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Future of transport

Hong Kong must redouble efforts to encourage use of electric car

Rules on recharging and parking spots must be backed by hefty fines for offenders driving petrol vehicles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 December, 2015, 1:36am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 December, 2015, 1:36am

If there is a prime example of anarchy in an otherwise lawful and orderly city, it has to be in car parking. Even laws and fines against illegal parking make little difference, as evidenced by the contempt for them and the inaction of police against elitist offenders. What can the government have been thinking when it tried to reserve public recharging parking spots for electric vehicles without making it illegal for petrol-car drivers to occupy them? As a result they have taken advantage, as shown by a South China Morning Post investigation on Hong Kong Island on a Friday afternoon. It found that at least two-thirds of public charging spots for electric vehicles in government car parks were occupied by petrol vehicles during non-peak hours, which is when they are supposed to be reserved for electric cars.

Misuse of these spaces is not to be compared with parking in spots for the handicapped without a permit, which can result in cars being clamped and fines being issued. But given the government’s support for cutting carbon emissions, there seems no good reason why misuse of charging spaces should not attract the same penalties. And while they are about it, officials should consider steep increases in fines. After all, misuse of the spaces negates a government initiative that is important to the quality of the air we breathe and to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

READ MORE: Two-thirds of public charging outlets in car parks taken up by petrol vehicles

City Hall car park staff say that even when traffic cones with “EV priority” signs are placed in front of some places with fast chargers, petrol-car drivers simply put them aside. “I can only tell them they shouldn’t or give out warning letters, because it’s not illegal”, one said. They should take a lead from commercial car parks, where EV owners say security guards enforce rules.

It may sound trivial to moan about parking, but it is really about getting priorities right. Electric cars are suited to Hong Kong’s limited driving distances, but still not well served with charging outlets. The government should be heartened that the demand for electric cars is gathering momentum, with about 1,400 taking to the roads in the last five months, bringing the total to about 3,500.