The Transition to Electric Bikes in China: History and Key Reasons for Rapid Growth

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - vehicle, planning - history, land use - planning, ridership - growth, policy - environment, policy - sustainable, organisation - management, mode - bike, mode - bike


Transportation modes, Technology, Sustainable transportation, Political factors, Political aspects, People's Republic of China, Modes, Modal shift, History, Environmental policy, Environmental planning, Environmental management, Electric vehicles, Electric bicycles, Economic factors, China, Case studies, Battery powered vehicles


Sales of electric bikes (e-bikes) have skyrocketed in China since the late 1990s. This article examines the technical, economic and political factors involved in the rapid growth of the e-bike sector. This growth can be attributed in part to significant improvement in e-bike technology, improving economic conditions, and a decrease in prices of e-bikes and electricity accompanied by an increase in the price of gasoline. National and local government policy motivated by energy and air quality issues also created favorable conditions for e-bike growth. Banning gasoline powered motorcycles in large city centers eliminated the most significant e-bike competition, and changes in urban form decreased performance of alternative transportation modes as trip lengths and congestion increased. This case study provides important insights regarding sustainable transportation to policy makers in both China and abroad on how timely regulatory policy can influence purchase choice and create a new transportation mode.