The government will promote the use of electric cars in Hong Kong by testing the vehicles in the city, while the financial secretary will head a body to overcome hurdles to their early introduction here. The move came as Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah extended the registration tax waiver for electric vehicles for an extra five years, to March 2014. The waiver was introduced in 1994, but only 31 private electric cars had been registered out of more than 400,000 on the city's streets by the end of last year. The test car will be a Mitsubishi iMiev, a four-seater vehicle powered by a lithium-ion battery, which was displayed in Hong Kong last October. A government department will test its performance and issues related to battery recharging. Officials acknowledged that the government is now taking a more proactive role to lure carmakers into introducing electric vehicles here on a commercial basis, as early as possible and in the greatest numbers feasible. To assess the development of electric cars, the officials said Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah had recently visited BYD Auto, a mainland-based battery producer that has developed an electric private car model. Electric cars are emissions-free and about 80 per cent more energy efficient than petrol-powered ones. Recent technological breakthroughs have greatly increased their battery capacity, to sustain a trip of at least 100km after a single charge, up from 40km earlier in their development. Quick-charging technology means a car can now be charged in half an hour, compared to eight hours before, and it has become easier to recycle used lithium batteries. Mr Tsang will lead a high-level committee to address the problem of making battery-recharging infrastructure widely available. 'We will examine the feasibility of providing recharging facilities in government multi-storey car parks and explore ways of encouraging the business sector, including property developers and private car park operators, to set up such facilities,' Mr Tsang said. The government fleet might adopt electric cars, and the city could tap the business and employment opportunities of producing electric car parts and accessories for the growing market, he said. Chau Kwok-tong, an electric vehicle expert with the University of Hong Kong, welcomed the government's move to promote electric cars. 'The smaller size of Hong Kong and relatively shorter travel distance makes the city an ideal place for using electric cars,' he said. Hailing the ideal of a green economy in the budget, Mr Tsang said the city would step up co-operation with Guangdong to develop regional hi-tech recycling industries and promote cleaner production. Locally, both government and private buildings would benefit from two programmes, totalling HK$900 million, to promote energy and carbon audits, and improve energy efficiency.