The government has hit back at allegations it hid a damning report of taxpayer-funded hybrid vehicle performance, saying the four-year delay in publication was entirely due to “staffing issues” at its contractor Jockey Club Heavy Vehicle Emissions Testing and Research Centre (JCEC), and that “there is no question of hiding the test results”.
Questions arose after the 2020 release of the New Energy Transport Fun report into the 2014-2016 trial of two Dongfeng Gemini minibuses operated by now-bankrupt operator Teamwise, a minibus firm run by racing driver and minibus mogul Terence Tse Kin-leung.
The report found the HV was 23% more expensive to operate, used up to 14% more fuel and produced 7% more carbon emissions than a traditional diesel bus.
In its defence, the government says in 2017 it published a report into another subsidised Dongfeng Gemini minibus, run by Hong Kong Metropolitan. “Hence, there is no question of hiding the test results of the same vehicle model tested by Teamwise by any parties,” says a spokeswoman.
However, that trial was more successful, and largely positive on the Dongfeng’s performance, claiming a 4.1% fuel saving over the diesel equivalent and 3.4% lower operating costs. “The HV drivers had no problem in operating the vehicle except that it was more difficult to steer round a tight turning in the first six months,” said the HK Metropolitan report.
In contrast, the long-delayed Teamwise report paints a very negative picture of the Dongfeng vehicles: “The drivers experienced various problems in operating the HVs and did not feel the HVs were quiet and environment [sic] friendly,” says that report. “The drivers consistently expressed disappointment with the HVs’ driving performance and reliability due to many breakdowns.”
Aside from being more expensive and more polluting to run, the two Teamwise HVs broke down for a total 319 days of the two year trial.
Under the Pilot Green Transport Fund scheme (rebranded and renamed as the New Energy Transport Fund (NETF) in September 2020), funded companies were required to publicly report data and operating experiences on publicly funded EVs and hybrids, to help the transport trade make better decisions.
EPD has repeatedly said a lack of manpower at its contractor was to blame for the missing report.
“As we have explained before, the Jockey Club Heavy Vehicle Emissions Testing & Research Centre (JCEC) of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Tsing Yi), one of the third-party assessors, had experienced manpower shortage before but had increased its manpower to catch up with the preparation of the test reports,” said the spokeswoman yesterday (24 December), responding to questions about the report delay.
Yet former lawmakers and industry professionals have said this is not a good enough reason to explain the lengthy delay.
Officials refused to be drawn into further discussion of the matter, rejecting questions on when the government had first learned of the serious issues with the Teamwise vehicles and whether they had discussed the issue with the vehicle manufacturer.