Date
25 May 2018
Hong Kong government's reduced support for electric vehicle purchases is surprising, given the still-high pollution levels in the city, say critics. Photo: China Daily
Hong Kong government's reduced support for electric vehicle purchases is surprising, given the still-high pollution levels in the city, say critics. Photo: China Daily

HK gets it wrong by backpedalling on support for electric cars

Hong Kong’s former leader Leung Chun-ying said in his policy address in 2014 that the government would install 100 medium-speed public chargers in each district for promoting the use of electric vehicles, in order to reduce air pollution.

There were also hints that tax incentives for electric vehicle purchases would be pegged at a substantially high level.

However, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in his budget speech in February last year that tax breaks for electric cars would be capped at HK$97,500.

The lower-than-expected subsidy seems to have taken into account the overall growth of the city’s private car fleet in recent years and the increasing acceptance of electric cars by drivers.

One might think the city has already made big achievement in improving air quality by promoting use of electric cars. However, it is far from the truth. To give one fact, the number of days Hong Kong witnessed high-pollution last year was up 60-70 percent compared to the year before.

After the tax exemption cut, the city’s electric vehicle sales volume has plunged, while sales volume of fuel-driven vehicles kept rising.

Promoting electric vehicles is a big trend worldwide. UK will ban all petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2040 and every car and van on Britain’s roads will be required to have zero emissions by 2050. France will also halt sales of all gas and diesel vehicles by 2040. And India vows to boost electric car sales to a market-dominant level by 2030.

Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Netherland, Portugal, Spain, Japan and South Korea all have set out similar goals. Mainland China and US also have been mulling over their own plans to promote sales of electric vehicles.

Yet, the Hong Kong government has instead reduced its support for electric vehicles.

Tesla founder Elon Musk was invited by Hong Kong’s former top leader Leung to deliver a speech at the Government House when the entrepreneur made a trip to the city in early 2016. Leung said he hoped young Hongkongers will be inspired by the success story of Musk.

Ironically, just one year later, the government launched a tax policy that provided no big encouragement to electric car buyers.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 23

Translation by Julie Zhu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RC

Hong Kong Information Technology Federation honorary chairman

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