/China’s straddling bus fails as testing rails are removed

China’s straddling bus fails as testing rails are removed

China’s elevated straddling bus surprised the world last year with its futuristic design that claimed to be able to solve the nightmarish mega traffic jams in China’s urban cities. The lifted passenger compartment is designed to glide over traffic so that cars can move beneath it.

The Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) – dubbed Batie – underwent a 300-meter road test in Qinghuangdao, a two-hour train ride east of Beijing, in August 2016. The preview obtained some media coverage around the world. Everything seemed so promising.

However, the testing rail of the bus has been removed this week, marking the failure of a seemingly promising company, local media reported on Wednesday.

Batie underwent a road test in August 2016. Photo from Baidu images.
Batie underwent a road test in August 2016. Photo from Baidu images.

This did not come as a surprise though. Just a couple of days after the preview last August, Batie faced severe criticism on its practicality and the company’s alleged financial fraud. The state-run Global Times reported that the road test could be a mere stunt, used by its creator to collect money.

Nanfang Metropolis Daily revealed last year that an investment company called “Huaying Kailai” had been raising funds for TEB before the bus’s test run last year. The size of the fund was between RMB 50 to 100 million (USD 7.5 to 15 million), with an expected annualized return of 12 percent.

In March 2016, Huaying Kailai was listed as a “counterfeit company” by Beijing officials. Bai Zhiming, president of Huaying Kailai, is also president of TEB Technology which is the manufacturer of Batie.

Local press reported that Huaying Kailai is facing a debt of about RMB 5 billion (USD 730 million), and in May 2017 the company announced a plan to pay back for the first time. However, its plan could only pay back up to 1 percent.

Batie not only faces financial issues but logistic obstacles as well. Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year that experts have warned that the current height of the bus would rip up trucks that tried to pass beneath.

It is fair to say that the invention itself is spectacular. The bus was listed as one of the “50 best inventions of the year” by Time magazine in 2010. It is a pity that Batie became an economic bubble. After all, the highly populated cities in China do need a cure for the congested traffic.

(Top photo from Baidu images)

Timmy contributes at AllChinaTech. He's passionate about photography, education, food and all things tech. He holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.