Hong Kong ideally placed to power ahead with electric cars

City’s drivers are warming to vehicles made by the likes of Tesla but more can be done to ensure enough charging stations are made available

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 February, 2016, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 February, 2016, 8:43pm

Acceptance of electric cars among Hong Kong drivers has been gathering pace – admittedly from a very low base of about 100 vehicles only five years ago. But the present low oil price could act as a brake on accelerating consumer interest in battery-powered cars. In the US, sales of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks skyrocketed last year as the price of oil fell. But growth in sales of electric cars stalled as economics crowded out the argument for sustainable transport.

Electric carmaker Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk admits some negative effect is inevitable here. But his company is defending a stronger base after new registrations grew 270 per cent from 2014 to 2015 alone. At the end of December, there were 4,198 electric vehicles on the road, including 2,221 new registrations of the Tesla S sedan last year.

Until manufacturers produce a mainstream electric model affordable to the average consumer, or oil prices return to previous levels, the electric car market is likely to struggle against cheap oil. At the same time, many makers, including those in China, may face resistance from consumers to electric vehicles because of the long distances involved in travelling.

Apart from converting coal-fired power stations to less-polluting natural gas, Hong Kong is well placed to contribute to reduced carbon emissions by conversion of a significant number of its 500,000-plus private and commercial vehicles and buses to electric or hybrid power. After all, it seems to be an ideal city for electric vehicles, with short distances to travel and heavy congestion. The Hong Kong government has promoted electric vehicles by waiving the first registration tax for new purchases and allowing companies tax deductions for the expenditure. Hong Kong also has an unusually low ratio of two electric cars to one public electric charger. That said, in the spirit of the fight against global warming, there is room to meet demand for more home-charging facilities and to take enforcement action against petrol-driven cars occupying charging spots around the city.