Wednesday, February 21, 2018

[EJinisght] Time to drastically review our policy on electric cars

In April 2017, the Hong Kong government scrapped the First Registration Tax concessions for electric vehicles. Since then, sales of electric cars in the city have plummeted dramatically.

As we can see from the figures provided by the Transport Department, between April and December in 2016, a total of 2,078 new electric vehicles were registered with the government in our city. However, after the tax exemption was axed, only 99 electric cars were registered during the same period of time in 2017.

Meanwhile, the numbers of newly registered gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles picked up significantly over the past year, exacerbating the city's air pollution problem.

Major economies like France, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Germany, India, Norway and the Netherlands have all jumped on the bandwagon of promoting zero-emission cars and have proposed solid timetables towards banning vehicles powered by fossil fuel from their roads.

As such, I really find it mind-boggling as to why the Hong Kong government is swimming against the global tide when it comes to reducing car emissions.

In the meantime, our government has also remained very sluggish in promoting electric commercial vehicles in Hong Kong over the years.

As a result, we are way behind schedule in achieving our long-term goals of striving for zero emissions and improving air quality on our roads.

Back in 2010, the Environmental Protection Department vowed operation of buses having zero emissions as its ultimate goal. In 2011, the department allocated HK$300 million to set up the Pilot Green Transport Fund to support testing of green and innovative technologies which are applicable to the public transport sector and goods vehicles.

Unfortunately, the scheme has turned out to be just a damp squib and has delivered virtually zero effect over the years.

Worse still, the administration has made very little progress in increasing the numbers of charging points for electric cars across the territory in recent years.

Given this situation, I sincerely hope the government will keep an open mind with regard to new-energy vehicles promotion and restore tax exemption for certain electric cars in the upcoming financial year.

The administration can also be more proactive and take other measures, like stepping up investment in public charging facilities, to promote the popularity of electric cars in the city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 6 2018

Translation by Alan Lee


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