China represents a test-case of global significance regarding the challenges of urban mobility transition to more sustainable models. On the one hand, transportation accounts for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). China is globally central to 'greening' mobility as already
the world's largest car market but with significant further growth predicted. On the other hand, the growth of (fossil-fuelled) urban mobility is a key feature of the immense changes that have occurred since 1978 in China. Yet in both respects, the need for a change in the model of urban mobility is increasingly urgent, as manifest in issues of emissions and air pollution, urban gridlock and its social costs, and intensifying unrest around urban mobility issues. China, however, is also the site of significant government and corporate innovation efforts focused on opportunities for 'catch-up' in a key industry of the twenty first century around the electric vehicle (EV). At the same time, the much
lower-technology electric two-wheeler (E2W) has emerged as a global market entirely dominated by small Chinese firms and their Chinese customers.
This is one of a series of four China low carbon reports outlining the STEPS Centre affiliate project 'Low Carbon Innovation in China: Prospects, Politics and Practice', led from Lancaster University. Taking a perspective that explores specific domains of low carbon innovation in China through the lens of changing power relations and associated social practices, this Working Paper provides an introduction to the e-mobility research package of the project, reviewing the relevant literature around urban electric mobility transitions in China and describing the project's research approach and potential contribution to knowledge in this area. It argues that, despite the disappointment to date regarding EVs, the evidence shows a highly dynamic and geographically diverse situation in China, but one in which a successful urban mobility transition as currently envisaged remains improbable.