Rules eased to encourage switch to electric vehicles

January 29, 2019 16:09
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has acknowledged the need for more charging stations for electric vehicles. Photo: Bloomberg/HKEJ

The government has relaxed the criteria for private car owners to participate in a scheme aimed at encouraging them to switch to electric vehicles (EVs).

Under the new rules for the "One-for-One Replacement" scheme, which took effect on Monday, applicants are now only required to have been the registered owner of an old car for 18 months or more, instead of three years or more as originally set. 

Also, an old car only needs to have been licensed for at least 10 months within 12 months before its de-registration. The original rule required at least 20 months within the 24 months immediately before its de-registration. 

The tax concessions offered under the scheme, which will last until March 31, 2021, remain unchanged, with the upper limit still at HK$250,000.

The government relaxed the rules after the scheme, rolled out on Feb. 28, 2018, was criticized for having too many requirements and rigid conditions.

During a meeting of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Environmental Affairs on Monday, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing told lawmakers that promoting the adoption of EVs has been a major focus of the government, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Aside from waiving the first registration tax in full during the period of the replacement scheme, the government will review the existing Pilot Green Transport Fund to strengthen efforts to promote the use of EVs, Wong said, adding that it is hoped the review process can be completed by the end of this year.

The government hopes that scheme will encourage car owners to replace their vehicles with EVs, which are far more environment-friendly than conventional vehicles. The government estimates that by 2020, one in three cars running in Hong Kong will be an electric vehicle.\

Based on documents submitted to the Legco by authorities, the number of private EVs registered for the first time between March and December last year was 454, of which 321 were based on the scheme, or 32 a month on average.

Civic Party Lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong said 4,700 EVs sold in Hong Kong qualified for the scheme but only 300, or less than 7 percent, benefited from the scheme.

Chan urged the government to review the effectiveness of the scheme and improve existing arrangements for support facilities, noting that there are not enough charging stations and some private estates objected to the installation of charging devices.

While acknowledging the need for more charging stations, Wong said he is confident that the number of EVs will continue to increase because more and more models will be offered in the market in the coming years.

The environment chief also promised to adopt multiple measures, including cooperating with property management companies and power companies to study whether a housing estate can increase power supply and save electricity bills at the same time.

A car owner who has driving experience of more than 20 years said switching to an EV is not attractive to him not only because such a vehicle is too expensive but also because of the additional expense resulting from the limited life of the EV battery.

Thomas Kwan Cheuk-ming, chairman of Electrify Hong Kong, a local EV group, said the revision of the scheme will not help much, stressing the biggest problem lies in lack of sufficient charging points.

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