How Taiwan Is Pushing for Sustainable Urban Mobility
As the fifth largest economy in Asia, Taiwan is also among the continent’s biggest polluters — it is ranked 20th in terms of carbon emissions per capita in 2015 globally and third in Asia behind Brunei and the Republic of Korea.
Thus Taiwan has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from the business-as-usual level by 2030 under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. This means it aims to reduce emissions from 428 metric tons of CO2 equivalent to 214 metric tons.
How it wants to achieve this
Transportation is among the seven sectors Taiwan has identified in which it would implement mitigation measures to achieve this target.
In nutshell, it aims to further develop green transportation systems and reduce reliance on private vehicles by promoting cycling as a transportation method.
The government is also promoting energy-efficient vehicles (EEVs) including electric vehicles (EVs) as alternatives, which is moving in tandem with efforts by private sector players such as Gogoro and the Taiwan Electric Vehicles Association.
Homegrown company Gogoro is already shaking up the two-wheeler EV space. Dubbed the ‘Tesla of scooters’, Gogoro is shaking up the industry — it sold 13,000 units in 2016, making up 65% of total electric scooter sales that increased 98% from 2015.
Adoption, however, remains a work-in-progress despite the boom, with e-scooters accounting only for 2.5% of scooter registrations in 2016. Part of Gogoro’s success is due to the Taiwanese subsidy for e-scooters; purchasers in New Taipei City could obtain subsidies of NT$24,000 (about US$760) for new purchases, with an extra NT$3,000 (roughly US$95) if they are replacing petrol-powered motorcycles (subsidy varies by municipality).
Cities goes bike-sharing
Parallel to the two-wheeler EV shift, Taiwan in 2011 began promoting bike-sharing via its homegrown scheme YouBike. The plan has put Taipei on track to building more than 500km in terms of cycling network, according to a report by the Centre for Liveable Cities Singapore and the Urban Land Institute Asia Pacific.
By 2018, Taiwan aims to allow citizens access to any one of 400 YouBike stations within a 10-minute walk from anywhere in Taipei. The push will accelerate given the entry of Singaporean bike-sharing start-up oBike which last April launched its services in Taiwan’s Taitung city.
oBike is looking at a potentially large market given 5% of urban mobility in Taipei already involve bicycles, with 50% of cyclists being women. By 2020, the Taipei government aims to achieve a 12% modal share for bicycles.
Driverless electric shuttle
The next phase will likely be to shift more commuters from the roads onto mass rapid transit system (MRT) lines to further reduce vehicles on the road.
Taiwan currently has three metro systems across Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taoyuan, with the latter recently opened in March this year. One more is under construction Taichung, while proposals for two others were declined for now.
A crucial gap to address will be the first-mile, last-mile connectivity to promote the use of the MRT lines. This is where autonomous shuttle vehicles fit in and that reality already looms.
On May 26, Taiwan welcomed EZ10, the first Level 4 autonomous shuttle as part of a collaboration between the National Taiwan University (NTU) and global consultancy firm 7Starlake.
The driverless shuttle will undergo test runs in July over two phases in NTU campuses. EZ10s may be used to provide short-distance connectivity in university campuses, factory plants and airports, among others.
Why it matters
Taiwan’s transportation challenges has some parallels with the Malaysian scene. The Taiwan case may provide an interesting study in how Malaysia could ramp up its own efforts to tackle sustainable mobility.
Both has popular preference for personal cars: Taiwan’s total industry volume (TIV) in 2016 was 439,269 units for a population of 23.5 million (2016 estimate), not far from Malaysia’s 580,124 (population 31.5 million).
The solutions being pursued somewhat differs, however. Malaysia is focusing on expanding its land public transport (LPT) network to eventually be within 400 metres of 80% of urban dwellers by year 2030.
In Taiwan’s case, its efforts are focused more on going car-lite via YouBike as well as shifting into sustainable mobility via EV schemes for motorcycles and now looking into driverless shuttles. While there are hints of these beginning in Malaysia, the government has yet to lend its support in a big way: will that change soon?