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Transport and logistics

Put electric vehicle goal back on track

The government’s aim of having 30 per cent of the city’s private cars made up of electric or hybrid ones by 2020 is way off target. The Ombudsman’s upcoming probe is a chance to get to the crux of the matter and point to ways of improvement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 1:53am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 1:53am

Levelling criticism ahead of an investigation does not seem fair, except when there is evidence to apportion blame and responsibility. A case in point is the Ombudsman’s announcement of an upcoming probe into the government’s goal of having 30 per cent of the city’s private cars made up of electric or hybrid ones by 2020. The target is lagging so far behind that a damning verdict would seem inevitable.

It is a shame that fewer than 2 per cent of the city’s vehicles are battery-powered. The number has jumped nearly 150 times to 10,588 in six years, thanks to the tax concessions rolled out by the government and growing acceptance by drivers. But the increase was not matched by a corresponding expansion in power facilities. According to Ombudsman’s figures, the number of recharging ports only rose from 872 to 1,518 during the period. Parked non-electric vehicles commonly take up spaces with power docks.

Why Hong Kong should think twice about more electric vehicle recharging facilities

The watchdog rightly hit out at the Environment Bureau when launching the investigation. It said the number of recharging facilities were increasing at a much slower pace than that of the vehicles. More are obviously needed if the government’s goal of increasing the popularity of electric vehicles is to be realised. The market cannot be expected to adapt on its own.

The value of such cars in reducing roadside air pollution has long been recognised. To encourage their wider use, the government in the 1990s waived the first registration tax and then established a high-level steering committee. But the tax break was not extended this year, raising uncertainties.

This appears like back-pedalling at a time when the world is gearing up towards an all-electric transport environment. Norway and the Netherlands aim to ban sales of fossil fuel cars by 2025, while Britain and France want to prohibit new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. China is also working on a timetable to stop the production and sale of polluting vehicles. The investigation should get to the crux of the matter and point to ways of improvement. Authorities have pledged to cooperate, which can hopefully renew the drive towards an electric vehicle future for Hong Kong.