The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) announced recently that the sole supplier of Hong Kong’s LPG light buses will cease producing the vehicles in 2021, and as such, Euro VI diesel light buses will be introduced in their stead.
A local environmental group has slammed the EPD, saying its decision is likely to exacerbate roadside air pollution in Hong Kong.
Many are also worried that the more costly diesel may result in minibuses hiking their fares.
Responding to such concerns, the government noted that the amount of pollutants emitted by Euro VI diesel minibuses is 50 to 80 percent less than that of the Euro V model. Still, that can hardly compare with the zero emissions of particulates of LPG light buses.
Apart from the fact that LPG light buses will no longer be produced from 2021, there are still 677 registered Euro IV diesel light buses in service across Hong Kong.
Yet as of March 31, 2018, an experiment showed that only one minibus operating in the city was able to meet the Euro VI emissions standard. This raises the question of whether the government is sufficiently confident there will be enough supply of Euro VI light buses for the local industry so as to convince fleet owners to switch to the new Euro VI model.
And since the technology of electric light buses is still far from mature at this point, not to mention their lack of operational effectiveness and the acute shortage of charging facilities in the city, one may doubt if electric minibuses can efficiently replace the LPG minibuses in the short run.
In my opinion, the main hurdles in promoting electric commercial vehicles in Hong Kong are not only the lack of capital within the local transport industry, but also, perhaps more crucially, a serious shortage in “software” support such as technology, charging facilities and battery recycling.
That probably explains why the transport sector has remained lukewarm towards electric vehicles over the years.
As such, I believe the government should assume a more proactive role in facilitating communication and cooperation among automakers, the auto repairs industry and transport service operators in order to allow them to jointly study and formulate solutions to the technical issues facing electric cars, and to enhance the relevant technological development in the long run.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 11
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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