HK firm gets a charge from electric vehicles

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 2008, 12:00am

A global trend towards green living and government measures to reduce carbon emissions have given a local automotive company an edge in developing a new breed of electric cars for overseas markets.

'Demand for electric vehicles has been growing all over the world in the past three years due to surging petrol prices,' said Chung Sin-ling, general manager of EuAuto Technology, which has developed a two-seater electric micro car model called MyCar.

Driving a car that runs on petrol for the same distance was three times more costly than an electric vehicle in Europe, North America and China, said Ms Chung, who saw great potential for the compact electric car market in Europe, where consumers viewed protecting the environment a way of life rather than a trend.

In Europe, the operation of the electric micro car, also called a quadric cycle, is governed by rules that regulate weight, speed limit and places where it can be used. The weight of the electric micro car cannot exceed 350kg and the speed limit is 45km/h.

The micro car is popular because of its low running costs, zero carbon emissions and the convenience of short-distance travel.

Relaxed requirements in Europe for micro car drivers have also boosted vehicle sales. Drivers of an electric car are not required to have a full driving licence in towns and small cities in Europe.

'Teenage drivers between 14 and 18 can drive the car [in some countries] if they have passed a written test and understand the road signs and regulations,' she said.

Ms Chung also believed that with measures and environmentally conscious initiatives introduced by governments across Europe to encourage the use of electric vehicles, the market for the micro car would grow rapidly.

'In some cities including London, the congestion fee is waived for electric vehicles and the driver can enjoy free parking in certain city areas, together with tax rebates and a reduced licence fee,' she said.

EuAuto Technology has been working with the electrical and electronic engineering department of Polytechnic University since 2003 to develop a prototype.

'We want to start a car business for a niche market and use production facilities in China,' Ms Chung said.

Now at its final stage of R&D, with car components and parts fully compliant with European standards and the prototype having passed all safety testing, the company is transferring its research results to engineering drawings and will begin small-scale production later this year at its facility in Shenzhen.

Finding the right automotive engineers in Hong Kong is a major challenge for the fledging company.

'Hong Kong doesn't have a vehicle industry. We need engineers who understand the fundamental design, European standards, and mechanical and electrical requirements and regulations,' Ms Chung said.

EuAuto Technology draws on the expertise of its R&D team from different countries and trains up local engineers.

'We have an engineering consultant from Italy and a designer from France, together with our staff from Hong Kong, Britain, the Philippines and the mainland.

'This knowledge pool can help us begin production with confidence,' Ms Chung said.