Not long after China’s car rental company eHi Auto Services Co. launched electric car rental service in Shanghai in April, Beijing recently kicked off its first such service as well in the middle May.
The city’s car rental service opened in the Wudaokou area of the city as part of the Electric Beijing Partnership Plan, according to Caixin News, a financial news website.
The partnership is done between Yika Car Rental Service and Beijing Automotive Group, or BAIC Group, one of China’s largest state-owned automakers.
Yika is said to be China’s first rental company that is dedicated to new energy vehicles. It is started by the China Automotive News, a state-run newspaper publisher.
The rental company provides long-term and short-term services. Hourly rental is also available. According to Zhan Jingjing, the person in charge of the project, the rental price is set at ¥49 ($7.9) for two hours and ¥159 for a day.
Yika plans to build a rental fleet of 600 electric cars within a year and the first batch of 100 units are gradually delivered.
The rental cars are BAIC’s E150 electric vehicles. The E150 EV is the carmaker’s self-developed electric car based on its E150 platform. The drive range on a single charge is 160 km and the top speed is 120 km/h.
The rental project is carried out first in Tsinghua Science Park in north part of the city. According to the Electric Beijing Partnership Plan, by 2013 the city will choose another 11 such technology parks where charging points will be built.
Charging poles in these areas will be open to the public in the future to serve a bigger range of customers.
The city’s electricity authorities will gradually build charging points in Beijing’s public areas, large neighborhoods, the surrounding areas of 4S stores and electricity companies.
Electric Beijing Partnership Plan
The EV rental project is part of the initiative to popularize electric cars in Beijing, in the hopes of alleviating the city’s infamous congestion and pollution problems.
The plan is to have 50,000 electric or hybrid vehicles in Beijing by 2015, which will include 30,000 private vehicles, 8,000 public buses (a third of the total number of buses in Beijing), 10,000 taxis or government vehicles and 2,000 for uses in logistics, environmental, postal and rental sectors.
To promote electric vehicles, the city and the central government are each offering a ¥60,000 subsidy to private citizens willing to purchase an electric car.
Cost is a central concern for consumers who are considering electric cars. An electric vehicle retails usually for more than ¥200,000.
“The front-end cost is about the same, but an electric car and a traditional car have vastly different maintenance costs,” said Xu Heyi, former president of BAIC.
He said a traditional car will run around 20,000 km per year and cost ¥20,000 to ¥30,000 to maintain. One of BAIC’s electric cars, however, only costs ¥12 to run 100 km, so the cost of maintaining an electric car for a year will only be ¥2,400.
As an extra incentive, Beijing has just built the largest electric car charging station in the world. The station can service and charge up to 400 electric vehicles per day.
Taxi fleet in suburban areas
BAIC delivered 100 units of its E150 EV for taxi fleet operation in Beijing’s Daxing District at the end of 2012.
The flag-down fare is ¥8 within 3 km and it is charged ¥2 per km after 3 km. The price is lower than that of the regular gasoline taxi cars.
Since the city put the first batch of 50 electric taxis on road in March 2011, the electric taxi operation so far has been expanded to six major suburban areas in Beijing, involving almost 500 e-taxi cars.
The electric taxi cars in Beijing are from three models mostly: BAIC’s E150 EV, Beiqi-Foton’s Midi EV and Chang’an Auto’s E30.
Beijing kicked off the electric taxi service in Yanqing County by introducing 50 Midi EVs in March 2011.
Chang’an delivered 100 pure electric taxis E30 to Beijing’s Fangshan District in February 2012.
Price tag of a Chang’an E30 electric car is expected to be brought down below ¥100,000 after purchase subsidies, according to Chen Ping, vice president of Chongqing Chang’an New Energy Automobile Co.
He said the cost and price drop of EV will greatly leverage the adoption of electric cars in both private consumer market and commercial taxi fleet.
To facilitate future EV adoption, Beijing plans to build a three-level electric vehicle charging and battery swapping network that consists of six large-scale concentrated charging stations, 250 charging and battery swapping stations and 210 small-sized delivery stations by the end of 2015.
More and more people have come to the consensus that in the current development stage of electric vehicles, the market breaking entries are focused on three areas: public transport, government fleet and logistics.
In early April 2013, Beijing put 70 eclectic vehicles on the road for logistics purposes.
These battery-driven vehicles are used for agro-produce distribution and express deliveries, in a pilot project launched by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Commerce (BMCC) and Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission.
The vehicles are adopted by four local logistics companies. The mileage is about 100 km after a full charge.
The use of electric vehicles for delivery purposes will help promote the development of electric cars in the capital city, said Ran Jinsheng, vice director of the BMCC.
Industry insiders also believe that the pilot project, once it becomes successful and is expanded to involve more companies, will help reduce the cost of logistics.
Beijing’s logistics industry has witnessed a rapid development in recent years, with revenues surging from ¥100 billion in 2006 to more than ¥200 billion in 2012.