LCQ4: Promoting use of new energy commercial vehicles
Information of the Environmental Protection Department shows that although commercial vehicles (including trucks, buses, light buses and taxis) account for only about 20 per cent of the total number of vehicles in Hong Kong, their nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions account for more than 90 per cent of the total NOx emissions of all vehicles in Hong Kong. There are views that the use of new energy commercial vehicles can improve roadside air quality. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers and percentages of new energy vehicles in the various types of registered commercial vehicles at present;
(2) whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the various incentive measures and trial schemes relating to the promotion of the use of new energy commercial vehicles launched in the past three years, and whether it will introduce new measures and ancillary facilities to promote the popularisation of new energy commercial vehicles; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether the Government has studied the establishment of a legal framework for the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Government announced last year the Hong Kong Roadmap on Popularisation of Electric Vehicles, the Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong 2035 and Hong Kong's Climate Action Plan 2050, setting out the long-term policy objectives and plans to promote green transport. Among them, the way to promote transition of commercial vehicles (CVs) to new energy vehicles with zero emissions is vitally important to reduce roadside air pollutant emissions and attain the target of carbon neutrality in transport sector before 2050.
In terms of new energy and electric commercial vehicle (e-CV) technologies, the adoption of single-deck electric buses (e-buses) and taxis in overseas and the Mainland is gradually increasing, while the technologies for goods vehicles are still under development. Hong Kong is a relatively small market with right-hand drive vehicles and has a unique and challenging operating environment, including majority of buses are double-deck ones, requires air-conditioning in almost all seasons and has hilly terrains, high daily mileage, and high passenger loading. Therefore, it takes more time to identify vehicle models that are suitable for mass application in local business in promoting the local development of new energy and electric CVs. With a view to accelerating the adoption of electric and new energy CVs in Hong Kong, the Government has been proactively communicating and collaborating with the trade and car manufacturers. In this regard, the Government has set a target specifically for the transition of CVs to zero-carbon vehicles, which is to announce a roadmap for the promotion of electric public transport and e-CVs by 2025.
My reply to the question raised by the Hon Judy Chan is as follows:
(1) At present, new energy CVs are not commonly adopted in Hong Kong. According to the information provided by the Transport Department, as at the end of September 2022, there were a total of 3 844 registered new energy CVs (including hybrid vehicles) which include 358 goods vehicles, 68 buses, 33 light buses and 3 385 taxis, each accounting for 0.3 per cent, 0.5 per cent, 0.4 per cent and 18 per cent of the total number of vehicles in their respective classes.
(2) As regards the promotion of trials of various electric public transport and e-CVs, the Government has injected $180 million to subsidise franchised bus companies (FBCs) to purchase 36 single-deck e-buses for trial on a number of routes, with a view to assessing their operational performance and helping FBCs build up confidence and gain experience in using e-buses. Most of these single-deck e-buses continue to operate after trial and they have helped FBCs to understand the operation of e-buses and necessary support when a large number of e-buses to be adopted in the future, etc. With the experience gained, some FBCs have placed orders with vehicle manufacturers for single- and double-deck e-buses and announced their plans to introduce more single- and double-deck e-buses for daily services. As for public light buses, the Government is also making preparations to launch an $80 million pilot scheme on electric public light buses, which is planned to commence in 2023.
In addition, the Government is providing subsidies to the transport trade via the $1.1 billion New Energy Transport Fund for trials and applications of green innovative transport technologies, including various new energy CVs and vessels. Over the past three years, the Fund has approved 120 applications on e-CVs and electric vessels, putting a total of 163 electric light, medium and heavy goods vehicles, e-buses, electric taxis (e-taxis), electric tourist coaches and electric motorcycles, as well as three electric vessels, etc. on trial. To further promote green transport, the Chief Executive's 2022 Policy Address announced a wide range of measures. These include conducting trials for at least 180 e-CVs in the coming few years and announcing a roadmap for the promotion of electric public transport and e-CVs by 2025.
Generally speaking, most of the e-CVs under trial were found to be smooth, quiet and environmentally friendly, and in general posed no problem for drivers' operation while saving fuel costs. In view of this, the Government targets to introduce about 700 e-buses and about 3 000 e-taxis by end-2027. We will provide assistance to FBCs for the conversion of old diesel buses to e-buses, as well as the setup of charging facilities in new and existing bus depots. As for taxis, the Government will continue encouraging more electric vehicle suppliers to introduce e-taxi models suitable for use in Hong Kong, promoting trials of new generation e-taxis and replacement of old liquefied petroleum gas taxis with electric ones under the Fund. In parallel, we are stepping up efforts to set up an e-taxi charging network, including the installation of dedicated quick chargers for e-taxis on Lantau Island and in Sai Kung District by phases, which are expected to commence service progressively from mid-2023 onwards.
(3) There is a global drive to identify and develop different zero-carbon technologies in order to achieve the target of carbon neutrality. The mainstream view is that hydrogen fuel will be increasingly used in the future, and has the potential to become one of the key zero-carbon energy sources. Our country is also exploring and developing hydrogen fuel technology, including the use of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. To keep abreast of the developments of various zero-carbon technologies which allows more choices for Hong Kong in the future, the Environment and Ecology Bureau is leading an inter-departmental working group to progressively commence the trials of hydrogen fuel cell electric double-deck buses and heavy vehicles in 2023 with a view to assessing their operational performance under local circumstances. The Government will also conduct risk assessments on hydrogen refilling stations, the arrangements of hydrogen supply, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles on road, etc, as well as review relevant regulations, standards and technical guidelines, with a view to preparing for the establishment of a legal framework for the local use of hydrogen fuel.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:55
Issued at HKT 16:55