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Motoring choices, plug-in hybrid vehicles help to accelerate clean mobility

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 9:20am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 9:20am

Hybrid vehicles, automobiles that run on a combination of electric motors and fossil-fuel have come a long way since the first models debuted nearly 20 years ago. Today, with many of the world's leading car makers producing a portfolio of stylish, high-performance eco-friendly hybrids, a growing number of Hongkongers are opting to combine the enjoyment of premium driving while doing their bit for the environment.

Rene Koneberg, managing director of Audi Hong Kong and Macau notes that eco-friendly vehicles have become a mainstream feature on Hong Kong's streets, which he believes is partly driven by increasingly environmentally-conscious car owners seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. ''We see both plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles becoming increasingly popular because people want to appreciate the convenience of driving while reducing their impact on the environment,'' notes Koneberg, who adds that thanks to breakthrough eco-friendly vehicle technology, there is no need for car fans to sacrifice performance, style or comfort.

Using the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron as an example, Koneberg says the plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), which combines sportiness and luxury, strikes a balance between reducing environmental impact and delivering performance. ''With our A3 Sportback e-tron, our brand’s first plug-in hybrid model, we are offering a car that includes the whole package,'' says Koneberg. Depending on driving conditions and personal preferences, drivers can choose between different driving modes including electric only, petrol only or a combination of the two. ''Drivers can enjoy a dynamic driving experience and be eco-friendly at the same time'' notes Koneberg.

Similar to its Formula E cousins, that demonstrated their phenomenal power during the recent Asia-leg of the emission-free Formula E international racing series staged in Hong Kong, in electric drive mode, the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron produces impressive acceleration from a standing start. The model also sped into first place by winning the ''Best Plug-In Hybrid'' – Production Vehicles category at the eCar Awards by Auto Bild and Test magazines.  Equally impressive, the first Hong Kong consignment of the A3 Sportback sold out over a single weekend. With Formula E quickly becoming a popular spectator sport, Audi plans to introduce its own factory-backed, fully-electric car for the 2017- 2018 Formula E racing series.

Because Hong Kong road journeys are relatively short, typically between 10km and 50km, and with one of the world’s highest penetration levels of electric vehicles among new private car purchases, Koneberg believes the Hong Kong appetite to switch to eco-friendly vehicles could be further increased with additional government friendly tax and purchase incentives. At present, although the waiver is set to end during the second quarter 2017, all-electric cars imported into Hong Kong enjoy a 100 per cent tax waiver on first-registration; however, no such waiver applies to PHEV's.  In order to boost Hong Kong's move towards greener mobility, Koneberg suggests the scheme could be reviewed to introduce an incentive scheme for PHEVs. In addition to expanding the number of public battery charging facilities, Koneberg also suggests, setting up an eco-friendly process to recycle or dispose of batteries and energy-efficient vehicles.

With Hong Kong having been described as a “beacon city for electric vehicles”, Koneberg says Audi's electric mobility roadmap is firmly in place. For example, the German car maker already offers two hybrids that can be charged at electrical outlets. When fully charged, which takes about two hours at a dedicated charging station or a four-hour process using a home socket, the lithium-ion battery powers the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron for about 50km. Enough energy to drive from Central to Hong Kong's international airport. Along the way, regenerative braking technology recaptures electrical energy that recharges the battery.

"By 2020 we want to introduce three more all-electric-drive cars into the market,'' reveals Koneberg.  ''Our new models will all have a cruising range of 500 km,'' he adds explaining that as a car maker, to Audi, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are both transitional and bridging technologies.