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Second Pact To Push Electric-vehicle Use

Fanny W. Y. Fung – Apr 23, 2009

The government will today sign a memorandum with a second Japanese car manufacturer to promote the use of electric vehicles in Hong Kong, as part of its clean-air initiatives in the budget.

The news was announced by Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah yesterday as he appealed to legislators to support the budget. “Not only can the extensive use of clean transportation improve roadside air quality, but it can also give rise to the birth of an electric- vehicle accessory industry,” he said.

Mr Yau would arrive in Tokyo tonight to meet representatives of three car companies, an Environment Bureau spokeswoman said.

One of the companies is Mitsubishi, with which the government signed a memorandum in February. Mr Yau would take a ride in an i MiEV car, a four-seater powered by a lithium-ion battery.

One will arrive in Hong Kong next month for government departments to test its performance.

The minister would sign a memorandum with another company tomorrow, with details yet to be announced, and meet a third company to discuss electric vehicles, the spokeswoman said.

Mr Yau said the moves would help develop an electric-car market in Hong Kong. The government would continue to discuss with the business sector provision of battery-charging facilities and other infrastructure.

He is to leave Japan on Sunday to visit the Canadian cities of Toronto and Ottawa, and Washington and Boston in the US for talks on other environment-related issues before ending his tour on May 1.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced in his recent budget a five-year extension of the registration-tax waiver for electric vehicles, to March 2014.

A committee headed by Mr Tsang is to study problems relating to the introduction of the vehicles.

Breakthrough to Advance Hydrogen Car Production

Alternative Energy – 20 April 2009

One of the main hurdles in the field of hydrogen car research is the development of a good fueling system. Professor Issam Mudawar along with his research team has developed a hydrogen storage system that would allow a car tank to be filled in five minutes and you can drive on that fuel for 300 miles.

But turning the above abstract idea into a reality was not a cakewalk for the project team which is funded by the General Motors Corporations. The biggest obstacle was the problem of heating while one is refueling the tank. According to Issam Mudawar who is the Purdue University (PU) Professor of Mechanical Engineering , “The hydride produces an enormous amount of heat. It would take a minimum of 40 minutes to fill the tank without cooling, and that would be entirely impractical.”

These hard facts posed a great challenge to the Purdue University research team. The heat effect has to be countered and the time limit for refill has to be shorter. For refueling they have used a very fine powder, known as metal hydride. This powder absorbs hydrogen very efficiently but can’t do anything regarding the release of huge amount of heat. Therefore a very good cooling system at all the refueling station is of vital importance.

The research team was working on a solution which can do something substantial concerning heating. They needed accessory connectors that can work at the same time to take away the heat while refueling process was on. So the researchers have to overcome this hurdle and design an efficient heat exchanger. They have to be a pioneer in the field because no one had treaded on that path before.

Keeping the complications in mind the team has developed a system where metal hydride is placed in small “pockets” inside a pressure chamber. They injected hydrogen in pressure compartments and it gets absorbed. But the wonderful thing is this reaction is reversible. Therefore the hydrogen gas is released from the metal hydride by lessening the pressure in the storage vessel. They fixed the heat exchanger inside the hydrogen storage pressure vessel.

Mudawar explains, “Due to space constraints, it is essential that the heat exchanger occupies the least volume to maximize room for hydrogen storage.” The cooling system utilizes the regular automotive coolant which flows inside a U shaped tube between the pressure chamber and the aluminum heat exchanger. The exchanger is designed in such a way that when the hydrogen enters into the metal hydride, a smooth temperature absorption mechanism starts functioning. Darsh Kumar, a researcher at General Motors Corporation is hopeful, “As newer and better metal hydrides are developed by research teams worldwide, the heat exchanger design will provide a ready solution for the automobile industry.”

Airline Emissions

Reuters – April 6, 2009

Airlines Urge UN to Adopt Global Aviation Carbon Trading Scheme


To avoid having to comply with patchwork regulations from the United States, the European Union and other entities, a group of airlines is proposing a single global carbon emissions cap for the aviation industry.

The cap, which would be based on the amount of fuel consumed by each carrier, would allow airlines to purchase credits from other entitites. An additional allotment of permits would be auctioned, with the proceeds to go towards the Kyoto Protocol’s adaptation fund for developing nations, development of sustainable aviation biofuels and a U.N.-backed initiative to save forests in developing nations in return for tradeable carbon credits, according to Reuters.

The proposal comes from the Climate Group, a nongovernmental organization, and Air France/KLM, British Airways, Cathay and Virgin Atlantic. Those airlines recently started a coalition called the Aviation Global Deal Group, with the stated goal of seeing that any global climate treaty include an aviation component.

The airlines are presenting their proposal to the United Nations April 6, with the hope that nations adopt a global plan by 2013. The European Union has a comprehensive aviation emissions cap set to take effect in 2012.

The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines estimates the global aviation industry emits about 650 million tons of CO2 annually.

Environmental Leader – March 9, 2009

UK Airlines Fall Under Stricter Emissions Scheme


The United Kingdom will allow its Environment Agency to fine UK airlines that don’t meet strict emissions standards, according to a news report.

Recently, the UK had indicated the Environment Agency would supervise a scheme to cap aviation emissions in England and Wales.

For all of the European Union, starting in 2012, CO2 emissions from aviation will be capped at the average 2004/06 levels. This will be applied to all flights arriving and departing EU airports.

In other aviation emissions news, Boeing has devised a landing program that cuts fuel use and emissions by giving aircraft tailor-made arrival paths, according to a Reuters story.

Boeing carried out tests of about 1,000 flights into San Francisco International Airport. Using Boeing 777 and 747 aircraft, the Tailored Arrivals system helped airlines cut fuel consumption by 1.1 million pounds and carbon dioxide emissions by 3.6 million pounds over one year, Reuters reported.

Environmental Leader – February 12, 2009

EU Reveals Details Of Airline Carbon Credit Scheme


Because of increased costs for air carriers, business travelers to Europe likely would pay higher airline fares after implementation of a European Union requirement for airlines to buy carbon credits to offset their emissions. Because of increased costs for air carriers, business travelers to Europe likely would pay higher airline fares after implementation of a European Union requirement for airlines to buy carbon credits to offset their emissions.

Last year, the EU proclaimed that most flights touching down in Europe would be covered by a trading system for emissions of greenhouse gases.

With the EU pairing each airline serving Europe to a single nation that would collect payments, it appears Britain would gain the most, based on the number of daily international flights there. France and Germany would benefit to a lesser degree, according to the International Herald Tribune.

The International Air Transport Association, an aviation lobby group, claims the system will cost nearly $5 billion each year to comply, according to the article. The United States reportedly is withholding comment on this issue as the Obama administration reviews climate change policies.

Critics claim the EU carbon trading system is not reducing carbon emissions. Germany’s Green Party, for instance, insists that despite the many benefits of carbon trading, investing in renewable energy is the most cost-efficient way to cut carbon.

Last June, Air France-KLM derided the EU carbon trading scheme as unfair

Environmental Leader – March 17, 2008

EU To U.S. Airlines: Buy Carbon Credits Or Face Fewer Flights


airplane3-17-08.jpgU.S. airlines must join the EU emissions trading scheme or an equivalent system in the U.S. or they could face fewer flights to the European Union, Jacques Barrot the EU transport commissioner, has warned, according to the Guardian.

EU airlines must join the emissions trading scheme in 2012, which could add up to £13 to the price of a return flight as carriers buy “carbon credits.”

All airlines flying in and out of the EU must join the scheme but the International Air Transport Association has warned that 170 countries oppose the move.

European carriers want foreign rivals coopted on to the scheme because airlines who refuse to buy carbon credits will offer lower fares.

In June, a group of six associations representing European airlines published a study that found airlines would have to spend over $60 billion between 2011 and 2022 buying up credits from more fuel-efficient industries to meet their quotas.

Airline emissions were not part of the Kyoto Protocol’s targets for reducing greenhouse gases. Limits on airlines were left to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency. In September, the IACO passed a resolution opposing plans to include foreign airlines in the scheme.

Introducing Natural Gas / Liquefied Petroleum Gas Buses And Heavy Duty Vehicles In Hong Kong – Feasibility Study

Source – EMSD

The objectives of this study are to assess the technical feasibility of introducing natural gas (NG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) buses and heavy duty vehicles to Hong Kong with a view to improving air quality.

This study concludes that LPG/NG vehicles are not practicable for buses or heavy duty vehicles in Hong Kong because of the difficulties associated with developing the infrastructure for an entirely new fuel. Also, the resulting environmental benefits in reducing vehicle emissions and improving air quality are diminishing.

160 Green Cars On Way

Staff Reporter. SCMP – Mar 21, 2009

About HK$112 million will be spent to replace 401 government vehicles, or 6 per cent of the government vehicle fleet, in the next financial year, according to the Government Logistics Department.

The department said all 401 replacements would comply with the relevant emission standards.

About 160 cars and three buses will meet the Environmental Protection Department’s qualifying standards for tax incentives for environmentally friendly vehicles.

In a written reply to questions by legislators on expenditure estimates, the department said the replacement vehicles included 160 cars, 79 motorcycles, 70 vans, and some buses, four-wheel drives and trucks.

The department justified the spending by saying that it would not be cost-effective to maintain the existing vehicles, even though 355 of them could still be operated.

It also said the government would give priority to environmentally friendly vehicles when buying new vehicles and would also consider buying more electric vehicles when suitable models became available on the market.

At present, 612 of the government’s 6,303 vehicles are environmentally friendly.

They include 371 cars, 229 liquefied petroleum gas light buses and 12 electric scooters.

The government has placed orders for 230 environmentally friendly vehicles which are expected to be delivered this year and next.

The Electric Revolution

A budget promise to explore the use of battery-powered cars has raised hopes of a green future. Now comes the hard part

Sarah Monks – Updated on Mar 11, 2009 – SCMP

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah’s pledge to explore a future for electric cars in Hong Kong came out of the blue for many listening to his budget speech last month. But not for Geoffrey Chen Pau-hsiu. The 30-year-old entrepreneur saw it as confirmation of a “blue ocean” business opportunity; in other words, a chance to create a market in Hong Kong that doesn’t yet exist for battery-powered cars – and the electric grid to charge them.

Mr Chen has met officials and transport industry players over the past nine months to promote the idea of electric cars. It’s a transport revolution he believes is coming sooner than most people think.

“We’ve been trying to promote awareness in government of electric vehicles [EVs] as a possibility not in a decade or two decades but really in the next three to five years,” said Mr Chen, director of Ergo, a company he co-founded a year ago and which stands for Electric Recharge Grid Operator.

He considers that Hong Kong, a prestige auto market, is “a natural” to lead Asia’s shift from cars with internal combustion engines to battery-powered “green” vehicles that move cleanly and quietly through the streets. Electric cars emit none of the carbon dioxide linked to global warming and produce no roadside air pollution. They also tend to be one-third cheaper to run than petrol-driven vehicles, according to the Climate Change Business Forum.

“If it works in Hong Kong’s urban environment, it’s going to work in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, all those other markets in China,” Mr Chen said. His plan is to help the city convert its 18,000 taxis to battery-powered EVs – and provide the charging infrastructure to support them.

“This is our `blue ocean’,” he said, referring to the best-selling business strategy book of the same name, for which he undertook research while studying for an MBA at Insead Business School in France. “The idea is to create new market space, or a blue ocean, beyond existing competition.

“If you think about what Shai Agassi is doing, I would say that we are kind of the Asian version, the Hong Kong home-grown version – obviously, a lot less well-funded.”

Mr Agassi is the Israeli-born founder and chief executive officer of Better Place, a venture started with US$200 million in 2007 to build a global network of electric car service stations that will exchange drained batteries for fresh ones.

Many people have been caught off guard by the world’s sudden focus on electric cars. Only three years ago a US documentary film, Who Killed the Electric Car, portrayed EVs as “murder” victims of “big oil” and car interests. Now a sequel – Revenge of the Electric Car – is in production.

Moving electric cars into the mainstream are a new generation of lithium-ion batteries, more efficient electric motors and improved design. It’s more important, now, to know the difference between hybrids like Toyota’s Prius, which combine petrol-fuelled conventional engines with electric motors; pure electric cars, which run on rechargeable batteries; and EVs, powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

A growing list of electric cars includes the Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi’s i MiEV, which is to have trials in Hong Kong, and MyCar, a “microcar” developed in Hong Kong with initial government funding.

In his budget speech, Mr Tsang announced he would lead a steering committee to study the wider use of EVs here. The government would look at jointly promoting them with car manufacturers and be “actively involved” in vehicle tests, “with a view to introducing electric vehicles into our market early”. It would also look at providing recharging facilities in government multi-storey car parks.

Environment Secretary Edward Yau Tang-wah, whose bureau is helping to deliver on the budget promises, says electric cars are a better alternative than the existing technology and more fuel-efficient than petrol-powered vehicles. While yet to drive an electric car, he recently visited BYD in Shenzhen, a Hong Kong-listed mainland battery and EV manufacturer. Its five-seat electric car, with a driving range of 400km on one charge, has caused a buzz in the auto world – along with US investor Warren Buffett’s 9.9 per cent stake in the company.

There were two reasons for promoting electric cars, Mr Yau said.

“Hong Kong is going to be a greener city and the EV is becoming a commercially available product in the next few years. Through the budget speech, we’ve sent a clear message to electric car manufacturers and the community that this is a real choice coming into reality. Hong Kong is willing to give it a trial. We’ll give all the support needed to allow EVs to prove themselves as the clean option.”

There are currently fewer than 100 EVs in Hong Kong out of more than 560,000 licensed vehicles. They include electric vans, cars, golf carts and service vehicles operated by the two power companies, the Airport Authority and Cathay Pacific and its subsidiaries. Some were introduced more than 20 years ago.

“EVs are nothing new,” Mr Yau said. “The question is, should Hong Kong be one of the earliest cities to take advantage of this commercially available new type of car, which suits our green agenda? Will we be receptive to this technology?”

Among the government’s first steps, Mr Yau said, was to remove any legislative barriers that might inhibit the use of EVs. That includes MyCar, which had originally been a left-hand-drive vehicle that could not be registered here, but now has a right-hand model.

“Having said that, there can be no compromise on safety or construction and maintenance [of EVs]. They have to demonstrate their roadworthiness, safety in particular,” he said.

Another early step was to provide a financial incentive to buy EVs which, like hybrids, can cost significantly more. The financial secretary extended from three to five years the exemption of first registration tax on such cars. It can be as high as 85 per cent of the retail price for smaller vehicles.

More essential, Mr Yau said, were support facilities for parking and charging EVs. There needed to be discussions with car park operators and property managers. There had already been early discussions with Hong Kong’s power companies.

“Obviously, you do not want premature technology to come to the city causing unnecessary disruption. At the same time, you don’t want to lose the momentum; to be the last city to consider this, because then you’re losing the golden opportunity to grow greener and cleaner.

“The real test is how to allow people to see the electric car running on the road instead of breaking down, to allow it to be tried out while we facilitate its entry into our market.”

Mr Chen believes the coming revolution in electric cars is part of people recognising that the present way of living, working and driving is unsustainable.

“We live in this carbon-constrained world and we’ve got to do something about it. The transport sector seemed a logical place to start. That’s why we formed Ergo. We really want to stop talking and actually do something about it.”

Focusing on taxis was an effective way to tackle roadside pollution, he said, especially if an EV conversion scheme for taxis could be extended to light goods trucks and other commercial vehicles. “If you get the taxis and the commercial vehicles, you’ve made a huge impact on roadside pollution. I don’t think you’ve solved the problem for Hong Kong, but you’ve made a very big difference to people’s lives.”

Research showed that the average taxi covered 360km a day, compared with 59km a day for the average car, Mr Chen said. “These guys are driving six times more than the average person. It’s true that the LPG they use is a lot less polluting than petrol but it is still a problem.”

Making it happen, however, will not be easy. “There’s a lot of risk. What if these cars don’t work? What if the batteries fail? What if the air con doesn’t work? All those questions have to be dealt with. Taxi owners and drivers need to be fully confident there won’t be any issues with the car and, if there are issues, that they’re going to be resolved quickly.”

Environment policy advocates and green groups say electric cars will help tackle Hong Kong’s bad roadside air but cannot go far or fast enough in addressing the problem.

“This technology on its own will not make much of a difference fast enough to protect public health, so this tells you other measures are needed,” said Christine Loh Kung-wai, co-founder and chief executive of think-tank Civic Exchange. “Banning old commercial engines [in trucks] is likely to have a much higher and faster impact, or more pedestrianisation. I am not saying e-cars are not a good idea, just that I would have gone for other measures now, for the sake of public health.”

According to Friends of the Earth, unless the government can attract heavy diesel vehicles to go electric, there will be little improvement in roadside air quality. Another concern is how to deal with the spent batteries of electric cars.

“We don’t want to cope with the air pollution problem by creating a waste issue,” said Angus Wong Chung-yin, environmental affairs officer of the green group. “The government should consider how to recycle the battery wastes generated by electric cars.”

Environment minister Mr Yau said the success of Hong Kong’s EV initiatives depended not just on the government doing its part but also on whether it could attract consumers, primarily private users.

He acknowledged that there was a further reason for targeting private users. “Obviously, from a selfish angle, electric cars would help my push to stop idling engines in Hong Kong …”

HK Regulations Pull The Plug On Electric Car

Cheung Chi-fai – Mar 03, 2009 – SCMP

An electric vehicle developed in Hong Kong will hit the European market this year, but it cannot be registered as a passenger car in its city of origin because it fails to meet design standards, the manufacturer said.

Europe, which recognises microcars as a category of vehicles, has already given the nod to the two-seater, battery-driven MyCar, which has been hailed as the first Hong Kong car made for export.

The car is expected to start selling in Britain for no more than HK$100,000 each.

But its debut in Hong Kong would not be possible unless the city also recognises microcars, said local company EuAuto Technology.

In his budget speech last week Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah unveiled plans to promote the use of electric cars in the city through tax concessions and by building a recharging infrastructure.

EuAuto Technology, which had developed the car with a total investment of about HK$70 million, including HK$2 million of initial funding from the government, had set up an assembly line in Shenzhen to manufacture the vehicles.

But Chung Sin-ling, the company’s chief executive, said local drivers had to wait longer to own the car because there was no way to register it in the city without greatly changing its unique lightweight design and lower maximum speed.

The car fully complied with European standards, she said. But it was unlikely to meet the existing requirements on structure and seat-belt designs for conventional private cars here, as well as pass crash tests.

A microcar is a light vehicle that weighs less than 400kg excluding battery, and cannot travel faster than 45km/h. In some European countries, the car is confined to intra-town travel and driving it on highways may be prohibited.

The car also would not be required to take a crash test in Europe.

Ms Chung said the company was willing to talk to the Transport Department about creating a new vehicle category – at an appropriate time – but she hoped the department would first issue more special licences to test the car in various locations, such as Discovery Bay.

Eric Cheng Ka-wai, a professor of electrical engineering at Polytechnic University, said Hong Kong should introduce a microcar vehicle class and relevant regulations to encourage the use of emissions-free cars like MyCar.

He said it was not reasonable to expect a small carmaker to meet all vehicle design standards that have been developed by major car manufacturers over past decades, especially when the car was designed for its environmental benefits.

“The car should have few safety problems, given that motorcycles are allowed on the road.”

The Transport Department said yesterday the MyCar could only be used at the MTR train depot in Siu Ho Wan under a special licence. But it refused to say if it was willing to change registration requirements for the car. “The car is not fully compliant to the requirements of the Road Traffic (Vehicle Construction and Maintenance) Ordinance and is still unsuitable for use on highways,” it said without elaborating.

More Thinking Needed On Electric Cars

Updated on Mar 03, 2009 – SCMP

Hong Kong should be an innovating city when it comes to electric cars. Our compact area, technology-savviness and obvious problem with air pollution are ideal draws. There is even a local company that has developed such vehicles. Yet they are not being sold or even driven in the city because of road regulations; in fact, there are only 31 private electric cars among the 400,000 on our roads. Given the stresses we are putting on our environment and in consequence ourselves, the situation is unacceptable.

The government has offered incentives for electric cars for 15 years. That tens rather than thousands are on our roads says much about the inducements on offer and the manner in which they have been promoted. It is good that authorities have woken up to the shortcomings and decided to get serious. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah’s raising of the issue in his budget speech last week was the perfect forum to kick-start the process.

Mr Tsang extended the registration tax waiver for electric vehicles for another five years. He will head a body to smooth the introduction of models, while a government department will test them for suitability to our road conditions, and check battery performance. Moves will be made to determine where battery-charging stations should be located. These are long overdue moves and the pro-active stance has to be pushed with determination.

Education is central to such a strategy. Ensuring that the right vehicles are available and that they can be conveniently powered is essential, but valid reasons have to be given as to why we should buy them. The government has to lead the way by setting an example. It could show the virtues of electric-powered cars by converting its fleet; bus and taxi companies have to be convinced to follow suit.

The two-seat MyCar we report on in our City section today cannot be registered in Hong Kong because it does not fit into any of the transport department’s vehicle categories. – unlike in environment-conscious Europe. It is ironic that a Hong Kong-developed car is barred because the microcar concept is not recognised. This car may not be to everyone’s liking and its roadworthiness may mean restrictions as to where and how fast it can be driven. It is proof that when it comes to electric vehicles, authorities have to think about more than environmental-friendliness, incentives and education.

Chery Automobile Unveils Plug-In Hybrid

Fresh Chery

Bloomberg – Updated on Mar 01, 2009

Chery Automobile, China’s largest maker of own-brand cars, has unveiled its first plug-in hybrid (a vehicle with more than one power source including batteries that can be recharged through a connection to an electricity socket), touting a range more than twice as far as General Motors’ planned Volt.

The S18 (pictured) can travel as much as 150km using just its batteries, according to Chery. GM’s Volt, which is due to go on sale next year, has a range of 64km. Chery has not said when the S18, which can be fully charged in as little as four hours and can be 80 per cent charged at a specialist station in 30 minutes, will go on sale.

The mainland has encouraged domestic carmakers to develop alternative-energy vehicles to curb oil imports and pollution and help local industry compete against GM and Toyota. BYD, the mainland carmaker backed by US billionaire Warren Buffett, started selling the world’s first mass-produced plug-in hybrid car in December. The F3 DM can run for 100km on its batteries, which take seven hours to fully charge and can be 50 per cent charged at a station in 10 minutes.

Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang in November said the government intended to have 60,000 alternative-energy vehicles on the roads of 10 mainland cities by 2012.

Hong Kong-Developed Electric MyCar

Any colour so long as it’s green

The Hong Kong-developed electric MyCar is leading the drive for clean-fuel microcars in Britain

David Wilson – Updated on Mar 01, 2009 – SCMP

The time may have come to put the conventional gas-guzzling car in the garage and replace it with a compact electric vehicle. With fuel prices in a state of flux and our environmental vandalism becoming ever more apparent, demand for electric vehicles, or EVs, is increasing.

Hong Kong can be proud in the knowledge that a locally developed EV is attempting to lead the charge for clean-fuel microcars overseas, starting in Europe. The conservatively branded MyCar is an electric microcar – defined as a small, fuel-efficient car, powered by petrol engines of up to 700cc or electricity – manufactured by Kwai Chung-based EuAuto Technology, with funding from the Hong Kong government.

The MyCar was unveiled in Britain in January with a sticker price of £8,995 (HK$99,824). It comes in seven colours including pearl white and metallic green. The two-seater EV, made from fibreglass-reinforced plastic body panels, has a maximum speed of 64km/h and can travel 112km on a full charge. It takes six to eight hours to completely power the car.

EuAuto chief executive Chung Sin-ling says the MyCar should appeal to eco-conscious Britain, which has so far built a network of 73 public battery-charging stations, mostly in London. Owners who join the EV Network ( can charge their cars at the homes of other members.

The vehicle’s top speed might seem slow but it should be enough for London motorists, who drive at an average speed of 16km/h – about 3km/h slower than horse-drawn carriages travelled in Edwardian times.

Precisely because a microcar cannot hurtle around at high speeds, the accident rate is half that of standard cars, says Chung, who estimates microcar insurance and running costs should be about 25 per cent lower the conventional vehicles. Better yet, the MyCar is exempt from road tax as well as central London’s £8 daily congestion charge. In addition, in designated areas of the city, the typical £4-per-hour parking fee is being waived for EVs.

“We expect to get some very good sales over the next few months,” says Chung, noting the MyCar’s low running costs, zero carbon emissions and convenience for short-distance travel.

Unfortunately, the British MyCar launch ran into the heaviest snowfalls the country has seen in 18 years and the vehicle has so far registered only four sales.

EuAuto’s MyCar initiative was originally funded by Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Commission. The microcar’s driving system was co-developed with the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, while its initial design is credited to Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Lee Tak-chi, a professor at Polytechnic University’s School of Design, was involved in the design of the prototype, introduced at the 2003 Bologna Motor Show, in Italy.

Peter Sun, chairman of EuAuto, points out that the MyCar’s future plans include a coupe, a four-seater and a pick-up.

Chung says the target markets for MyCar do not include Hong Kong – not because of safety issues but because “there is no such thing as a microcar in Hong Kong”. In other words, there is no classification that covers such a vehicle and would allow for its licensing.

The usual snag with EVs is that they handle badly but Chung describes the MyCar – which weighs 726kg with batteries – as “very stable” and capable of turning in a tight circle. The car measures 2.6 metres by 1.4 metres by 1.4 metres with a ground clearance of 12cm. Its maximum load is 200kg. The MyCar also needs minimal upkeep. “Besides its four-battery pack, there is nothing else that needs maintenance,” says Chung, adding that the car’s Italian-made parts should last a long time because they are made from the highest quality materials. It also has electric windows and central locking.

“You get a lot more features and functionality,” says Chung, noting that rival microcars from France and India are comparatively clunky. “And, of course, by emitting less carbon dioxide you’re also saving the world.”

There is, however, some uncertainty over the MyCar’s battery. Currently made of lead-absorbent glass mat cells, it will be upgraded to lithium. The change will probably increase both the vehicle’s mileage and the cost of the battery.

Early last century, American industrialist Henry Ford, father of the modern assembly line, teamed up with inventor Thomas Edison on a doomed mission to introduce an EV to the market.

Interest in electric vehicles was rekindled in the late 1960s and again in the 70s, following the Arab oil embargo.

Innovation consultant Jeff Lindsay paints a bright future for the MyCar, which he describes as “impressively styled”.

“It may be a compelling vehicle for urban dwellers, who rarely need to exceed 64km/h,” says Lindsay, adding that a microcar that can deliver basic performance and convenience should do well in today’s market. He warns, however, that pricing is critical and urges MyCar’s makers to publish their safety test results.

Europe is only a starting point for the MyCar, Chung says. Future plans include selling the EV in Asia, including in Greater China. She intends to lobby the Hong Kong government to change transport regulations, paving the way for the MyCar’s entry into its home market.

Christian Masset, chairman of anti-pollution group Clear the Air, says EVs such as the MyCar should be introduced on to Hong Kong streets.

“It would improve roadside air quality at no cost,” says Masset.

Additional reporting by Bien Perez.