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Taiwan Is Becoming the Norway of Electric Mopeds

Innovative startups and a crucial government subsidy scheme has seen a swift shift in the transition from petrol to electric mopeds in Taiwan. But success is not guaranteed, with a possible debate brewing on the horizon to either reduce or end the support scheme. [1] 

Anyone who’s ever set foot in Taiwan will be able to tell you that when it comes to locals getting around, the moped is truly king. In a country with a population of just under 24 million people, there are over 15 million registered mopeds. This translates to 625 mopeds per 1000 inhabitants and makes it the place with the highest moped density in the world. By comparison, Greece (highest moped density in the EU) only has a 150 mopeds per 1000 inhabitants – four times less than Taiwan. What’s even more remarkable though is that for a country with such an already mature moped market, sales of electric variants went from practically negligible in 2014 to capturing nearly 20% of market share in 2019. 

According to a recent poll conducted by Smart Mobility Association Taiwan, 95% of 61 participating legislators (out of 113 total in the national parliament) agreed with the idea that the government should proactively foster the growth of the domestic e-moped market and provide subsidies to incentivize purchases. The poll also reveals that 43 legislators want to increase the number of battery charging and swapping stations for e-mopeds in their electoral districts. 60% of those polled also agreed with the idea of providing free and exclusive parking spaces for e-mopeds in their electoral districts. Air pollution and energy consumption were given as the main rationales for continuing the subsidy scheme. 

However, change is rarely linear and straightforward. Some legislators are facing constituents that are demanding equal treatment of electric and gasoline mopeds that conform to the latest emission standards when it comes to subsidies. Major manufacturers of gasoline mopeds are also openly lobbying against the subsidy scheme, particularly as they are struggling to compete with Gogoro – an electric moped startup that has gone from launching its first electric moped in 2015 to become the second-largest moped maker (counting all mopeds) in 2019. [2] So despite the strong apparent support from legislators according to the poll, the Smart Mobility Association Taiwan cautions against complacency that the subsidy scheme will continue unchallenged. 

 

Personal comments

The success of e-mopeds in Taiwan raises a number of really interesting issues. Key among them is, of course, the importance of policy support – particularly in the form of subsidies – when it comes to really accelerate the pace of the transition to electric. Hence the comparison to Norway in the title. But as Taiwan appears to start debating the continuation of those subsidies, legislators and policymakers there should heed the recent experience of China – which is now scrambling to revive subsidies for EV passenger cars again after seeing much steeper than expected sales plunges following cuts to them last year. [3] 

Also worth noting is that powered two-wheelers (such as motorcycles and mopeds) can have a disproportionately worse air quality impact compared to cars and even SUVs. [4] So for countries like Taiwan, India, and many other Southeast Asian nations with a high rate of two-wheelers, focusing attention on electrifying this segment can be much more cost-effective than concentrating on cars or even buses. 

The Gogoro story is also fascinating – everything from their meteoric rise in just barely 5 years, to the success of their battery swapping business model, as well as their plans for global expansion. In Taiwan, the company has over 1,500 battery swap stations, 270,000 users and claims to have enabled 70 million battery swaps. However, it is still unclear whether they intend to take the battery swap model with them as they expand globally in the future. This to me is the most interesting question. Currently, the only other auto company that has been able to make battery swaps work is the Chinese electric car company Nio. 

*In case you are wondering what the market share is for el-mopeds in Sweden, it is currently at 25% for Jan – Apr 2020, which is 4% higher market share compared to the same period in 2019. [5] 

 

Written by Bobby Chen, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2020-06-29. Latest Poll Shows Nearly Half of Taiwan’s Legislature Want to Keep E-Scooter Subsidy.

2. 2020-04-01. Gogoro sees sales more than double in 2019.

3. 2020-03-05. EV subsidies in China are making a comeback.

4. 2014-05-22. Mopeds Cause Significantly More Air Pollution Than Cars In Some Places.

5. 2020-05-06. Moped- och motorcykelbranschen håller emot Coronaeffekterna.