Future of transport

Electric taxi project in Hong Kong goes belly up: China’s BYD brands 2-year campaign a ‘failure’

Automaker also struggling to sell e-buses in city and has only received orders for 14 so far, it says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 November, 2015, 7:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 November, 2015, 7:54pm

Chinese automaker BYD, which is partly owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, officially branded its two-year trial run of electric taxis in Hong Kong as a failure on Friday.

“I’m the one to take charge of BYD’s e-taxi project in Hong Kong,” said Ding Haimiao,assistant to the general manager at the carmaker.

“I have to say it’s a failure,” he added.

Ding made the comments to a group of academic and technology industry figures from Hong Kong during a speech in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

In 2013, BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu said he expected the company to launch dozens of e6 electric car taxis in Hong Kong by the end of that year.

READ MORE: Electric vehicles will not improve Hong Kong’s air pollution problems

He predicted the number would grow to 1,000 by 2014 and 3,000 this year.

That didn’t happen.

BYD has still only launched 45 e6 cabs and three charging stations in Hong Kong - enough to cover 150 electric cabs, it said.

Ding insisted that the firm has proved to the local government that electric cabs can greatly benefit the city by saving energy costs and better protecting the environment

“I’m calling it a failure because we lost so much money from this project,” he said.

The automaker has made a series of investments to support this programme, for example covering the cost of charging stations and vehicle maintenance, he added.

He said the model fits the local market but has nonetheless met with resistance from a number of industry figures, especially established taxi drivers.

“The Hong Kong government already knows [all] the figures and results, like the energy cost savings. But it really depends on the government [to see] how far it will go in moving forward this e-taxi plan,” he said.

It is normal for new policies from the government to inspire a backlash until doubts are cleared up, he said.

READ MORE: ‘Our business is tough enough’: Plan to launch premium taxi service in Hong Kong raises hackles

In another part of its electric push, BYD has also made slow progress in pressing ahead with electric buses in Hong Kong, Ding said.

The company has so far received orders for 14 of these in Hong Kong, but the number of orders pales compared to other traffic-heavy markets in which it operates, he added.

BYD said last week it plans to sell 15,000 electric taxis and 6,000 electric buses this year.

Analysts say 95 per cent of these are likely destined for China.

In April, the company won an order from the state of California to deliver 60 electric buses.