In an aggressive move to further progress their leadership in the electric vehicle market, policymakers in Beijing announced plans to transform its entire taxi fleet to electric vehicles. Within the next five years, electric cars and SUVs will replace their entire fleet of gasoline and diesel-fueled taxis. Current estimates put the fleet at 71,000 strong, with 4000 already electric powered roaming the streets of the capital city. Making electric cars successful in China is a national priority for three major reasons.
First, it is the ween the country off the dependence of foreign oil. The country currently leads the world in oil imports, which they already have surpassed the United States in 2015. Driving the demand for oil is the modernization of the whole nation, while the middle class continues their boom, their disposable income finances vehicles on the road. In just 2016 alone, the Chinese bought 27.5 million vehicles, almost 50 percent more than the Americans at 17.5 million units. Some estimates have the number of Chinese motor-vehicle drivers exceeding 300 million, with over 250 million licensed passenger-car drivers. In comparison, the United States boasts a population of 320 million. Party leaders see electric technology the alternative to greater energy independence. Secondly, to improve air quality. During the Olympics in Beijing, the air quality was a major issue for many of the athletes. In fact, the air quality in some of China's major cities are notorious for having some of the worst conditions in the world. Seven of the world's ten most polluted cities are in China according to the Asia Development Bank. And fewer than 1 percent of China's top five hundred cities meet he air quality standards set by the World Health Organization. As the development of the middle class continues, health concerns over the smoggy cities could become an issue. Social discontent over living qualities could pose a problem for the party.
And lastly, taking a leadership role in emerging technology. Since the revolution of open market in China, the Chinese has worked tirelessly to replicate conventional diesel and gasoline engine technology from global automakers through tech transfer agreements. China has always been playing the perpetual game of catch-up to the West. Now, that there is an opportunity for the country to make a name and pride itself for some sort of technology, electric vehicle technologies is their gateway. China is already a leader in electric vehicles, although the technology is currently lacking and seems incomparable to Tesla and Samsung SDI, their domestic market has an insatiable appetite for the more affordable and accommodating domestic models. While they may not be used for cross country driving, the domestic models will more than suffice for a person's daily needs for transportation. In 2016, with extremely generous government back subsidies, the Chinese electric vehicle sales reached over half a million units sold, in comparison to the 221,000 units sold in Europe and 157,000 units sold in the United States. Electric vehicle sales are expected to climb to 700,000 this year in China.