Nissan wants in on Hong Kong's electric revolution

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Nissan is hoping once again to become a major supplier of Hong Kong taxis: it aims to compete with mainland carmaker BYD to turn the city's 18,150 liquefied petroleum taxis into electrically-powered cars - a market worth HK$7.26 billion.

BYD began talks on taxi conversions with the government last year but is reported to be struggling to get the first 45 electric taxis to Hong Kong for trial by August, as promised by chairman Wang Chuanfu.

Considering only about 2,000 electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars were sold on the mainland during the first quarter, the conversion of 18,130 electric vehicles is, by any standards, a huge opportunity for any player in the sector. .

This is why Nissan chief executive Carlo Ghosn arranged to meet Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen last week while he was in town for the relocation, from Japan, of the global headquarters of the car maker's luxury division, Infiniti.

When the government decided to replace all diesel taxis with the cleaner LPG cars gas back in 2001, it took only three years for the conversion of 99 per cent of the city's 18,150 taxis. Nissan, once the dominant supplier in the city, was squeezed out of the market when Toyota offered cheaper repair costs.

Now BYD is committed to paying a total of HK$13.5 million to cover the construction costs of 45 quick-charging points in 15 public car parks across the city, and another HK$9 million in provisional subsidies to help taxi operators buy 45 of its e6 electric vehicle models .

'We do not wish to see any further delays in the trial and will do whatever we can to ensure the 45 EVs appear in Hong Kong in August,' said Korby Chen, BYD's marketing representative for Hong Kong.

Under the agreement to convert the taxi fleet, the Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association agreed to purchase 45 e6 models from BYD, and was supposed to shoulder half of the costs, or around HK$200,000 per vehicle, while applying to the government to fund the other half.

However, the association's chairman, Brandon Tong Yeuk-fung, who submitted the application last month, said officials told him it would not be processed until around September . BYD then stepped in to help out with the subsidy.

BYD's Chen said the company would start building the charging points next month .

Meanwhile, Crown Motors - the sole distributor for Hong Kong's dominant taxi supplier, Toyota - said while new players were welcome in the market, they did not believe electric taxis would pose a threat in the near future given the lack of charging facilities and long charging times.

A total of 500 new charging points are to be built in the next two months, bringing the city's total to 1,000. All are free of charge, subject to further review. However, more than 80 per cent are the common 13A chargers used for home and office appliances and could require over 10 hours to fully charge a car.