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Bus fans pose for a photo while waiting to board Hong Kong’s first electric bus from Bravo Transport Services Limited in Happy Valley on June 19. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

LettersIn pursuit of carbon neutrality, Hong Kong must remove roadblocks to a zero-emissions bus fleet

  • Readers discuss barriers to the electrification of Hong Kong’s public bus fleet, and how commuters’ expectations of punctuality and reliability may hinder adoption of such buses
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Hong Kong’s public transport system is the envy of the world. A 2021 report from McKinsey ranked Hong Kong’s system favourably in terms of efficiency and affordability. Much of this success can be attributed to the government’s “railway backbone” development strategy, which prioritises the creation of residential districts around mass transit rail hubs.
Yet, praise of Hong Kong’s public transportation system often omits the crucial role played by the franchised bus network, which is the city’s second-largest carrier of public transit passengers. Unfortunately, the electrification of Hong Kong’s bus fleet has been slow. More specifically, fewer than 1 per cent of the buses are electric. There is an exigent need to reduce vehicular carbon emissions to achieve the city’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal.

Bus decarbonisation will bring major benefits. The reduction of vehicular emissions in Hong Kong will drastically improve roadside air quality and benefit public health.

Regrettably, despite urgent action needed to decarbonise the bus service in Hong Kong, the government’s “ Road Map on the Popularisation of Electric Vehicles” offers scant details on a path forward.

The introduction of battery-powered electric buses is a viable option to decarbonise bus services. Yet, implementation problems remain. For example, the power needs of Hong Kong’s battery-powered electric buses – which will need to be air-conditioned and double-deck – may be greater than what present technologies can provide, forcing operators to bear the performance uncertainties.

Furthermore, bus operators struggle with navigating the government bureaucracy when installing battery-charging infrastructure. Government support will be crucial to overcome these pain points.

Another pathway to bus travel decarbonisation is the introduction of hydrogen fuel cell buses in Hong Kong. While local bus operators have begun trial operations with such buses, outdated regulations limit opportunities for the development of hydrogen fuelling infrastructure and supply chains. A series of outdated regulations on the use and handling of hydrogen must be amended.

With these barriers in mind, Hong Kong must determine how new bus technologies should be adopted. The government should spearhead fleet-level trials to deliver an optimised zero-emissions bus fleet and develop enhanced infrastructure, all while maintaining current service levels in terms of frequency and quality.

To support the transition to zero-emission buses, bus operators, power companies, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders have formed the Zero Emissions Mobility Consortium. The consortium looks forward to advocating for policies to develop local green transportation and collaborating with the government to achieve Hong Kong’s carbon neutrality goals.

Lawrence Iu and Jason Liu, Civic Exchange, a member of the Zero Emissions Mobility Consortium

Electric bus adoption may be uphill battle for Hong Kong

Boosting Hong Kong’s connectivity through environmentally friendly public transport has become a priority for the city, especially as going green has become a trend.

However, buses powered by the electricity may fail to meet people’s expectations, since Hong Kong is different from other major cities in the world.


The main concern with regard to electric buses is that they usually have a much shorter travel range due to the limitations of their battery cells. Tens of thousands of commuters rely on public vehicles to travel to their workplace from home via expressways and highways daily.

According to Transport Department statistics, about 150,000 passenger journeys were made by fixed route public buses operator in May this year. When compared to buses with traditional engines, it is nearly impossible for buses powered by lithium battery cells to meet such demand, given that public buses are still the second-most popular public transport option in the city.


Moreover, the lack of support facilities in bus terminals would also be problematic. Most of the charging stations are installed in bus depots. The bus driver would need to spend extra time and effort to go to the designated spot to charge the battery.

While this might work in other cities, the sad fact is that the tight bus schedule in our city would make such arrangements nearly impossible.

This may explain why green buses tend to only run on the routes with low passenger capacity. Bus operator KMB even converted some of their new electric-powered buses into an air-conditioned waiting rooms for passengers but doesn’t seem to be maximising their deployment on the road.


The above factors should be weighed when championing the switch to electric buses. Buses with internal combustion engines would continue to play a crucial role in public transport unless these limitations are resolved. It is undeniable that electric buses would reduce roadside emissions, but they may not be panacea for daily commuters.

Jeffrey Lam, Tuen Mun