China's elevated bus test site has been abandoned for months

Financial problems have forced the prototype vehicle to collect dust.

John Chan

Remember China's wacky Transit Elevated Bus aka TEB which promised to carry passengers over traffic? Well, we have some bad news for you. China News reported that the 22-meter-long prototype unveiled in early August had been collecting dust in its hangar for well over two months, according to the two old men who were guarding the vacated test site in Qinhuangdao. One of them added that he could no longer contact his employer. A quick look at the project's still-functioning website is just as worrying, with its latest post dating back to September 15th.

Following China News' report last week, The Paper reached out to an unnamed senior staffer at TEB Technology Limited and learned that the company has indeed been facing some "significant" financial issues since mid-November, and its sole investor -- a Beijing wealth management company called Huayingkailai -- refused to provide further funding. In fact, Huayingkailai landed in hot water recently with accusations of illegal fundraising plus fake credit rating. The Paper tried to call the numbers listed on that company's website but none were answered; I did the same and had no luck, either.

This is bad news for Suzhou-based design firm Autek, who is still owed some 45 million yuan or about $6.5 million, according to The Paper. Song You Zhou, the so-called inventor of the TEB, acknowledged that his company has yet to settle Autek's invoice, but he defended by claiming that it's already been paid 60 percent of the outstanding fee instead of just the rumored 20 percent. As for TEB Technology itself, a former employee revealed that its team of over 100 engineers weren't actually under said company, but were mainly sent in from Autek and two local universities. With a few more employees gone recently, it apparently doesn't cost TEB Technology much to keep itself barely alive, especially in its current idle state.

The Paper also received confirmation from the district authority that the TEB project's management and operations teams have already moved out of the city, which leaves us wondering who will be going back to pack things up. After all, even at just 300m long, the test track has become a nuisance for the locals as it takes up half a side of a functioning road, thus forcing cars on one side to squeeze into one of the three lanes on the opposite side.

According to the original agreement between TEB Technology and the district, the company was supposed to have dismantled the temporary test site by August 31st, unless they were to negotiate an extension for the trial period. Song insisted that the site was still being inspected each week, which contradicts the statements from the district authority and the guards there. Similarly, there's no update regarding the progress of the second test site which is supposed to feature a 3km track in Zhoukou.

No matter how this company spins it, things aren't looking good for the crazy straddling bus project. Even if it really has secured a new investor from Beijing as claimed by Song, his team has yet to convince us all that this concept works safely over real-life traffic. With such severe financial, technical and reputation issues, the TEB is just as good as dead.