Sat, Oct 25, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Green scooters to clean up city

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY Local companies developing hybrid scooters, solar cells and alternative energy technologies are benefiting from government incentives

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TAINAN

Within the next couple years smart-control technology could make downtown cities cleaner as hybrid scooters switch from polluting petrol to electric power in crowded central districts if a Tainan-based green energy developer has its way.

With a NT$30 million grant from the government, Ji Ee Industry Co (基益企業) is developing a combined gasoline combustion engine and an electric motor, officials from the company said yesterday.

"The hybrid scooters will use a pure electric motor downtown to reduce emissions, and then when they go to the suburbs they can transform to gasoline," Jie Ee deputy vice president Charles Chiu (邱進成) told a group of visiting overseas journalists yesterday at a press conference.

A built-in computer system will sense when the scooter's speed drops below 25kph and automatically switch over to electric power, Chiu said.

This country has one of the highest concentrations of scooters in the world with over 10 million on the roads here in a population of 23 million, according to government estimates.

Last year, 600,000 new vehicles were added to the previous year's figures, Chiu said.

To prevent Taiwan's cities from choking under an ever increasing blanket of smog, the government offered hand-outs of NT$4,000 to everyone who bought electrically powered scooters, but canceled the scheme last year when less than 5 percent showed interest.

"Electric scooters don't have the range of gasoline ones," Chiu said.

"Our electric model has a range of 60km before it needs recharging. That means an effective radius of 30km, and most people didn't think that would be enough."

The government's new scheme to cut back on emissions is to funnel the electric scooter hand-out fund into reducing emissions through fuel injected engines.

Chiu worries this won't cut emissions enough in inner cities, which is why he secured government funding for the hybrid engine.

"Electric engines have zero emissions which is essential to reduce pollution in cities," Chiu said.

"In the suburbs the bikes can use the gasoline engine as there is more space. This has the added benefit that the gas engine can recharge the electric motor, eliminating the range problem of a purely electric model," he said.

Ji Ee's sister company, Eton Solar Tech Co (益通光能科技) is also trying to cash in on green energy.

The company makes solar cells for use in power-generating panels that appear on roofs, buildings, toys and consumer electronic goods such as calculators.

The government offers up to 50 percent of the cost of installing solar panels and a further 5 percent to 20-percent tax reduction for corporations that choose to go green with solar energy, Eton Solar's spokeswoman Ivette Chien (簡亦汝) said yesterday.

The worldwide demand for solar energy increased by 32 percent last year from 390.52 megawatts (MW) in 2001 to 512.22MW last year, according to the solar industry's Photovoltaic Magazine.

Eton's solar cells are expected to produce 9MW of energy this year, but the company hopes to increase production to between 20MW and 30MW next year.

The company is also researching new solar technologies that may one day bring us an energy producing film that can be stuck to a window to produce electricity, Eton Group vice president Tsai Chin-yao (蔡進耀) said yesterday.

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