Wed, Apr 08, 2015 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Making greater Taipei greener

Following a spate of air quality warnings over the winter, there is some cheerful news for residents of the greater Taipei area — electric scooter startup Gogoro is collaborating with local governments to debut its “smart scooter” this summer.

Taipei and New Taipei City stood out from a crowd of 200 city governments around the world that approached Gogoro, cofounded by former HTC Corp chief innovative officer Horace Luke (陸學森), offering to include its electric scooter as part of their urban transport option.

The media have dubbed Gogoro the “Tesla of the scooter sector.”

The Gogoro scooter is to be the second “green” vehicle supported by local governments after the YouBike rental service was offered by Taipei and then spread to other cities. As of last month, YouBikes have been rented more than 40 million times since the soft launch of the program in 2012.

However, despite the success of YouBike and Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit system, there are still more than 4 million scooters in the capital. Scooters are widely considered one of the major sources of air pollution in Taiwan. There are about 15 million scooters registered nationwide.

If the government can encourage consumers to swap their gasoline-powered scooters for electric ones, it will greatly help improve air quality and reduce noise pollution as well.

According to Tsuang Ben-jei (莊秉潔), a professor in National Chung Hsing University’s environmental engineering department, Taiwan’s deteriorating air quality has largely been caused by greenhouse gas emissions from local factories and vehicles, with 30 percent attributed to smog from China and other neighboring countries.

The central government has tried to offset emmissions from scooters by subsidizing purchases of electric scooters since 2009, but just 40,000 electric scooters have been registered. Expensive batteries and too few charging stations are blamed for the snail’s pace of the program.

The Taipei and New Taipei City governments said they will help Gogoro install “GoStations,” where drivers of electric bikes can replace depleted batteries. Construction of these stations will help boost Gogoro’s ridership, as battery availability is key for any electric vehicle. According to the company’s initial plan, Gogoro will not sell batteries, but lease them.

It is incredible that Taipei is to be in the forefront of offering a two-green-wheels option. Hopefully, this will be another major step forward by the city government to promote greener transportation and reduce carbon emissions. However, the city government has yet to release a roadmap or long-term plan to promote green transportation beyond its short-term plan to expand the number of YouBike stations to 400 and to increase bicycle lanes in the city.

It is not alone in Taiwan in preferring the short view over long-term projections. According to the UN, global vehicle makers, battery producers, energy producers and distributors have agreed to try to boost the global urban market share of electric vehicles to at least 30 percent of vehicle sales by 2030, yet Taiwan does not have a similar target.

The nation is also apparently lagging in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with outdated plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The Ministry of Economic Affairs said the government aims to reduce the amount of emissions in 2020 to the 2005 level, but it has given no specifics on how to achieve the goal.

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