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From fishing village to modern metropolis - Shenzhen in southeastern China has become an industrial city in just a few decades. Here Louis Palmer meets the man who installed a lithium ion battery in Chinas official HongQi limousine. In the past thirty years, Shenzhen has been one of China's fastest growing cities, growing from a town with about as many people as a small German town has, into a city of eight million.

For centuries Shenzhen's inhabitants lived from fishing, but the electronics and telecommunications industries are now the main employers. The government in Peking has been the engine of this rapid progress. 30 years ago, it declared Shenzhen to be a special economic area and attracted foreign investors to the region with concessions. Shenzhen's inhabitants, along with those of Hong Kong, now have the country's highest per capita income.
Mr Winston Chung is waiting for us in a distant suburb. From outside, his battery factory doesn't exactly look as if the future is being made here. Only when he opens the bonnet of his Mercedes do we all "ooh" and "ah". Instead of a six-cylinder engine, the car is powered by lithium ion batteries. We also admire a beflagged HongQi, the government limousine made by China's FAW vehicle manufacturers. This one now runs on batteries. It has a top speed of 140 km/h and can go for 400 kilometres on a single battery charging - an impressive range. For a long time batteries were the biggest problem with electric cars.
The world's biggest battery charger
Mr. Chung enthusiastically shows us the world's biggest battery charger, which is as big as an average bathroom, and tells us proudly, "I can charge my batteries in ten minutes with this. In future, electric cars won't have to wait any longer at petrol stations than ordinary cars." Then he shows us two electric buses. We're amazed. "Lack of technology has always been a good excuse for not implementing electric cars. Now an electric vehicle can run just as quickly and for just as long as a normal car. The technology is here." Mr Chung beams, and so do we. We have a meeting with the city's General Secretary. A short test-drive, a brief talk about Shenzhen's green future, microphones on and cameras running, and rounds of hand-shaking and gift-giving. The Chinese praise European progress on environmental protection, which has only been an issue in China for a few years. We're told that China's new green policy has already led to some factory closures.
China on the move
On the evening before the 1st of May, the highway out of Shenzhen is blocked and it still is next morning. It looks like all of China is on the move and there's one accident after another. Here a rear-end collision, there a small truck has lost its load of metal plates all over the road, and further on a truck is stopped on the median strip in the middle.
Out on the highway, three police vehicles soon surround the Solar Taxi. The officers are worried about our safety. James, our official tour guide, affably explains what we're doing. We show our posters, forms and press clippings. The police take it in turns to sit in the Solar Taxi and take their own photos and then we drive on. Hundreds of kilometres of Chinese highway lie ahead of us.




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