A brand new diesel minibus has started plying Hong Kong’s minibus routes today, with the first Euro VI-standard diesel spotted on the streets.
Bus fans posted pictures on Facebook of the first Euro VI minibus in the city, a Toyota running the 28S route.
Toyota stopped making the city’s ubiquitous LPG minibuses – which represent around 60% of Hong Kong’s Public Light Bus fleet – at the end of 2020, offering instead a Euro VI diesel.
Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing earlier said the Euro VI diesels would offer significant improvements over older Euro IV diesel buses and said the new diesels wouldn’t be worse than the LPG buses, claiming the environmental performance of older LPG buses had deteriorated over time.
Transport and bus expert Paul Bromley, manging director of Phoenix Business Consulting, says moving away from LPG is a smart move in terms of combatting climate change.
“The problem with LPG buses is that they also emit methane as part of their tailpipe emissions, which is far worse in terms of global warming chemistry,” he says.
But Bromley says diesel, even Euro VI, may not be the best solution. “We also need to consider particulate matter, which is carcinogenic,” he said.
“Whilst going to Euro VI is progress, diesel still has issues, and the only significant way forward would be to go fully electric, such as the trial programme proposed at Kwun Tong CBD development,” he says.
Trials there will use a “drop down” pantograph fast-charger for local electric minibuses.
Hong Kong had also experimented with hybrid buses but trials under the New Energy Transport Fund generally ended in failure. Hybrids minibuses cost more to run than LPG buses and were noisy with limited power. An investigation by Transit Jam revealed one hybrid bus cost double to run with 10 times the pollution of a standard LPG bus.
Patrick Fung, CEO of environmental campaign group Clean Air Network says the shift to electric minibuses needs to speed up.
“Having known in 2019 that the manufacturer will cease to produce LPG minibuses by 2021, there has been limited progress made on the transition to electric minibuses – not only on vehicle technology (which is in trial); but also the other equally important conversations on charging infrastructure and operation model have not made much progress. On these conversations, the government should serve as a leadership role,” he says.
Fung also criticses the government’s “remote sensing system” which will not able to detect high emissions from diesel minibuses. “The government should consider using other technology or systems to detect if there are any ‘over emissions’ from diesel minibuses,” he says.