New start in quest to cool cars when the engine is off

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 January, 2010, 12:00am

Researchers behind a government-funded study into a power system for cars that provides temporary air conditioning when the engine is off have highlighted the difficulties they ran into.

Nevertheless, taxpayers will see another HK$3 million of their money spent on a separate look at the idea. And this time the technology being investigated is different.

The Innovation and Technology Commission received HK$2.5 million almost two years ago to look into the problem and found that, as well as having to add two extra batteries to the vehicle, each costing about HK$2,000. the vehicle's motor had to be altered - and all to offer merely 20 minutes of air conditioning.

Nevertheless, the Productivity Council received HK$3 million last May from the Environment and Conservation Fund, which is under the Environment Bureau, to study what it says is a different technology.

Similar to the ITC study, a core purpose of the council's study is to develop an alternative power system to supply the vehicle with air conditioning when the engine is off. But instead of tapping the existing air conditioning system in the vehicle - and having to modify the system to fit in the batteries - the council will now study the use of a different system altogether.

The council hopes to find a solution for the bureau, whose proposal to ban idling engines has faced strong opposition from the taxi industry. The trade said drivers' health would be at risk during the hot summer when they stay inside a vehicle without air conditioning.

'Air conditioning is the biggest problem for drivers in supporting the proposal to ban idling engines,' said the council's executive director Wilson Fung Wing-yip.

'We cannot just force the policy onto them, we have to give them a way out.'

The bureau planned to table the bill before the end of the year.

The council's principal consultant for environmental management Kenny Wong, who began the research about three months ago, expected it to bear results in a year.

Although aware of the ITC research, the council did not know the content of their study.

The Environment Protection Department, which is under the bureau, said the approval of the HK$3 million in funding was monitored by a separate team of officials.

ITC project's co-ordinator William Ting Wai-lam said no government officials approached him and his team about their findings after the latest grant to the council.