LCQ11: Promoting use of electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles
It has been reported that since a major taxi manufacturer will cease the production of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) taxis shortly, taxi import agents are now planning to introduce LPG-electric hybrid taxis. On the other hand, it is learnt that the London authorities have introduced petrol-electric hybrid taxis and have proceeded with the provision of charging facilities at some lampposts for charging electric vehicles (EVs). On promoting the use of electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows how the hybrid taxis planned to be introduced by the taxi trade compare with the ones in London in terms of design, function, drive mode, etc.;
(2) of the respective current numbers of registered electric taxis and hybrid taxis;
(3) whether it has plans to encourage taxi, minibus and bus service operators to switch to EVs or hybrid vehicles;
(4) of the respective current numbers of the various types of EVs in the government fleet; and
(5) as the Chief Executive indicated in the Policy Address she delivered in October last year that a pilot Multi-functional Smart Lampposts scheme would be launched at selected urban locations, whether the Government has assessed if the practice of the London authorities to provide charging facilities for EVs at lampposts is feasible in Hong Kong; if it has assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, of the implementation timetable and the division of work among the various government departments; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, the reasons for that?
Commercial vehicles (CVs) account for 95 per cent of the vehicular emissions of respiratory suspended particles (RSP) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), both major air pollutants. To improve roadside air quality, the Government has been implementing measures targeting mainly CVs to reduce vehicular emissions. Such emission reduction measures include phasing out old diesel CVs, strengthening the emission control of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and petrol vehicles, retrofitting franchised buses of earlier models with emission reduction devices, etc. With these measures in place, roadside concentrations of major air pollutants dropped by around 30 per cent over the past five years.
As electric vehicles (EVs) have no tailpipe emissions, replacing conventional fuel vehicles, especially CVs, with EVs will help improve roadside air quality. To promote the use of electric CVs (e-CVs), the Government has exempted the first registration tax (FRT) in full for e-CVs since 1994, and also set up the $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund (PGTF) in 2011 to encourage relevant transport sectors (such as operators of taxis, light buses and non-franchised buses) to try out green innovative transport technologies including e-CVs.
As at the end of January 2018, the PGTF approved 118 trials, amounting to some $131 million, and included 81 e-CVs (including single-deck buses, light buses, taxis and goods vehicles) and 85 hybrid CVs (including single-deck buses, light buses and goods vehicles).
(1) The Transport Department is processing an application for vehicle type approval of a LPG-electric hybrid taxi. As the vehicle type approval is still in progress, technical specifications of the vehicle concerned cannot be disclosed at this stage. According to our understanding, the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid taxis used in London of the United Kingdom are not only fuelled by petrol but are also installed with batteries that can be recharged by using external chargers, thereby enabling the taxis to run on electricity for short journeys. The LPG-electric hybrid taxis being introduced to Hong Kong are fuelled solely by LPG with no capacity for external charging.
(2) There are currently one licensed electric taxi and three licensed hybrid taxis in Hong Kong.
(3) As abovementioned, to encourage operators of CVs including taxis, light buses and buses to switch to EVs, the Government has waived the FRT in full for e-CVs and has also set up the PGTF to encourage the relevant sectors to try out green innovative transport technologies. However, findings of the trials have revealed various technical constraints on the batteries of e-CVs. The hilly terrain in Hong Kong and the need to have air-conditioning during summer also require batteries of e-CVs to have a higher driving range. E-CVs are yet to be able to cope with the normal operational needs of taxis and light buses.
The Government is fully subsidising the franchised bus companies to purchase 36 single-deck electric buses for trial on a number of routes to assess their operational efficiency and performance under the local conditions. Currently, 22 battery-electric buses and two supercapacitor buses have commenced operation. It is expected that most of the remaining electric buses will progressively commence operation within this year. If the trials are successful, the Government will encourage the franchised bus companies to use electric buses on a larger scale, taking into account affordability of the bus companies and passengers.
As for hybrid vehicles, the hybrid light buses tried out under the PGTF have so far incurred fuel expense savings of only 4 per cent or less as compared with their conventional counterparts. Besides, the Government has fully subsidised the franchised bus companies to purchase six double-deck hybrid buses for trials, yet their performance was only comparable to conventional diesel buses, showing no significant advantages. The Government will continue to encourage vehicle suppliers to introduce e-CVs and hybrid CVs suitable for use by the local transport sectors, and invite the sectors to apply for trials of green innovative transport technologies under the PGTF.
(4) Figures on government EVs by vehicle type as at the end of December 2017 are at the Annex.
(5) The Government plans to launch the pilot Multi-functional Smart Lampposts scheme in 2019 to collect various real-time city data at selected urban locations to enhance city and traffic management, and at the same time provide data network and digital facilities. The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, the Highways Department and other relevant departments have formed an inter-departmental task force to explore the facilities and applications that can be made available at Smart Lampposts.
Moreover, the Environmental Protection Department is conducting a pilot scheme at four government open car parks (located at the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department Headquarters, Hong Kong Wetland Park, Wai Tsuen Sports Centre and Shek Kip Mei Park) managed by contractors, where a total of 11 outdoor medium chargers have been installed to assess their reliability. We will review the findings of the pilot scheme in 2018 to consider whether more outdoor chargers can be installed in other government premises.
In the light of the rapid changes in the usage of EVs, the Government is reviewing various policies and measures on promoting the use of EVs. Our efforts include exploring ways to encourage installation of charging facilities to tie in with the usage of EVs.
Ends/Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Issued at HKT 15:05
Issued at HKT 15:05