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September 24, 2017

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Taiwan should lead the way in adopting electric vehicles

You might have noticed a new brand of car called "Luxgen" on Taiwan's roads. Luxgen was founded by Taiwan's biggest carmaker, Yulon, as a separate, indigenous Taiwanese auto company in 2009. Luxgen (the name is a combination of the words, "Luxury" and "Genius") is doing very well. The company's website claims that Luxgen is now number six in the Taiwanese market. Yulon is, of course, just one of several major Taiwanese companies that manufacture high-quality cars, but Yulon has the distinction of being the first local company to successfully debut an "own-brand."

Last week The China Post reported that Yulon Motor Group share prices fell after reports surfaced claiming that the auto giant is planning to move its budding electric car production to China. According to the news reports, Yulon is said to be "disappointed" with the Taiwanese government's support for the promotion of electric vehicles or "EVs."

There are bills in the Legislative Yuan that are supposed to create subsidies and tax reduction plans for local EV manufacturers, but the bills are still in review. According to reports, Yulon's EV production lines have been put on hold. Yulon is said to be considering moving its entire research and development (R&D) department and production lines to China's Hangzhou City.

Taiwanese automakers are powerhouses, and it would be a shame if they were not among the leaders in international EV technology, R&D and production. Electric vehicles are appearing in showrooms around the world and are now a real alternative — especially for city drivers — to gasoline-powered cars. Nissan's all-electric vehicle called the "LEAF" is now available, while General Motors is currently rolling out the Chevy "Volt." A dozen other manufacturers — including companies in China — are jumping on the bandwagon to produce hybrids, EVs and other innovative solutions that will aid in the great transition from a carbon-based transport economy to one powered by renewable energy.

Of course, the electricity that powers an EV needs to come from somewhere, and for now much of that electricity is produced the traditional way — including atomic power and by burning coal. But, despite these facts, it's still hard to argue that EVs are the way forward. In addition to helping slow down the effects of man-made global climate change, EVs will help keep our skies — and our lungs — cleaner.

Imagine a Taiwan where most cars are electric; it's not an impossible dream. We need strong government action and a long-term commitment to make this vision come to pass. As a small island, Taiwan can experiment with EVs in a way many other nations can't.

For example, why not start with taxis? Taxicabs are frequently required to sit idle while waiting for customers or stuck in traffic jams. Electric taxis, paid for with the aid of government subsidies, would solve the problems of waste and pollution. Taxi unions could set up dedicated charging stations, again with the aid of generous government subsides.

Imagine Taipei — and later all of Taiwan — becoming the first place in the world to have all EV taxis. Not only would Taipei City be cleaner but it would also be quieter as the din of thousands of combustion-powered vehicles would be reduced to an almost silent hum. The best solution would be that such electric vehicles be produced by Taiwanese companies and, as the Luxgen brand proves, Taiwan's carmakers are capable of stepping up to the plate.

A shift to EVs is in the best interest of the nation, and could give the economy a boost as well. Taiwan has the know-how to leap to the front of the EV revolution — all we need now is the willpower and dedication.

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