LCQ7: Solar-powered air-conditioning system on vehicles

     Following is a question by the Hon Mr Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 16):

     It has been reported that a solar-powered air-conditioning system, which is pending approval from the Government, was retrofitted into 10 vehicles of different types for road tests in this summer.  It is found, according to the tests, that a taxi using the system could save 21% in fuel and a minibus 27%; the charging for less than seven hours could provide more than two hours of air-conditioning.  As the system is still at an early stage of commercialization, it will cost about $40,000 for a taxi and up to $120,000 for a minibus to retrofit.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it has considered introducing and applying the system to government vehicles as a pilot scheme; if yes, of the details concerning the total estimated retrofitting cost and the timetable for implementation; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether it has considered subsidizing public transport companies for retrofitting the system into their vehicles; if yes, of the criteria for determining the provision of different levels of subsidies with reference to the energy saved and carbon emissions reduced; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) given that a setup cost and an increase in the maintenance cost will be involved in retrofitting the system, whether it has assessed if the additional costs may be passed onto the passengers of the public vehicles concerned; if the costs will be passed onto the passengers, whether the Government will consider introducing any transport cost stabilization measure;
(d) whether it has considered increasing the availability of the charging facilities and providing sufficient maintenance services for the vehicles concerned in the face of a possible surge in the number of vehicles retrofitted with the system and the demand for its charging services; if yes, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(e) whether it will consider stepping up public education and publicity on the wider use of solar-powered air-conditioning systems; if yes, of the details?



     The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a private company have jointly developed a solar-powered air-conditioning system.  They have installed the system on vehicles for trial this summer and are analysing the operational data collected for further improvement.  Our replies to the questions are set out below -

(a) Government has been implementing various green measures in the Government vehicle fleet, e.g. giving priority to procuring environment-friendly vehicles such as electric vehicles when existing vehicles are due for replacement. We welcome the application of renewable energy in the transportation. While the solar-powered air-conditioning system is still under trial, we will closely monitor the development and consider its applicability in the Government fleet.

(b) Government has set up a Pilot Green Transport Fund to provide subsidies for the public transport sector and goods vehicles owners to test out green and innovative transport technologies.  The Fund covers new vehicle types, emission reduction or fuel-saving devices that have yet to be widely adopted in Hong Kong. Public transport companies could apply for subsidy under the Fund for trial on the solar-powered air-conditioning system. The level of subsidy for retrofit devices amounts to 75% of their hardware and installation costs. Successful applicants will have to share the trial findings with other members of the transport trades.

(c) As the system is still under trial, it is premature to assess at this stage the potential cost implication on the public transport operators if such a system is installed on their vehicles.  

(d) We understand that the vehicle's air-conditioner is powered through solar panels and battery system installed in the vehicle. Separate charging facilities and infrastructure support are not required.

(e) Government has been promoting wider adoption of renewable energy in public and private sectors.  For instance, we have taken the lead to install photovoltaic (PVC) systems in Government buildings and public facilities.  One of the local power companies has also set up a PVC system at its power station to generate electricity of about 620 000 kWh every year. On the other hand, we have been promoting the use of green transportation technologies through various funding initiatives, pilot schemes and publicity programmes. We will closely monitor the development of the solar-powered air-conditioning system, and would promote wider adoption of relevant green transportation technologies through various channels.

Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Issued at HKT 13:00