22 April 2019
This GMI minibus is said to consume 50 percent less oil and produce 70 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than one powered by liquefied petroleum gas or diesel. Photo: GMI
This GMI minibus is said to consume 50 percent less oil and produce 70 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than one powered by liquefied petroleum gas or diesel. Photo: GMI

INTERVIEW: GMI goes head to head with BYD on green vehicles

Green Mobility Innovations Ltd. (GMI), a Hong Kong electric-car maker, aims to boost its market share in the city by adopting the more mature hybrid car technology to compete with pure-electric car manufacturers such as BYD Co. Ltd. (01211.HK), a top company official said.

“We are confident in our products. We’re using a technology that is comparatively more advanced and reliable than those in mainland China,” GMI managing director Lo Chee-pui told the Hong Kong Economic Journal’s EJ Insight in an interview.

Established in 2010, GMI, which currently has 30 staff, launched the trial of 12 hybrid minibuses in Hong Kong on Sept. 30. The vehicles, the result of three years of research and development, replace the diesel engine with a dual dynamo comprising a battery and a smaller diesel engine that can recharge the battery whenever it runs low.

Lo said the vehicles consume half less oil and produce 70 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than those powered by liquefied petroleum gas or diesel. A GMI minibus costs HK$1.33 million (US$170,513), compared with about HK$600,000 for the diesel version. Three big minibus operators acquired the 12 GMI units with the price difference subsidized by the government.

Even without the subsidy, minibus operators can recover the additional cost within 30 months through fuel savings, Lo said.

Besides light buses, the company is also producing environment-friendly coaches for tour operators and single-deck buses.

Fierce HK rivalry

Key rival BYD, backed by veteran investor Warren Buffett, appears to be ahead of GMI in the race to supply Hong Kong with green public vehicles.

In May, the Shenzhen-based carmaker launched the trial of electric taxis, known as e6, in Hong Kong. And just last month, its green bus model K9, purchased by Kowloon Motor Bus Co. Ltd. (KMB), also started plying the city streets on a trial basis. The two pure-electric models have to be recharged at BYD charging stations across the city.

Vivien Chan, KMB’s corporate affairs director, was quoted as saying in a Hong Kong Economic Journal report on Oct. 11 that the company plans to acquire 10 electric buses, eight super capacitor buses and three hybrid buses under the government’s subsidy scheme. In March 2011, Hong Kong government set up a Pilot Green Transport Fund with HK$180 million. 

Lo said his company would be trying to sell its vehicles to KMB. Still, he remained confident GMI’s vehicles would outperform other players and go into mass production soon, especially now that GMI has formed a close partnership with German engineering and electronics giant Siemens AG, he said.

On June 18, a BYD charging box at a carpark in Oi Man Estate in central Kowloon melted as a result of overheating, which was blamed on poor connection to the power supply. BYD will ensure the safety standard of the charging devices by conducting regular checks, Liu Xueliang {劉學亮}, general manager of BYD Asia Pacific sales, told EJ Insight in a previous interview.

‘No’ to China market

The mainland’s green public vehicle market looks set for take-off after the central government pledged to curb gas emission and fight air pollution.

But Lo said the company would not seek to enter the China market as it has a complicated condition that requires a lot of human connections and does not have enough trademark protection. GMI is afraid that some Chinese companies may copy its products and launch theirs at a very competitive price, he said.

So at least in the short term, GMI will focus on the Hong Kong market, which he believes will continue to gain support from the government’s push to lower carbon emission.

Over the medium term, it will seek to enter some Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, and will go to some South American countries in the long run. “Green vehicle is a mega-trend,” he said.

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]


EJ Insight reporter

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