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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.

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