Electric vehicles harm the environment and don’t deserve a tax discount

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 9:49pm

Critics and environmentalists have missed an important angle in the government’s decision to cap the tax discount on electric vehicles at HK$97,500.

Somewhere lost in the debate is the reality that these cars use energy that is ultimately produced by burning fossil fuels. And over half of Hong Kong’s electricity is generated by burning dirty coal. So much for these cars being good for the environment.

Pity the poor owners of electric vehicles here. Now they will have to pay close to full price for these luxurious cars, although the government still provides them with free power at over 1,400 charging stations. But what really rankles are the frequent complaints one hears from electric-car owners about the lack of charging stations. Imagine that, not only do they get free fuel, but they feel entitled to have chargers at their beck and call because of their fictional narrative about being eco-minded.

What is most disappointing, however, is the reaction from environmentalists who have criticised the government for the move. Have they forgotten that manufacturing the steel and other parts of a car creates a giant carbon footprint? And the bigger the car, the more carbon is released into the atmosphere.

Current estimates show that even before driving a new car off the lot, it represents up to 35 tonnes of carbon footprint, which is about seven-year’s-worth of the environmental impact of the average Hong Kong citizen. And we have not even considered the rare metals scattered throughout these cars in batteries, magnets and headlights that were sourced in mines once covered by forests. Rare metals are, of course, rare, which means a lot of forests need to be uncovered to gather them in sufficient quantities.

In fact, our government made a very environmentally sound decision in reducing the tax discount.

However, three more actions remain for the administration if it is really serious about making our movements around the city eco-friendly:

Reduce the electric vehicle discount to zero;

Start charging owners for electricity at the charging stations; and,

Use all the savings and new revenue from points one and two to reduce fares on the low-carbon-footprint MTR.

Paul Stapleton, Ma On Shan