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Didi forms car-sharing partnership in push for green transportation leadership

The logo of Didi Chuxing is seen at its headquarters in Beijing. Photo: Reuters

China's ride-hailing unicorn Didi Chuxing is developing its new energy car-sharing platform with the support of 12 domestic and foreign automakers, part of its strategy to build a smart transportation system comprising taxi, shared bike and shared car.

Recently, Didi, which dominates the country's taxi-hailing market, has signed cooperation agreements with 12 major car producers including Geely Automobile, Changan Auto, BYD, Kia Motors and the Renault-Nissan Alliance to help them market car-sharing services and new energy cars including electric vehicles.

Under the agreements, Didi will create an auto-sharing platform in its app, through which the 12 automakers can operate their own car-sharing services. In addition, auto-related finance and insurance services will also be available on the auto-sharing platform. Didi said that it would partner with other car-sharing and car rental firms, infrastructure operators such as charging and fueling stations as well as after-sales service providers to create a new, open ecosystem which can help "reduce cost and enhance efficiency for the entire industry chain" by integrating various resources.

The taxi-hailing firm will also take part in some car manufacturers' design work, offering advice for making vehicles that are more suitable for taxi-sharing and car-sharing services and focus more on safety and energy efficiency than speed.

Didi receives 20 million taxi-hailing orders every day, and cooperates with more than 5,000 companies across China that lease cars to the company's drivers, a report by the Financial Times said.

A study by GM Insights shows that the global car-sharing market is expected to grow 34 percent annually in the 2017-2024 period, lower than China's annual growth rate which will surpass 40 percent in the same period. Amid the government's strengthened efforts to combat environmental pollution, China is emerging as a core electric car-sharing market, according to the study.

In order to make good on its promises to increase the share of non-fossil fuels as part of its primary energy consumption to about 20 percent by 2030 and peak greenhouse gas emissions by the same year, the Chinese government has rolled out a series of policies that many carmakers from home and abroad consider "too stringent to comply with".

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has required domestic and global automakers doing business in the country to ramp up production of new energy cars under a strict quota rule which stipulates that 8 percent of automakers' sales should come from battery-powered or plug-in hybrid cars in 2018, increasing to 10 percent and 12 percent in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The Chinese government will also phase out the production and sales of gasoline-powered cars, which will be replaced by electric cars.

These policies have prompted well-known global automakers including Ford Motor, Volkswagen, General Motors and the Renault-Nissan Alliance to seek partnerships with local players, which allow them to manufacture electric cars under the joint venture structure. And Didi's auto-sharing platform will serve as an online community where both domestic and foreign automakers can market their electric cars, as the sharing economy is becoming a key business model in the country's automobile industry, making a car not only a product to be owned but also a shared service to be rented.

At present, Didi is adopting a three-pronged strategy in its efforts to build an intelligent transportation system, which the company said will be powered by artificial intelligence technologies, big data analytics and computing capabilities. 

Besides the popular taxi-hailing platform, Didi launched a kaleidoscopic bike-sharing platform on its app last month, through which users are able to book Didi's own-branded shared bikes and bikes operated by Ofo, one of the largest bike-sharing companies in China, and Bluegogo, which was once the third-largest bike-sharing firm in the country, with free-deposit options. 

And now, the pending car-sharing platform can be considered as the third platform in Didi's strategy. In November last year, Cheng Wei, founder of Didi, revealed that the company had joined hands with the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization to establish a joint venture company which is committed to offering the world's leading new energy car services by setting up a network of supporting facilities such as charging points and cyclic utilization of batteries. Cheng also presented a blueprint for marketing more than 1 million new energy cars on Didi's platform by 2020.

Therefore, it is possible that Didi will become a super integrated app using all the environmentally friendly transportation tools.

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