The silent revolution in the Chinese streets

11 April 2016

Hugo Carlén, Marketing Manager at SKF and participant to the Gothenburg Executive MBA programme, is reporting live from the 10-day study trip to China. The trip, which includes both lectures at top-ranked Chinese Universities and company visits, is an integrated part of the Gothenburg Executive MBA programme.

Text & photo: Hugo Carlén


All major cities in the world face problems with congestion and air pollution. What is the solution? Metro, tramways, buses, trolleybuses, monorail and cable cars are just examples of public transportation in cities. Many Southeast Asian cities solve the lack of public transportation with two-wheelers, often running with inefficient two-stroke engines, polluting with both exhaust and noise.

The streets of Hangzhou, the beautiful city an hour south-west of Shanghai, are busy but quiet. Despite thousands and thousands of scooters it is rather quiet. The reason? This megacity, with a population equal to Sweden’s, has banned combustion engine two-wheelers. Either, they are powered by humans, like the 65 000 rental bikes, or by electricity as the popular scooters.

Scooter China.JPG
Starting from 1 000 RMB, the electric scooters are the quiet revolution of the streets in Hangzhou. This stylish scooter can be yours for as little as 2 000 RMB, (SEK 2500).

An electric scooter can be bought, complete with batteries (48 V) and charger for as little as 1 000 RMB (SEK 1400), and for 3 000 RMB (SEK 4000) you can get a styled electric scooter with LED lights and disk brakes.

Can electric and body-powered two-wheelers solve the transportation in larger cities? Most likely not, but in addition to efficient public transport, they will definitely play an important role.

The red rental bikes are available everywhere in Hangzhou, and bike lanes are available beside every major road. These are just some of the 65 000 bikes in the rental pool, where the first hour is free of charge.

How come major Chinese cities, like Shanghai, still accept petrol powered two-wheelers? We turn our question to Professor Jinshan Li at University of Hangzhou.

– In Shanghai, there are state-owned companies manufacturing petrol powered two wheelers, whereas Hangzhou has no such industry. The industry is not always quick at changing, but the Chinese customers are quick on picking up on new trends, professor Li clarifies.

Jinshan Li
Professor Jinshan Lee, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China (photo: