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Electric cars are starting to charge ahead in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 January, 2016, 3:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:34pm

Fun and easy to drive, fuel efficient, impressive performance, available in luxury, family-friendly or sports models, and at the same time good for the environment, electric cars or EVs as they are frequently known are gaining popularity with the Hong Kong driving community.

While the figure might seem modest, electric vehicles now account for about 3 per cent of new vehicle registrations in Hong Kong, a higher percentage than many other developed automobile markets. A strong indication that interest is on the rise, according to EPD figures - as at end of December 2015, there are 4198 EVs for road use, up from less than 100 at the end of 2010. And with the government committed to keep the first registration tax waver in place, at least until 2017, EV manufacturers are ensuring a wider range of EV models are available.

‘’We have reached a chicken-and-egg situation, because there are enough EV’s using Hong Kong’s roads to stimulate interest in other potential buyers purchasing an EV,’’ says Stanley Mak, project manager, BMW Group Importer Office Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan who notes that Hong Kong is one of the fastest growing EV markets worldwide. However, Mak believes preferential policies and supporting measures, including first registration tax exemptions and free public charging facilities need to be sustained to encourage the use of more energy-saving and environmentally friendly electric vehicles. ‘’Think of it a bit like babysitting,’’ he says. ‘’Without support who knows if the baby will grow up to be healthy and successful?’’ Mak asks.

Another added incentive to encourage the use of EV’s, is the yearly road license fee is about one-tenth that of a fossil-fuel powered vehicle. Equally important in the vision to promote the wider adoption of EVs, there are now more than 1,200 free-to-use chargers in 180 locations for public use across the city’s 18 districts in shopping malls, and commercial and government buildings. This means EV drivers should never be more than about 20 kilometers from a charging facility, reducing the possibility of "range anxiety", or the fear of running out of battery power. In addition, the government is encouraging property developers to install charging in new and managed residential buildings. As an added bonus, during the summer time, EV’s can enjoy air conditioning even if they parked on a street because there is no engine or exhaust emissions to violate pollution laws. ‘’We see EV’s increasingly becoming a lifestyle choice, because people want to have the convenience and pleasure of driving while not polluting the environment,’’ says Mak.

With point-to-point travelling distance in general around 10km-20km and the longest distance about 50km, Mak believes Hong Kong has the potential to be the place to showcase the success of electric vehicles to the rest of Asia. Taking the all-electric BMW i3 EV as an example, on a fully charged battery the vehicle can comfortably cover 130km with the air-conditioning in operation and 150km when used for normal city driving.  Nowhere is fast charging in bigger demand than with the electric vehicle and when using a fast charge facility, the BMW i3’s battery pack can be charged to 80 per cent full in around 20 to 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, whether at home or on the road, total charge can be conveniently completed within a few hours. Regardless, however, of what type of charging is used, BMW offers an 8-year battery warranty. 

Going green with plug-in EV’s doesn’t mean any compromise on performance, the BMW i3 accelerates from 0-60km with similar power as the high-performance BMW 3-Series developed by the firm’s in-house motorsport division. ‘’Our BMW i3 and i8 models are very successful in Hong Kong,’’ explains Mak.

For those that appreciate design and style while appreciating EV’s contribution towards a more sustainable transportation system, whether it is the futuristic looking BMW i8 super sports car with its distinctive scissor doors or the i3-series, the vehicles are made from sustainable carbon fiber, aluminium alloy and thermal plastics. For example, 40 per cent of the interior seats of the i3 are made from recycled from plastic bottles. The sustainability story goes further, the vehicle not only drives with no local emissions, its entire production and life cycles are also geared to sustainability -- the BMW i production plant is 100 per cent powered by four wind turbine generators.