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LCQ17:Sound alerting systems of electric vehicles
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):


     In recent years, the Government has endeavoured to promote green transport, including the use of electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles (collectively referred to as environment-friendly vehicles), with a view to developing Hong Kong into a low-carbon city. Yet, the findings of some overseas studies have shown that as environment-friendly vehicles generate much less noise than conventional vehicles when travelling at low speeds (32 kilometres per hour or below), it happens quite often that road users can be alerted to such vehicles approaching by the noise generated by them only within a very close distance (3.3 metres), and this may make traffic accidents more prone to occur. In view of this, the relevant authorities of the European Union and the United States have passed laws to require that, from 2019 onward, newly-registered environment-friendly vehicles must be installed with engine sound simulation systems (ESSSs). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1)  of the number of environment-friendly vehicles registered in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by (i) category of vehicle, (ii) place of origin, and (iii) whether an ESSS had been installed;
(2)  whether the authorities will consider amending the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374, sub. leg. A) to stipulate, for newly-registered vehicles, (i) the minimum noise level when travelling or (ii) the installation of ESSSs, so as to protect the safety of road users (particularly the visually-impaired, the elderly, joggers wearing earphones and cyclists); if so, of the details; if not, the authorities' considerations; and
(3)  given the growing popularity of environment-friendly vehicles, whether the authorities will, prior to enacting legislation to require that such vehicles must be installed with ESSSs, step up publicity and public education efforts to remind motorists and road users to pay attention to road safety involving environment-friendly vehicles; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

     My consolidated reply to the Hon Kenneth Lau's question is as follows:
     A breakdown of the number of first registration of electric vehicles by vehicle class and place of origin in the past five years is at Annex. As regards hybrid vehicles, since they are counted towards the number of registered petrol or diesel vehicles according to the fuel used, the Transport Department (TD) does not have separate data. In addition, while individual manufacturers of electric vehicles have voluntarily installed artificial sound alerting systems on their electric vehicles, the TD does not have the concerned figures.
     One of the features of electric vehicles is that they are relatively quiet whilst in motion. This has given rise to concerns about the potential danger such vehicles may pose to some road users when travelling at low speeds, especially to those with special needs such as visually impaired persons and senior citizens. In this connection, the Government has on the one hand relayed the wishes of visually impaired persons to local suppliers of electric vehicles, requesting them to proactively introduce suitable sound alerting systems on their electric vehicle models to ensure the safety of road users. On the other hand, the Government is closely monitoring the development of relevant international standards.
     The United States of America will mandate the fitting of artificial sound alerting system on all new electric vehicles with effect from September 2019, and the European Union will mandate the fitting of such on all new electric vehicle models and newly manufactured electric vehicles (including those of existing models) with effect from July 2019 and July 2021 respectively. To cater for the development on this front, the TD will proactively consider introducing such requirement into the vehicle type approval process to ensure that electric vehicles meet the relevant international standards before they can be registered for sale in Hong Kong.
     Meanwhile, the Government and the Road Safety Council will continue to launch publicity and educational campaigns through various channels (e.g. announcements in the public interest on television and radio, the Road Safety Bulletin and other publications, etc.) to enhance and promote road safety. In the publicity and educational campaigns for 2017, motorists and road users will be reminded of the road safety issues concerning electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.
Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:45
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