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E-car parking in Hong Kong badly enforced, auto group charges

While e-vehicle owners claim mere encouragement of policy renders green objectives ‘toothless’, government defends it as efficient use of resources

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2016, 9:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 December, 2016, 3:39pm

The policy that gives priority to electric vehicles at car parks with chargers has been branded a “toothless tiger” after the government revealed it would merely encourage rather than enforce punishment for petrol vehicle drivers occupying charging spaces at private car parks.

An e-vehicle association warned that, without fines at both public and private car parks, the government’s efforts to promote using e-cars to reduce roadside emissions would be futile.

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“If the charging spots policy remains as it is now, unprotected and toothless, then nothing will change,” Locky Law, Tesla owner representative of electric vehicle group Charged Hong Kong, said. Automaker Tesla promotes the use of electric cars.

Failure to address the issue could mean that gross floor area concessions are being exploited
Locky Law, Tesla representative

As of October, there were 6,860 e-vehicles for road use in Hong Kong, and 1,400 chargers for public use in 259 public and private car parks. Those figures compare with 3,500 e-cars with 1,200 chargers late last year.

Law also warned that financial incentives for e-car facilities were simply being exploited by private developers.

Since April 2011, the Building Authority has been able to grant up to 100 per cent of gross floor area concessions for car parks in new private developments with e-vehicle chargers, meaning the developer has more space to build and sell more units.

By the end of last year, it had granted those concessions to building plans for about 220 car parks.

“Failure to address the issue could mean that gross floor area concessions are being exploited,” Law said.

The government can impose enforcement of punishment in private car parks granted gross floor area concessions, but to the dismay of e-car advocates it has stuck to a soft law approach.

Charged Hong Kong said its members had noticed many charging spots around the city occupied by petrol cars, leaving e-vehicles unable to use them.

For example, The Peak Galleria’s car park, owned by Hang Lung Properties, was photographed renting out a spot marked “electric vehicle charging only” to a Ferrari that used fossil fuel. The group added that the charging spots at the Rumsey Street public car park in Central were often filled with petrol cars, with staff not bothered to confront owners.

Average use of the chargers at government car parks is still low, with around 10 transactions per charger per month.

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An Environmental Protection Department spokeswoman said operators of government car parks set aside some charging spaces for priority use by e-cars by placing traffic cones and notices during non-peak hours.

“Should other parking spaces in the car parks be fully occupied, these parking spaces will then be open to [non-electric vehicles] for efficient use of parking resources,” she said.

But Law blamed the weak policy – dubbed “EV Priority” – for low charger use. “‘EV Priority’ is not ‘EV Charging Only’. ‘EV Priority’ is just a toothless tiger, and shroff staff and management are snakes without fangs,” he said.

“I am not surprised to see low utilisation” he added. “I even suspect the actual usage is lower given such a first-come, first-served, laissez-faire approach to the use of charging spots.”

He called on the government to educate the public about what he described as basic etiquette for using the chargers.

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The department spokeswoman added that some private car parks had already adopted measures to deter unauthorised parking by non-electric cars, including fines or locking up the car, placing traffic cones and displaying notices at the e-vehicle spaces.

“We will encourage private car park management companies to adopt similar measures and arrange experience-sharing sessions with stakeholders including car park operators on such practices,” she said.

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A spokesman for The Peak Galleria’s management told the Post its charging spot identified by Charged Hong Kong had been rented out to the Ferrari because that car also needed the charger for internal electrical wiring, adding that its car park also provided two Tesla charging spots and a free charger provided by HK Electric.

He said car park staff routinely asked owners of petrol cars occupying the charging spot to leave it for electric cars. “We never consider imposing fines because we don’t want our clients to feel unhappy coming here,” he said.