Not a lot of us are in the market to rent automobiles. China is notoriously strict on what it will accept when it comes to proper driving permits, and an international driver’s license doesn’t cut it. On the other hand, though, the country is notoriously lax: many fellow laowai report being pulled over on scooters, motorbikes or other contraptions and being let go simply because putting a foreigner through the bureaucracy is too ma fan.
That being said, there is definitely a market for cars which come with drivers. Cars are regularly rented for tours around the city, jaunts out of town for the day, and more. They are also used to pick up VIP guests and shuttle them around to factory visits and baijiu-soaked banquets. Often times, these cars are not even that expensive, all things considered.
Hertz has just announced that it will begin renting out electric cars in three Chinese cities, namely Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai. Unlike Hertz in the US though – and in keeping with Chinese tradition – the cars come equipped with a driver. They are made by BYD, a battery manufacturer based in Shenzhen. The New York Times fills us in:
The Chinese government has been energetically promoting the adoption of electric cars for several years. But automakers have continued to work on ways to extend the cars’ range.
BYD says the E6 can go up to 300 kilometers, or 190 miles, on a charge, if the air-conditioning is not running and the speed is kept around 70 kilometers, or 45 miles, an hour. BYD says that driving 80 miles an hour with the air-conditioning on reduces range to 240 kilometers, or 150 miles.
The catch is only two cars are available in Shenzhen right now, but Hertz hopes to have 25 to 30 electric cars for rent by the end of this year.
The benefits of electric cars are obvious, especially in a polluted city such as Shenzhen. The electric car revolution maybe late and slow going, but perhaps it’s finally begun.