• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 4:01am
NewsHong Kong

Government's electric-cab plan fails to spark more suppliers' interest

Three of the city's four suppliers of electric cars say they are not keen on a government scheme to convert their green vehicles into taxis

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 6:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 6:16am

A government initiative to encourage more electric taxis onto the roads has failed to spark electric car suppliers' interest.

The scheme, launched by the Environmental Protection Department, will see chargers compatible with up to three suppliers installed in government car parks for electric taxis' use.

At present, only four models of electric private cars are available in Hong Kong - the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf, Renault Fluence ZE and BYD e6. The BYD cars are already being used as taxis, with 45 on the roads.

The department hopes the new charging spaces will encourage suppliers to convert cars for use as taxis. It plans to issue an open invitation to all electric taxi suppliers worldwide to submit models for approval before June.

Priority will be given to existing suppliers of Hong Kong electric taxis, which for the moment is BYD. Other suppliers whose electric taxis have been approved by the Transport Department but are not yet in operation, or who provide electric taxis outside Hong Kong, were also eligible, a spokeswoman said.

Except BYD, the other three electric-car models in Hong Kong said they were not interested in the government's initiative, arguing their vehicles were not suitable for taxi use.

Eric Wong, of Nissan's public vehicle department, said the company had no plans to convert its cars for use as taxis in the near future, although in 2012 the company announced plans to introduce 50 Leaf vehicles in Hong Kong for trial as electric taxis.

He said Nissan cars can go for 180 kilometres after each charging session while BYD has said its cars can go for 240 kilometres per charge. This made Nissan models unsuitable for use as taxis. There would also not be enough chargers for drivers if only government car parks had them.

Wong's colleague, Elvin Leung Wai-keung, said some private car parks were already offering space for BYD chargers, making it more difficult to convince them to allocate more space for other makes of electric cars.

Renault assistant sales and marketing manager Kenson Chan Chun-pong said its cars were also unsuitable for taxi use because they could run for only 120 kilometres per charge.

"BYD will be the winner in the scheme as it favours cars that are already running on Hong Kong streets," he said.

William Lee, senior marketing officer for Mitsubishi distributor Universal Cars, said the i-MiEV was too small for taxi use.

A BYD spokesman said the company was willing to import more electric taxis into Hong Kong and welcomed the government scheme.

An industry insider said one issue inhibiting the growth of electric taxis in Hong Kong was the fixed number of taxi licences. If a cabbie wanted to switch to an electric taxi, he must give up his LPG taxi. Owners were generally reluctant to do so, he said.

Wong Chung-keung, chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Association, which rents taxis from BYD, said suppliers were "cautious" about contacting the association because of the scarcity of charging stations.

But the association was willing to add other electric cars to its fleet if other suppliers approached it, he said.

The Transport Department said six car parks across the city had been selected for the pilot scheme. It estimated up to 50 chargers could be installed in all.

It had yet to receive any new applications for approval of an electric car model for use as a taxi.


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Hare-brained scheme. If there's one application for which electric cars are not suitable it is as taxis. Yet they are perfect for private use, really ideal for Hong Kong. What the government ought to be doing is (1) payng handsome subsidies to buyers of electrics and (2) facilitating and subsidising widespread installation of standard household current charging sockets estates in throughout Hong Kong. Take up would rocket and CO2 emissions drop, plus we'd all benefit from quieter roads.
isn't that BYD is the car which got into flames while hit from behind by a luxury car in Shenzhen China? is that car really reliable when its manufacture said that they only tested the car with its batteries half charged?
To my opinion, government is only making way for mainland cars to storm into the market. why not first makes the buses run on batteries or electric? Nathan road is filled with these buses and its only two lanes road, what is the harm if the sent a networks of cables above and run buses on electric?
at the same time government can reduce emission by private cars by just having NO TAX on electric cars, there is even no need to give subsidiary for this. I guess there is really lack of talent to think about actual solution.
Assume that charging these cabs on Hk island effectively means they are running on coal power ... Whilst good for roadside pollution if like to see a more considered analysis of the real incremental benefits of this program.
Well-to-wheel, modern EVs are cleaner than petrol burning vehicles, even on 100% coal fuel mix in electricity generation. The reasons are (a) efficiency of the motors, (b) simple short-distance grid in Hong Kong, and (c) the amount of electricity used to refine, transport and distribute petroleum.
That is today. Then, take into account the fact that the electricity generation fuel mix is getting cleaner year-by-year, and an EV you buy today will also get cleaner year-by-year. A comparable petrol driven car gets dirtier as it ages.
So, what is the problem with that? Buy the Chinese made BYD cabs then, if you want to run electric taxis. This would also be a good opportunity for Hong Kong to show true patriotism for China. Like the first lady using a Chinese mobile phone, Hong Kong should finally use Chinese cars on the road and demonstrate its love for China with that.
Why should we favour inferior electric vehicles just because they are Chinese?
It's about performance that should matter, if you start favouring things for "patriotism" we will end up like Mainland China...full of sh*te stuff that don't work.
Too little action. As always, interested parties like to say no intereat by suppliers. There is more than meets the eye usually and is often related to incompetenece and protection for the incumbent.
+1 Well said.
markwj, well researched.
In addition, EVEN IF there wasn't that net benefit from using EVs in terms of overall emissions & pollutants, the biggest benefit would be removing the pollutants (particulates) at the point of exposure...which is road-side and next to the sidewalks thronging with pedestrians who breathe in those emissions day in and day out. The health benefits alone are compelling enough.


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