The current government of Taiwan has been touting the promotion of electric scooters (e-scooters) as one of its major domestic policy achievements in the recent years. Besides supporting the development of electric models by scooter manufacturers, the government has also implemented a seemingly generous subsidy scheme to get people replace their gasoline scooters with electric ones. Despite these incentives, the growth of e-scooter adoption in Taiwan still lags behind the expected pace. There are also increasing voices at various levels of government and the local transportation sector calling for an end to the current subsidy scheme. Still, the latest opinion poll of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan on this issue finds that nearly half of all sitting legislators support the continuation of the e-scooter subsidy. This poll was conducted by Smart Mobility Association Taiwan and its result was released on June 19.
A total of 61 legislators participated in this poll, and 95% or 58 of them agreed with the idea that the government should proactively foster the growth of the domestic e-scooter market and provide subsidies to incentivize e-scooter purchases. In fact, those legislators who participated in the poll also agreed with the idea that subsidies should cover both the first-time scooter purchase and the replacement of the older gasoline scooter. When the poll asked about the rationale behind the subsidy scheme, the respondents answered that the main goal is to reduce air pollution and energy consumption.
The poll also reveals that 43 legislators want to increase the number of battery charging and swapping stations for e-scooters in their electoral districts. Approximately 60% of the legislators that were polled also consent to the idea of providing free and exclusive parking spaces for e-scooters in their electoral districts.
Wang Wan-yu, a legislator of the New Power Party, said scooters are a mobile source of air pollution that people come into contact with the most. Wang further pointed out that young children are especially vulnerable to a higher concentration of particulate matter from scooter exhaust because of their shorter heights. Regarding a possible proposal to scrap the e-scooter subsidy scheme this year, Wang asserted this move would be in direct opposition to the government’s policy direction of building a low-carbon transportation system.
The government of Taiwan has established an “air pollution control fund” to finance various regulatory and subsidy programs that aim to improve the air quality across the island. Examples include free emission testing for scooter owners and promotion of electric buses. However, a substantial amount of money that has been earmarked is not being put into use. In the case of the subsidy for the deployment of electric buses, pretty much 100% of the 2019 budget for this program was left unspent. Hence, the public is increasingly demanding for changes to be made with the fund with respect to the allocation of financial resources and the targets of subsidies. Priority must be given to programs that can bring an actual and substantial reduction to the air pollution emitted from the transportation system.
Speaking about this poll, Lu Ming-che, a legislator of the Kuomintang, repeated the famous quote: “The Earth is not inherited from our forefathers but borrowed from our children.” Lu also said that he has been closely reviewing the latest version of the Intelligent Transportation System Development Plan that was submitted by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications last year. He is going to make sure that the government will accelerate energy transition for various forms of public and private transportation as demanded by the public.
▲ The above poll (in Chinese) of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan indicates that the majority of the respondents support e-scooter subsidies for both first-time purchases and replacements of older gasoline scooters.
Although scooters are the dominant means of transportation in Taiwan, there are many challenges to the development of a local e-scooter industry. The high price tags of the few available e-scooter models reflect the costs of the R&D, the infrastructure build-out, the establishment of a smart mobility platform (software), and the promotional efforts of various sales channels. Even with subsidies, most consumers on the island still find e-scooters too expensive. For them, the issue of affordability does not actually stem from the vehicle purchase price but from the cost of the monthly battery rental.
All e-scooter brands operating in Taiwan have instituted a monthly battery rental policy. Presently, the lowest monthly fee charged by the Gogoro Network is NT$299. Gogoro has been focusing on battery swapping, whereas other brands like KYMCO and E-Moving allow owners of their e-scooters to charge batteries on their own. However, KYMCO and E-Moving still demand a minimum monthly battery rental fee of NT$99. Most scooter users remain accustomed to the logic of filling the gasoline tank of the vehicle with as much fuel as needed for the journey, so they have a hard time of accepting the idea of renting batteries. Such policy seems not only costly but also very restrictive.
On the surface, the poll shows that most legislators are for the subsidy scheme. However, there were 52 other legislators that did not participate in the poll. Therefore, the Legislative Yuan could be debating and voting on plans to reduce or end the government’s support of the domestic e-scooter industry sometime in the future. Many difficulties lie ahead even as the government appears to be united in its efforts in greening Taiwan’s transportation system. The timetable for banning the sales of fossil fuel vehicles on the island has been pushed back. Also, legislators are facing a growing number of their constituents demanding equal treatment of e-scooters and gasoline scooters that conform to the latest emission standards when it comes to subsidy. There is a wave of popular discontent over policies that raise the cost of buying fossil fuel vehicles, along with major scooter manufacturers openly challenging the subsidy for electric models. Hence, Taiwan’s transition to clean and renewable energies will be a long and arduous process.
(News source: TechNews. Image credit: Smart Mobility Association Taiwan.)