Hong Kong can breathe easier with Formula E race clearing up the air

The Central spectacular will put the city in the global eye and will hopefully nudge the government into taking electric transport options more seriously

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 6:06pm

It’s all new and it’s all good. Well, most of it is good. When the Formula E circuit makes its 2016-17 debut on the streets of Hong Kong this coming weekend, there is so much promise in the air.

E of course stands for electric, as in electric race cars that look every bit like their Formula 1 cousins but go about half as fast and use zero gas. They are much quieter as well.

However, if you have ever been to an F1 grand prix you will most certainly know that a collision of two asteroids is quieter than the roar of the mighty F1 engine.

Yet, despite the national anthem of Hong Kong being a cacophonous duet of pile drivers and jackhammers, there are still very strict noise by-laws on Sunday.

Luckily we will have quiet, non-toxic spewing engines racing through a scenic yet relatively deserted 2km harbour-front track in stunning images that will be broadcast globally.

So everybody is happy, right? No, of course not. There was talk from organisers of a concert series at nearby City Hall that construction of the race circuit and the weekend of the race itself would cause great inconvenience to festival goers.

But this is why God created public transport and for one weekend at least attendees can revel in the efficiency of our underground MTR.

This does, however, get to the core of why a street race like this has never been attempted before around here.

WATCH: A Formula One car v a Formula E car on the Hong Kong circuit

Despite some ominous warning signs from the government, Hong Kong is still a great place to make your voice heard regardless of your motives. There are no such things as competing agendas in Beijing, or even Singapore for that matter.

Of course there is also very little freedom in those places as well and that helps to explain why nary a dissenting peep was heard when Beijing decided to hold the inaugural Formula E race two years ago and when Singapore decided to host the first night-time F1 grand prix through its streets.

WATCH: Hong Kong braces for electric car revolution

Now in its ninth year, the Singapore Grand Prix run on the Marina Bay circuit has been a fabulous success and an invaluable global promotional tool.

Naturally, we could only look and wonder how stunning an F1 race through the streets of Hong Kong would look but that is never going to happen.

We do, however, have our own race now. With Formula E you take what you get and what you will get at the upcoming race is delightful irony.

WATCH: A Formula One car v a Formula E car around Monaco

According to the their website, “Energy, Environment, Entertainment are the three E’s of Formula E and emphasise the championship’s core values, which fuse engineering, technology, sport, science, design, music and entertainment to drive the change towards an electric future.”

Wow, talk about ambitious and good luck to all of you in that endeavour. It’s just hard to think of Hong Kong, the first race of the season, as being at the vanguard of any kind of ecological evolution.

If you walk the streets, you know all too well the toxic smell of cheap diesel wafting about. We have a first world economy with third world air.

It’s totally and completely unacceptable and has been for many years now but sadly the irony of having a Formula E race here is lost on the sycophants who run Hong Kong. They don’t do irony; they do bogus rhetoric.

A crucial element in the mission statement of Formula E is to be the ultimate in electronic performance.

They want to show us how far we can take electronic vehicles. Yes, many believe the organisers ultimate goal is to make as much profit as possible from their 10-race circuit.

They are business people, of course making money matters greatly. But if somehow the evolution of a practical, efficient and performance-enhanced electrical engine comes out of this then fantastic.

If any of this is the impetus to a day not so far off when the entire fleet of Hong Kong taxis, buses and light goods vehicles will all be running on electricity then it won’t be a moment too soon.

Recent studies have shown more people die in Hong Kong from exposure to roadside emissions than from smoking. No one who can change that seems in a hurry to do it either.

For those of you who think this race is a waste of time, come down to the harbour next weekend for the electric vehicles only.

More importantly, it will be the freshest air you have breathed around the harbour in a good 20 years. The race is now on for breathable air in Hong Kong.