A five-minute top-up charge could give an electric Hong Kong minibus a 31.5km range boost

The government has invited tenders for its proposed fast-charging system for electric minibuses at Kwun Tong Public Transport Interchange, five months after announcing the concept – but in a departure from usual practice has put minibus operators firmly in charge of the charging tariffs.

Bidders, who will provide the hardware in exchange for a five-year charging service contract, must seek written approval from bus operators on their proposed maximum charging price as part of their tender submission.

One industry representative said this was a typical “nebulous government cop out”, with the condition designed to protect “operators who currently buy LNG at HK$4/litre.”

But the source said the condition may not be a barrier, since the electricity cost and capital cost would likely be the same for all contenders. “It may just be in there to appease the bus operators,” they said.

OppCharge is a charging standard popular in Europe, offering quick top-up charges to electric buses

Bidders must base their solutions on the OppCharge system, a global charging standard which uses pantographs to drop charging terminals onto roof rails. Bidders can work out their own payment system, which could see bus drivers paying by Octopus, credit card or other means for their top-up electricity.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) estimates five minutes charging under such a system could give a minibus a 31.5km range boost, even under “worst-case” Hong Kong summer conditions.

Under such conditions, the number 10M bus, which travels around 380 km a day, would need around 11 six-minute top-ups a day, government papers reveal.

Up to three 300kW chargers will be installed at the Kwung Tong terminus, with the five-year contract extendable to eight years on successful performance.

EPD says the move is necessary to reduce roadside air pollution. “Commercial vehicles are a major source of roadside air pollution in Hong Kong, accounting for about 95% of the total vehicular emission of nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particulates,” it says.

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