LCQ21: Promoting green transport

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (April 20):


     Exhaust emission from vehicles is one of the major sources of air pollution in Hong Kong. In March 2011, the Government allocated $300 million to set up a Pilot Green Transport Fund (PGTF) to fund the testing of related green and innovative technologies by the public and goods transport sectors so as to improve air quality. However, some environmentalists have pointed out that the Government currently does not have a comprehensive plan for developing green transport. They have also pointed out that quite a number of advanced countries in Europe and the United States as well as Mainland China have been proactively promoting green transport and, therefore, the Government should catch up with them. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows, among the beneficiary organisations funded under the PGTF to purchase vehicles using green transport technologies, the number of organisations which have chosen this type of vehicles when purchasing new vehicles after the completion of the two-year trial period; if none of these organisations have done so, whether it has looked into the reasons for that;

(2) given that the Government proposed in 2010 the target of "30 per cent of the private cars in Hong Kong (being) electric or hybrid vehicles by 2020", how far away from the target the current situation is; whether the authorities have assessed the prospect of achieving the target and what new measures they will take to achieve the target;

(3) given that the Government amended in June 2011 the planning guidelines for new buildings to recommend that 30 per cent of private car parking spaces in a new building be installed with general electric vehicle chargers, whether it knows, among those car parks in private residential buildings which were completed before the planning guidelines were so amended, the number of car parks which are currently installed with such charging facilities;

(4) given that the "SmartBike" service was launched in 2014 as a trial programme by the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals BiciLine Cycling Eco-Tourism Social Enterprise to encourage better use of bicycles by the public, whether the authorities will allocate land to set up more bike rental points and extend the programme to other districts; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) whether it has plans to step up publicity and public educational efforts to promote public awareness of the benefits that a green transport system will bring to public health and economic development, thereby garnering public support for the development of such a system; if it does, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether the Government has provided incentives to encourage active public engagement in the development of such a system; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government is committed to developing green transport. Our efforts include implementing the transport policy of having railways as the backbone of public transport, enhancing the franchised bus network, fostering a "bicycle-friendly" environment in new towns and new development areas, setting up the Pilot Green Transport Fund (PGTF) and carrying out various measures to promote the wider use of electric vehicles (EV).

     As the technology of EV is still under development, it will take some time before the technology can be put into full scale application. The Government has launched a series of funding schemes and facilitation measures to encourage the transport sector and the pubic to use different types of EV.

     My specific replies to the questions raised by the Hon Chan Hak-kan are as follows:

(1) To encourage the transport sector to try out green innovative transport technologies, the Government set up in March 2011 the $300 million PGTF to subsidise the public transport sector and non-profit organisations to try out these technologies. As at the end of February 2016, the PGTF approved 87 trials with a total subsidy of $88 million. The trials included 67 commercial EV (taxis, light buses, coaches and goods vehicles), 63 commercial hybrid vehicles (goods vehicles and light buses), one solar air-conditioning system, four electric inverter air-conditioning systems and, for an in-use ferry, the installation of a diesel-electric propulsion system in replacement of the old one and the addition of a seawater scrubber. Among them, 21 trials have been completed. Apart from uploading the trial reports to the website of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) for public reference, we have also organised experience sharing sessions to share with the public transport sector on the trial results of electric vans, electric coaches and hybrid goods vehicles so as to promote and publicise green transport. The PGTF has attracted a wide range of businesses to try out new green transport technologies. The applicants include operators from the courier and logistics services, construction sector, passenger services, beverage delivery sector, supermarket trade, universities and schools, taxi business, etc.

     Recipients of the PGTF have continued to use the subsided vehicles after completion of their two-year trial. While we do not have information on whether the recipients have purchased additional green vehicles after completing the two-year trial, we plan to conduct a relevant follow-up survey.

(2) When the Government reviewed Hong Kong's climate change strategy and action agenda in 2008, a consultant who had been engaged to conduct the study had assessed the progress of introducing EV and other low emission vehicles, as well as their impacts on improving air quality, while the technology was still in the developing stage. In this connection, the consultant had assessed the ratio of EV and other types of vehicles in future and the information had been publicised in the public consultation document. On the other hand, Hong Kong is a free market. The Government's policy on promoting EV is to encourage more EV models to be supplied in the local market, arose the public's awareness on EV and enhance the supporting facilities. The Government has not set targets for each type of vehicles. In fact, the public will consider using EV or hybrid vehicles, having regard to their technology development (including vehicle performance, durability, maintenance and repair requirements, daily operation requirements, vehicle price, etc) and the availability of suitable models in the market.

     Hong Kong is a small place. The daily travelling distance of private cars is normally tens of kilometres and so it is suitable to use EV. As EV have no tailpipe emissions and are efficient in converting energy from the grid to power, the replacement of conventional vehicles with EV can help improve roadside air quality. The Government has been actively promoting the use of EV through various measures such as waiving first registration tax for EV, working with the private sector to expand the EV charging network and encouraging vehicle suppliers to introduce more suitable EV models into Hong Kong.

     As at the end of this March, there were 4 753 registered electric private cars, with a nearly 80-fold increase when comparing with 60 in 2010. With the advance in EV technology, we believe that the use of EV will become more popular in future.

(3) In June 2011, the Government revised the planning guidelines for new buildings which recommended that 30 per cent of private car parking spaces in a new building be installed with EV charging facilities. For those car parks in private residential buildings that were completed before the planning guidelines were so revised, we have no information on the number of car parks that are currently installed with such charging facilities and the details of such properties.

     To facilitate owners of electric private cars to install charging facilities in their parking spaces, the two power companies introduced a one-stop service last year to provide dedicated support to those owners interested. The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department has established a dedicated team and a hotline (Tel: 3757 6222) to provide relevant information and technical support for those who intend to install charging facilities. It has also issued guidelines on the arrangements and technical requirements for setting up EV charging facilities. We also note that there are companies in the market that provide one-stop service, including installation of charging facilities and provision of charging service, for those private housing estates that require such service.

     In addition, starting form April 2011, the Government has been encouraging developers to put in place basic infrastructure for EV charging facilities (including adequate power supply and electrical wiring and ducts) in car parks of new buildings, with a view to facilitating installation of EV chargers in future having regard to the needs of carpark users. Such policy is implemented through granting concessions on Gross Floor Areas for car parks in new buildings. From April 2011 to December 2015, nearly 80 per cent of car parking spaces under newly approved development plans have been equipped with the infrastructure for installation of EV charging facilities.

(4) According to the Transport and Housing Bureau, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) has launched a pilot self-service bicycle rental scheme at the waterfront promenade of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD), with two bicycle stations set up for public use. The WKCDA will continue to assess and improve the service before the commissioning of the WKCD Park.

     The Government will also continue to foster a "bicycle-friendly" environment where road safety and conditions permit, especially in new towns and new development areas, so as to promote cycling as a green mode for short-distance commuting and to reduce the use of mechanised means of transport.

(5) The Government has been promoting green living and driving behavioural changes in our community through government websites and announcements of public interest. Members of the public are encouraged to use public transport more, walk more and drive less to ease traffic congestion and hence improve roadside air quality and reduce carbon emissions. Moreover, the EPD is arranging for the production of a new series of videos to raise public awareness of the close relationship between air quality and public health. The use of EV and other green transport technologies is also promoted in the videos.

     To encourage the transport sector and transport product suppliers to proactively participate in the testing of green and innovative transport technologies, the EPD has held a number of briefings to explain to members of various trades the application criteria and procedures for the PGTF. A hotline has also been set up to answer enquiries from the trades. In addition, we have arranged for EV suppliers to introduce their products to the trades so that those interested may have trial rides. We will continue to step up our publicity and promotion efforts, such as introducing the PGTF and EV to the transport sector and the public during the international conference on vehicle emission control technology to be held in Hong Kong at the end of this year.

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:18