50,000 a year ago to maybe 120 million today. That's an absurd adoption rate, and there has been an increase in the number of deaths involving e-bikes to go along with it, from fewer than three dozen in 2001 to 2,469 in 2007. One reason for the deaths is that drivers don't need a license to maneuver an e-bike down the streets – at up to 25 miles per hour – and riders don't follow traffic laws, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Authorities in China have tried various ways to limit the number of e-bikes, everything from outright bans to handing out lots of tickets for unregistered or otherwise illegal bikes. Still, because they're affordable and a fast way to get around in the crowded cities, e-bikes remain popular. For a while, the national government heavily promoted e-bikes as a sensible solution in urban areas, but the bloom has come off the rose, as it were.
How might China's e-bike situation affect plug-in transportation around the globe? Currently, most of the e-bikes (or are they electric scooters?) use lead acid batteries, but versions with li-ion batteries are coming. Sure, there's apparently a lot of lithium around, but lithium battery production rates won't increase overnight. Finding 120 million new li-ion packs, even small ones for bicycles, will take at least a little dent out of the overall market. Check out a video of e-bikes in China after the jump. Thanks to Throwback for the tip!
[Source: Wall Street Journal | Image: poida.smith - C.C. License 2.0]