OneCHARGE aims to help boost HK's EV-related infrastructure

August 27, 2018 13:43
Lucas Kwan, founder of smart electric vehicle charging platform OneCHARGE, plans to install more chargers in shopping malls and other buildings in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

OneCHARGE Solutions, a Hong Kong-based startup founded in 2017, is gaining traction as it offers electric vehicle (EV) chargers along with a mobile application (app), allowing its customers to access the real-time charger status.

Established by Lucas Kwan and Cyrus Chow, the company has developed electric vehicle chargers that are compatible with different brands of EVs and their charging standards.

The first batch of its chargers has been installed in the car park in Hong Kong Cyberport, with two of those tentatively scheduled to open next month.

EV owners using the OneCHARGE chargers will have to register with the OneCHARGE mobile app, connect the electric car with the cable, then scan a QR code that appears on the screen of the charger with the app, and press the button to start charging.

The maximum output power of the charger is 21 kilowatts (kW), and the EV can run for 100 kilometers after charging for one hour. If it is to be fully charged from zero percent, it usually takes 3 to 4 hours, depending on the capacity of the rechargeable battery in the vehicle.

OneCHARGE’s mobile app allows customers to find the nearest EV chargers, know their charging status and pay for the service via the app. When the charging is about to finish, the vehicle owner will receive a notification from the app to pick up the car.

The customer can pay the charging fee via Apple Pay, Google Pay or credit card. Alipay, TNG Wallet, and other e-wallets will likely be accepted as payment options in the future.

In the initial stage of the launch, about HK$33 in fee will be charged on an hourly basis for the charging service.

Hong Kong has been pushing "green traffic" in recent years, with EVs being one of the focus areas in the promotion initiatives, as replacing conventional vehicles with EVs is expected to help improve roadside air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, with the steady growth in the number of EVs, supporting facilities such as chargers have not kept pace, and the lack of infrastructure has been seen as the biggest stumbling block to faster uptake of EVs in the city.

According to the statistics of the Environmental Protection Department and the Transport Department, as of the end of January this year, there were 10,453 private electric vehicles in Hong Kong (excluding light goods vehicles and government vehicles).

However, as of the end of last month, there were only 1,970 electric vehicle charging stations available to the public in the city. That makes for an average of one charger for five EVs in the city.

CLP Holdings (00002.HK) and Hong Kong Electric (02638.HK), Hong Kong's two power utilities, as well some other commercial players have been seeking to aggressive installing EV charging stations in various districts in the city. Tesla, the top-selling EV brand, has, meanwhile, installed “superchargers”, or fast-charging stations, in the parking lots of some large shopping malls.

As for OneCHARGE, the team plans to add one or two charging stations in Hong Kong by the end of this year, but they admit that it has been a challenge for them to persuade mall owners to install OneCHARGE’s equipment in the parking lots.

Kwan told the Hong Kong Economic Journal in the interview that there are quite a few issues that need to be addressed before their firm can get its chargers installed in commercial parking lots in a significant way.

"As for the installation process, if there is insufficient redundant power in the location, it is necessary to draw power from the main power line, and the construction work can only be done when the whole building is powered off, which we need to negotiate with the building’s management office," Kwan said.

The entrepreneur said he prefers to install chargers deep inside the carpark. However, that could come with its own problem. 

"If the location is too good, it will be occupied by conventional cars,” noted Kwan. But if the charger is located in a hidden corner of the parking lot, wireless signals in the location may be weak, which may prevent the user from connecting the charger with the OneCHARGE app.

"We need to work on the mobile network connection, and in some cases, we may have to install a WiFi hotspot near our charger,” said Kwan.

OneCHARGE has a set a long-term goal of serving as a management platform to help property owners resolve the problems of EV charging facilities, offering complete solutions on charging facilities, operations and management support, among other things.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 27

Translation by Ben Ng

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal