Electric motorbikes, like the Taiwan-produced Gogoro, have been growing in popularity over the last few years as more residents see the environmental benefits. Sales of such e-bikes have also benefited from government support that has offered subsidies to offset the costs to consumers. Still, the electric scooters remain more expensive than traditional motorbikes in Taiwan.
Last year, a record 78,000 electric vehicles were sold in Taiwan, and sales are expected to surpass that figure this year with 32,170 already sold as of April 27. However, consumers discovered last week that the website to claim subsidies was down. In response to the system problems, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs Industrial Development Bureau said that it has already exceeded the NT$400 million (US$12.98 million) subsidy limit it had budgeted for the year.
As the applications for the NT$10,000 subsidy were suspended on April 24, electric vehicle dealers will have to find new ways to attract customers. In addition, there are local subsidies as well as a NT$3,000 EPA subsidy for the purchase of new electric vehicles. The average total subsidy is NT$18,000 and can even reach as much as NT$33,000.
Electric vehicles in Taiwan have seen greater viability recently as more manufacturers have joined Gogoro’s battery-charging infrastructure, including Yamaha, Aeon Motor, and PGO Scooters. The three companies that joined the network are expected to launch new electric scooters in Taiwan this summer. The early suspension of the subsidies will hinder electric vehicle companies that are set to release new vehicles in the second half of the year.
Taoyuan, which offers the highest local subsidies, has sold 7,560 electric vehicles so far this year. Taoyuan is followed by Kaohsiung with 4,683, Taichung with 4,455, and Tainan with 4,303. Of all the electric vehicles sold in Taiwan this year, Gogoro accounts for 98 percent of sales.
Deputy Director of the Industrial Development Bureau, told Apple Daily that the department had allocated NT$6.06 million for electric vehicles this year. NT$200 million of that budget was set aside for infrastructure improvements such as power station construction. The official added that funds allocated for infrastructure may be re-allocated for subsidies for the remainder of the year. However, an additional NT$200 million may only cover another three months of subsidies at the current pace of sales.
Critics have argued that the subsidies do not in fact help the environment because they don’t eliminate overall vehicles on the road. In some cases, instead of replacing traditional vehicles, the subsidies encourage new drivers who would otherwise not own a vehicle. A professor of environmental engineering at National Chung Hsing University noted that it would be more beneficial to provide subsidies to encourage more people to take public transportation.