In a city where 4,000 deaths per year are attributed to poor air quality, Beijing is finally doing something about carbon emissions. The city launched a new initiative to tackle its ever-present smog —  replacing its petrol-using taxis with electric ones in 2017.

That’s about 67,000 petrol-powered taxis.

This massive downsize in fossil-fueled cars will have significant impacts on the country’s carbon footprint.

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In 2012, the World Health Organization said carbon emissions caused 1,032,833 deaths in China — the highest rate in the world. Earlier this year, China issued its very first “red alert” in some northern and eastern regions, canceling dozens of flights and suspending bus services in Beijing.

But this year, Beijing is turning the page.

This new initiative comes only days after the city’s acting mayor, Cai Qi, put in place other environmental policies aimed at cracking down on polluters.

The city will close its coal-fire plant, shut down 500 factories, upgrade around 2,500 more, and deploy a police squad that will manage "open-air barbeques, garbage incineration, biomass burning, [and] dust from roads," according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

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According to one expert, this new project will have significant impacts on the environment, while driving the development of the new-energy vehicle industry, the National Business Daily reported.

The surge of new cars is expected to create a market worth of $1.3 billion.

But many believe taxi companies will face serious short-term repercussions. The cost of a conventional car is estimated around $10,000. At around $20,000, buying an electric vehicles doubles that.

Additionally, drivers complained about painstakingly long lines at electric charging stations when some 200 electric taxis were added to Beijing’s fleet in 2014.

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“There are 200 electric taxis on the streets of Tongzhou in Beijing, but only about 100 are on the road, while other 100 are waiting to be charged,” a driver told business paper Caixin.

In the long term, however, the change is bound to benefit the municipality’s over 20 million people for years to come.


Defend the Planet

Beijing Is Replacing All of Its Taxis With Electric Cars to Reduce Fuel Emissions

By Gabriella Canal