“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Chinese "vehicle" traffic

While in China, we motored around on well paved roads (except for a visit to a farming village - more on that in another post) in air conditioned buses and flew from city to city on the best of Boeing's and Airbus' stable. And we were by no means alone as the only modern vehicle on China's highways. But there were a vast number of two and three wheeled vehicles, and both kinds came in motorized (internal combustion engine, electric motors) and human powered. And among the three wheeled vehicles, there was everything from large trucks hauling cargo to pedal powered carts hauling huge amounts of grain, water, children, etc. In all, it was an incredible mix of vehicle types and uses, far far beyond anything one would see in the United States.

We saw lots of these enclosed "taxis" on a three wheeled motorcycle base. Few were as pristine as this one, outside of the Forbidden City, but they were plentiful. I don't know what kind of mileage they might get, but I will hazard a guess of 40 m.p.g., based on what I've heard about various motorcycles. Certainly, that's better than an automobile taxi would get.

Then there were people doing goods transportation with muscle power. The example shown here is fairly extreme but not uniquely so. China is still a developing country and has many of the characteristics of such a status. But it's developing fast.

As I mentioned above, there were also full-size vehicles of types not seen in the U.S., both for personal transportation and for moving cargo. I haven't yet determined the benefit of the three wheeled configuration, any suggestions?

The alternative vehicles I've contemplated in this blog (here, here, and here), i.e., electric scooters, are extremely popular in China. There is some controversy over their use and the gas powered scooter purveyors, car manufacturers, etc. want them banned, but they certainly appear to have reached critical mass in China.

It's easy to tell that this is not a photograph of a U.S. street. And I'm not so sure we're doing a better job, the vehicle sizes and weights are much more appropriate to the loads they carry. As I've mentioned, my 6000 pound Land Rover LR3 HSE is a heck of a lot of metal to carry around a 185 pound man. Unfortunately, the Chinese appear to aspire to our situation rather than the reverse.

Finally, these vehicles, of which we saw many in Kunming, caused me the greatest amount of head scratching. Can it really be efficient to have a belt driven vehicle with an exposed engine? But, given the number of these that were on the road, there's undoubtedly a sound economic reason for their use. Any ideas?

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