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The long-awaited electric taxis from mainland carmaker BYD will finally start taking passengers tomorrow - after an eight-month delay - but with cabbies already complaining, the question is whether the cars will survive beyond the six-month trial period.
One driver who has signed up for the e6 taxi said at the launch ceremony yesterday that he would not have rented it if it wasn't for all the concessions on offer from the manufacturer.
"The car trunk is too small for big suitcases, it's also too high for us to put things in without difficulty, headroom is too low and we cannot see the tip of the bonnet from the drivers' seat, which makes it hard to gauge the distance to the car ahead," said Mr Chan.
"But what I hate most is that we can only charge the car with designated chargers built by BYD - that greatly limits our options."
There are only 17 BYD charging points ready for use, but project partner Sime Darby says more will come into service in the next four months.
In the meantime, there are over 1,000 slow-charging points and 10 quick-charging points for electric cars scattered around the city, which the BYD e-taxis cannot use. "The quick-charging points were built for Japanese cars, while the slow-charging points - even if our cars could use them - are practically useless because it takes more than 10 hours for a full charge," said Sime Darby's senior sales manager Eddie Yu. "We are now talking to the government about providing more quick chargers that are compatible with the e6."
Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association, which will pay BYD a monthly rent of HK$360,000 for the 45 taxis and then sublet them to drivers, said they would cover parking costs, and waive a management fee of HK$1,000 for the first month.
The daily rent of BYD's e6 is some HK$100 higher than that of a brand new liquefied petroleum gas-fuelled taxi. Wong Chung-keung, chairman of the association, said they would soon see if the taxi could really run for 240 kilometres - with air-conditioning on - as BYD has claimed.
The cost of electricity should work out at a third of LPG costs.
Many of the 18,150 taxis in the city are due to be replaced in the next few years, with carmakers all rolling out new models in an effort to capture the market.
The taxi version of Toyota's hybrid Prius is already out on the roads; Ford will launch its LPG taxis in September; while Nissan's electric taxis are set to arrive early next year.