The Legislative Council’s Panel on Environmental Affairs is calling for public views on promoting the use of electric vehicles (EV). HKGCC believes it is important to take more action now to promote the use of EVs.
Cleaner, lower carbon and more efficient
EVs have no tailpipe emissions and are efficient in converting energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Replacing conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles with EVs can help improve roadside air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
For the full environmental benefits of electrification to be realised, the emissions associated with the source of electricity must also be reduced to zero.
As the opportunities for generating zero-carbon electricity in Hong Kong are highly limited, the Government is encouraged to explore with the authorities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) ways to secure a supply of zero-carbon electricity for Hong Kong. The Central Government has already committed to increase the supply of zero-carbon electricity to the GBA from other parts of China.
Roadside air pollution has significant health impacts for the population of Hong Kong, for example in exposure to NOX, which is created by the burning of fuel.
Although EVs are not yet readily available to replace medium and heavy goods vehicles, which account for around 1/3 of NOX emissions, models are now available to replace conventional vehicles in some bus segments, such as shuttle buses and single decker public buses. Only a limited number of trials have so far taken place and these need to be expanded substantially to take into account school, residential, public light bus and selected single decker routes.
Progress, which is contingent on government finding, has been very slow. Shenzhen has more than 15,000 electric buses already operating.
Around 18% of NOX emissions are from LPG taxis and a further 15% from light goods vehicles. Electric equivalents are now available for these segments. A series of major trials, backed by government funding, should be undertaken within the next two years.
Although private cars only account for around 5% of NOX roadside emissions, every tonne saved is likely to have an immediate health benefit. A wide range of EV models is already available and there is no reason why this segment should not be switched from ICE vehicles to EVs as soon as possible.
Hong Kong is being left behind
Many other cities and countries are much further ahead than Hong Kong. Several major European countries and cities have already set an end-date on the registration of ICE vehicles, usually in the 2030s. Others have excluded the most polluting vehicles from high-density urban areas, placed quotas on ICE registrations, given priority to low-emissions vehicles in traffic-management schemes or imposed stricter tailpipe emissions limits.
Hong Kong must follow by setting up a similar range of controls, giving consumers and business the confidence to invest in zero-emissions vehicles under a clear long-term planning framework.
The Council for Sustainable Development’s recent public engagement exercise on decarbonising Hong Kong suggested setting a timeline to phase out fossil fuel vehicles, and this should be adopted and confirmed this year.
In the first 10 months of 2019, EVs accounted for around 5% of all new passenger car registrations in Hong Kong, a modest improvement over the poor 2018 figures. This compares with up to 20% of all vehicles already achieved in a number of Mainland cities, according to McKinsey.
A number of cities such as London, Paris, Tokyo and Mexico City have already pledged to purchase only zero-emissions buses from 2025. Hong Kong needs to set a similar target.
More initiatives needed
Besides looking at measures to control the number of ICE vehicles sold in Hong Kong in the longer term, the Government needs to roll out additional initiatives to support EVs. Firstly, it should change its own fleet to zero-emissions vehicles, as other cities have done.
Incentives to aid the purchase of EVs by individuals or companies should be included in the 2020 budget. Super tax deductions for companies to purchase EV or add charging stations should be considered.
The Government needs to engage with manufacturers and distributors of EV vehicles to make sure that right-hand drive models are readily available.
The Chamber welcomes the recent announcement of HK$2 billion to assist with the creation of EV chargers in residential buildings. The scheme needs to be developed and implemented quickly. It is likely that additional funding will be needed to extend the scheme to other locations. Measures need to be put in place to encourage Incorporated Owners to take up such schemes.
More EV chargers should be also be provided at car parks operated by Government-associated organisations, such as the MTRC and Hospital Authority.
A holistic approach
The Government should take a holistic approach to integrate the promotion of EVs into an overall transport plan. It should publish a detailed roadmap not later than the 2021 Policy Address.
This should be coupled with a refreshed approach to integrating land use and transport to minimise the need for travel, continuation of the ‘rail first’ policy, the better coordination of different transport modes, and application of new technologies to relieve traffic congestion.
An early start needs to be made to support the conversion of easily addressable transport segments to EV. Every tonne of roadside air or carbon emissions saved this year is of permanent benefit to the environment.