The government published its long-awaited “EV Roadmap” today, consolidating several existing initiatives on private electric cars and setting a date of “around 2025” to come up with what it calls “a concrete plan” regarding commercial vehicle and public transport electrification.
Key plans of the Roadmap on Popularisation of Electric Vehicles, most of which were previously announced, include the HK$200 million “Green Tech Fund”; a ban on registration of fuel-propelled private cars by 2035; trials for commercial electric vehicles (EVs), continuing the on-going work of the 2011 Pilot Green Transport Fund/New Energy Transport Fund; the $2 billion EV-charging at Home Subsidy scheme; post-secondary maintenance training; and talk of a Producer Responsibility Scheme for EV batteries.
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said EV technology was still developing and, for bus transport and commercial vehicles, the government needed to wait and see the results from next year’s proposed trials before making definitive plans.
“The roadmap is a living document, keeping up with the times,” said Wong, with targets, strategies, measures and progress to be reviewed every five years.
Officials drew a blank when asked how much electricity Hong Kong’s EV fleet would use. “Certainly we are discussing with the power companies to ensure there will be sufficient supply,” said Wong. “But importantly, for charging in many places, charging will be off-peak power which will be very useful for us to make the best use of our electricity supply,” he said.
Wong also said Hong Kong would start to see some of Hong Kong’s petrol-cum-LPG filling stations converted to EV charging stations within “5 to 10 years”, without giving numbers. Most people would charge at home, he said.
Wong defended the move to increase parking minimums in new buildings, saying he didn’t think it would increase the mode share of private cars.
“Most people in Hong Kong use public transport,” he said. “In Canada, people are going for car sharing as they are not using as much public transport as us. We can promote car sharing if it becomes relevant to Hong Kong.”
Consultant Paul Bromley, managing director of Phoenix Consulting and a pioneer in bringing new-energy public transport to Hong Kong, slammed the government’s proposed four- or five-year wait to produce a commercial vehicle timeline as weak-willed.
“I could write out a timeline in four days,” he says. “The technology already exists to deliver what Hong Kong needs and it involves opportunity charging such as that which is already postulated for the minibus project in Kwun Tong. There is no reason why the infrastructure cannot be built immediately against existing standards to ensure interoperability that allows for competitive tendering of vehicles by all manufacturers.”
Bromley said opportunity charge technology is the only viable solution for double decker buses, allowing buses to compete with diesels on passenger capacity and availability.
Clean Air Network Chief Executive Patrick Fung said the roadmap raised more questions than it answered.
“Why does our government rely on using old approaches, like industry trials of e-vehicles, to address existing problems?” he asked.
Fung also questioned cross-government commitment and said government silos were delaying progress.
“The Steering Committee for Promotion of Electric Vehicles was set up in 2009, chaired by the Financial Secretary. However, since then, there’s been very limited progress on EVs for commercial and public transport use. Why aren’t there more commitments made by this high-level institution? Without such commitment, we’re hardly convinced that any of the old problems will be solved under the current mechanism.”