With Shenzhen removing all nonelectric buses from its public transport systems and moving to remove nonelectric taxis by 2020 from its roads, the city is moving closer to a healthier and cleaner future when it comes to air quality.
In the last few weeks, I have been contemplating this, along with the announcement by the Central Government regarding the end of making petrol and diesel vehicles in the future. It made me wonder how far Shenzhen could go.
It is my belief that Shenzhen could lead the country, and indeed the world, in ending the need for petrol and diesel vehicles, by phasing out petrol stations across the city.
While I freely admit that this would be a highly controversial move, the benefits for the city in terms of the environmental impact would be enormous. There are numerous ways that this could be achieved to maximize the benefits to those who live in the city.
Firstly, every new commercial and residential building would be required to have charging stations built into their parking areas, while older buildings would have the opportunity to take time to build them over time. Both fast and slow chargers would have to be built, to account for different charging requirements.
Petrol stations would have to be converted into fast charging stations, and every building across the city should be enhanced with solar panels to offset the increased electricity consumption from the car charging systems. Solar highways, batteries like the Tesla project in South Australia, and other renewable energy solutions could see Shenzhen’s contribution to carbon dioxide emissions plummet.
Admittedly, non-Shenzhen drivers would be furious about their inability to refill their tanks in the city, but it is more likely that they would purchase an electric vehicle. Bus companies that regularly commute in and out of Shenzhen would be forced to invest in new electric buses and thereby change their timetables, but I believe that these changes would have greater benefits for China as a whole, compared to the short-term problems.
Others will point out that currently, electric vehicles do not have the range that petrol and diesel vehicles have, and I freely concede that point. I would argue that in the future, electric vehicles will evolve to have the range that is required, solving this issue. In addition, other petrol stations around the country will install fast charging stations, which will further eliminate this problem.
(The author is an Australian working as an English editor in Shenzhen.)