Shanghai taxi gets overhaul ahead of CIIE

Global Business

Shanghai is a city that’s always changing – and just in time for the China International Import Expo, Qiangsheng Taxi Company is changing over part of its fleet to new electric vehicles.

They agreed to take CGTN America’s Jessica Stone, for a ride.

Zhu Ai Min has been driving cabs for 23 years.

“Driving the new electric model is easy,” he said.

It’s got an automatic rather than manual transmission. It’s also responsive and quick. The vehicle uses facial recognition cameras to make sure only a Qiangsheng taxi driver can start the engine.

Zhu can use his voice to open windows, turn on music, and adjust the volume of his Alfa Romeo electric vehicle. The car’s Global Positioning System (GPS) not only gives the driver directions but helps him avoid traffic too.

And there’s a lot more traffic on the roads than there was when the company’s taxis first hit the road.

Zou Shengrong still remembers picking up his first passenger 26 years ago in a Volkswagen Santana. Since the mid 1980’s, this has been the mainstay of Qiangsheng taxi service and most of Shanghai’s other ride-hailing companies.

Zou said he loved being a driver at a time when most people rode bicycles.

“Shanghai had just started its economic reforms,” he recalled. The Santana was the first type of car to be made in China — the first to serve as a Shanghai taxi.

“It’s very durable,” Li Min, spokesperson for the Qiangsheng Taxi Company, explained. “It’s [lasted] for a long time.”

So durable, that driver Zou bought a Santana for his personal vehicle as well. But the Santana is no longer in production, and so it was time for a change.

Shanghai is always moving towards the future. And now that future is electric. According to a 2017 McKinsey report, China builds nearly half of the world’s supply of electric vehicles and last year, the number on the road eclipsed those being driven in the US. So it was a natural evolution for Qiangsheng to go electric too. They’ve replaced 100 sedans in their fleet with electric cars and will continue to grow their electric capacity over time.

“It’s adapting to the times,” explained Li Min. “It needs to change to give a new experience to the customers.”

“Electric is environmentally friendly,” Zhu said.

“Shanghai is developing so fast,” he adds. “It’s cleaner. It’s bigger…. There’s less pollution.”

Shanghai’s government is encouraging the use of electric vehicles. So more and more of them will become the taxis of the future. And thanks to mobile hailing apps and mobile pay, more and more Chinese families will be able to take them for a ride.