The Turtle-King (Gui Wang) Gets An Electric Retrofit
Brooklyn, please take note. I’ve found a deliciously stylish way to do something good. For months, I’ve watched with growing envy as Chinese streets have filled with electric bicycles of every style, size, and description, from stout utility tricycles to Vespa-style roadsters. In the chaotic ecosystem of Chinese roadways, the electric bike fits in right where the infernal moped might have once hoped to go, as a stepping stone for growing families or a low-cost option for commuters.
For anyone who has not been to China, it is easy to lose sight of just how big a deal this is: China has twenty-five million cars, but it has four times as many e-bikes. It is hard to overstate the impact of that when you wonder how China could possibly continue down the path to car-saturation. (Consider: Were China to end up with the same density of cars as that of the U.S. today, it would mean nine hundred and seventy million cars in China—fifty per cent more than the entire worldwide car fleet in 2003.)
Yesterday, I joined the fray and headed out to the far western edge of Qinghua University, where a block of e-bike vendors are in daily combat for a steady tide of buyers. The dusty stretch of road is a perfect reflection of greentech capitalism: a dozen shops side by side, each offering its own variation on price and style and technology—and, together, driving down the price so that the bikes are affordable for the students and young families who populate the area.
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