Original Paper


, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 301-318

First online:

The transition to electric bikes in China: history and key reasons for rapid growth

  • Jonathan WeinertAffiliated withInstitute of Transportation Studies, University of California Davis Email author 
  • , Chaktan MaAffiliated withInstitute of Transportation Engineering, Tsinghua University
  • , Christopher CherryAffiliated withInstitute of Transportation Studies, University of California Berkeley

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Annual electric bike (e-bike) sales in China grew from 40,000 in 1998 to 10 million in 2005. This rapid transition from human-powered bicycles, buses and gasoline-powered scooters to an all-electric vehicle/fuel technology system is special in the evolution of transportation technology and, thus far, unique to China. We examine how and why e-bikes developed so quickly in China with particular focus on the key technical, economic, and political factors involved. This case study provides important insights to policy makers in China and abroad on how timely regulatory policy can change the purchase choice of millions and create a new mode of transportation. These lessons are especially important to China as it embarks on a large-scale transition to personal vehicles, but also to other countries seeking more sustainable forms of transportation.


E-bike Electric bicycle Electric scooter China Two-wheel vehicle