Wider use of zero-emission electric vehicles might bring cleaner air to Hong Kong, but it will also create another environmental headache - how to handle the used batteries. There have been calls for the government to consider building a recycling plant to meet those demands over fears the batteries may be improperly disposed of. The city has no processing facility for waste batteries, and all similar waste, such as batteries for mobile phones or laptops, has to be sent to South Korea or Japan, the only countries in Asia capable of treating it on a commercial scale. But as more drivers switch to electric cars, the existing practice might not just be too expensive, it could deprive the city of a new industry that could add value and create jobs. 'If just one-tenth of the vehicles switch to electric, we are talking about a fleet of 50,000,' said Leonard Cheng Wai-nam, general manger of the Universal Cars dealership. 'This will create a huge demand for waste-battery handling.' Lithium-ion batteries are bigger and heavier than conventional car batteries, and they have to be replaced after about 10 years. While they do not contain lead or sulphuric acid, the batteries have other metals that can be reused. 'Sending all the waste overseas will not be an ultimate solution, and Hong Kong needs its own recycling facility, one that is ... based on advanced technology,' Cheng said. Hong Kong has about 550,000 vehicles, and more than 300,000 are private; most of the rest are trucks. Universal is working to import more of Mitsubishi's electric car, the iMiEV, and the government has just bought 10 from the dealership. They are to be delivered by the year's end and cost nearly HK$500,000 each. Cheng said his company had agreed to ship the 10 vehicles back to Japan at the end of their lifespan, but this was not a sustainable solution because it would be very expensive. The government has pushed for development of a market for electric cars since April last year, and officials estimate that there will be about 200 electric vehicles in the city by the end of the next financial year. Cheng said his dealership was planning to introduce battery-powered goods vans from Britain early next year and private companies had already placed orders, despite the price tag being about HK$900,000, some HK$700,000 more than a petrol-fuelled van. A Hong Kong-made two-seater micro electric car will also be launched this month. MyCar is targeted at small communities because it is restricted to roads with a speed limit of 50km/h, said Chung Sin-ling, the chief executive officer of EuAuto, which makes the vehicle. Mitsubishi's rival, Nissan, is also poised to launch its debut electric car, the Leaf, next year. Cheng said his dealership was working with the fire department and police to address issues related to handling car accidents involving electric vehicles, which contain high-voltage devices. Other issues involved maintenance, and technicians might have to develop different skills, though the components of electric cars were far simpler than petrol-fuelled cars. Insurance might be another problem. But Peter Tam Chung-ho, of the Federation of Insurers, said it was too early to say whether policies for electric cars would be cheaper or costlier than for traditional vehicles.