Feature: Vietnam sees growing popularity of electric bike
by Nguyen Hang Ngan, Nguyen Thi Thuy Anh, Zhang Jianhua
HANOI, July 23 (Xinhua) -- During rush hours, the streets of the capital city of Vietnam are seen filled with electric bikes nowadays, a new alternative means of transport to bikes or scooters.
The recent hikes in the price of petroleum products and the fact that there is no need to register electric bikes have led to an increasing demand for this vehicle among Vietnamese people.
It has posed a question whether electric bikes would eventually replace motorbikes as the main means of transport in the country.
A survey of major bike shops along Ton Duc Thang Street here showed that the price of an electric bike ranges from 8 million to 15 million Vietnamese dong (380-710 U.S. dollars), which are much cheaper than motorbikes.
"There are many reasons why electric bikes are now popular in Vietnam. First, you don't need gas and second it is not necessary to register your vehicle. It is also fashionable and with competitive prices," a shop owner said.
Popular brands of electric bikes in Vietnamese market include Honda, Yamaha or Bridgestone and Giant, among others. But the most in demand are brands from China's Taiwan.
On average, one electric bike rider who commute urban distance is estimated to pay only 50,000 Vietnamese dong (nearly 2.4 U.S. dollars) more in their monthly electricity bill.
Meanwhile, a scooter will cost around 500,000 Vietnamese dong ( 24 U.S. dollars).
In addition, modern types of electric bikes are integrated with advanced battery technology, which can run a longer distance for each charging time.
This transport means is suitable for students at school age because it does not require a driving license.
However, since this type of vehicle does not have to be registered, no one can be sure if the products sold on the local market are of good quality and if they are road-worthy. There are also no figures as to how many electric bikes are now running in Vietnamese streets.
Phan Thu Phuong, a 16-year-old high school student in Hanoi, told Xinhua that she has been using for the last five years a bike that was handed down to her by her sister. "It is still in good condition," she said.
"My electric bike runs at fast speed, suitable for both short and long distances. It's small but I find it convenient. The bike can run for 30 kilometers per charging," Phuong said. She said that about one-fourth of her classmates now own electric bikes.
Luong Diem, a 26-year-old housewife in Hanoi, said she has discarded her motorbike and is now using an electric bike because she can save money from not buying gasoline.
"The only disadvantage of electric bikes is that they are not reliable on rainy days as the battery can get damaged with water," Diem said.
"Despite this, I feel great with the electric bike as it is small, easy to pick up and ride, convenient with large storage space," she said.
However, Vietnamese authorities seem to hold a different viewpoint from local consumers' on electric bikes.
In a recent interview with online newspaper VTC News, Nguyen Trong Thai, chief of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said that the number of electric bikes in Vietnam increased sharply in 2013 and 2014.
The official said that electric bikes have no horns or warning lights and the brake system is weak, causing danger to both the riders and pedestrians and other motorists.
"Currently, electric bikes that are operating on Vietnamese streets are imported from foreign sources. The quality of these products remains a question mark and is not closely controlled by local authorities," Thai said.
In order to make electric bikes a safe means of transport, there should be stricter quality control and measures should be put in place to regulate their use, including the use of helmets or other warning gadgets found in motorbikes, Thai said.