, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 301–318 | Cite as

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

  • Jonathan WeinertEmail author
  • Chaktan Ma
  • Christopher Cherry
Original Paper


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 



Absorptive glass mat


Bicycle style electric bike


Electric bicycle or scooter


Liquefied petroleum gas


Original equipment manufacturer


Scooter style electric bike


Valve-regulated lead acid




Two-wheel vehicle



The authors would like to acknowledge Joan Ogden, Dan Sperling, Jack Johnston, Andy Burke, Ed Benjamin, Frank Jamerson, and anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful review of this work. The authors would like to thank the ITS-Davis Hydrogen Pathways Program, the Hong Kong Fok Ying Tung (Huo Ying Dong) Education Foundation, Project No. 94027, and the ITS-Berkeley Center for Future Urban Transport-A Volvo Center of Excellence for financial support. We would also like to thanks the Tongji University College of Automotive Studies, Yang Xinmiao, Chen Weijun, Guo Yijun, and the many manufacturers that granted us interviews, factory visits, and data, in particular Angel, Lantian Double-cycle, Luyuan, Sanben Aurelia, and Small Antelope.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Weinert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chaktan Ma
    • 2
  • Christopher Cherry
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Transportation StudiesUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Transportation EngineeringTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Transportation StudiesUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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