The Roadmap on Popularization of Electric Vehicles (“Roadmap”) unveiled by the Secretary for Environment on 17 March 2021 lacked new thinking to address to existing challenges, especially on the aspect of electrifying commercial vehicles (CV) and public transport (PT).
In summary, the HKSAR Government has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate strong commitment on high-level oversight, new approaches and resources, and time-bound targets to make e-CV and e-PT more popularized in near term.
As the CV and PT contribute over 90% of roadside air pollution, and that these high-mileage vehicles would bring pollutants and health risk across the city, any delay in electrifying CV and PT imply a cost in terms of public health .
Loss of oversight by the Financial Secretary
The Government recognized its irreplaceable role in developing infrastructure. In order to securing lands for installing public charging infrastructure, it requires a high-level coordination to overcome silos between Government departments and bureaus.
The Financial Secretary, who chairs the Steering Committee (“Steering Committee”) on the Promotion of Electric Vehicles , should best serve the role. However, the roles of both the Financial Secretary and the Steering Committee are not clarified in the Roadmap.
Lack of new approaches and resources to ensure more successful trials
In the Roadmap, the Government relies on further trials before committing goals and timeline on electrifying public transport. Since the establishment of the Pilot Green Transport Fund in 2011 (re-scoped and renamed as New Energy Transport Fund in 2020), it is yet to see successful trials for public transport.
Some core issues identified in previous trials include a knowledge gap on new energy technologies, lack of appropriate design of trials to suit operating conditions in Hong Kong, and lack of collaboration among key stakeholders of industry and multiple Government departments.
Apart from the proposal of setting up a new unit in exploring new energy technology, the Roadmap fails to propose new approach or new resources to ensure future trials will be conducted with higher chance of success.
In additional, there is no provision of possible new financial subsidy for operators to cover the gap of new energy vehicles.
Lack of time-bound targets
Apart from the milestones of banning registration of ICE private vehicles by 2035, there is no further elaboration of how the vision of zero vehicular emission by 2050 will be achieved.
Critically, there is no time-bound commitment made on developing a network of public charging infrastructure that supports the interim and full transitioning of CV and PT. The Roadmap does not even commit to full conversion of Government owned vehicular fleet to electric.
1. Establish Time-bound targets
In order to improve roadside air quality and public health, the Roadmap should establish a policy vision, targets and measures for transitioning CV and PT to new energy mode.
2. Strengthen Leadership and engagement with stakeholders
The Steering Committee on the Promotion of Electric Vehicles under the leadership of the Financial Secretary should be strengthened to include members of experts from various concerned sectors and areas, as mentioned previously, including power transmission, EV charging technology, EV charging facilities, EV manufacturers and dealers, EV maintenance workshops, battery management systems as well as public transport operators.
3. Formulate an EV Action Plan
The Government should formulate an EV Action Plan to set out a policy vision and its targets. The EV Action Plan should address:
- The stage-wise development and construction of charging infrastructure to meet projected growing needs for the public transport and commercial vehicles
- Financial subsidies to close the capital gap for purchasing new energy vehicles
- Engagement of stakeholders
- Ease approval process for installing charging infrastructure
- Improve trial design
4. Establish Short/Medium & Long term Objectives
- “Reduction” – establish a measurable air pollution and CO2 reduction target in terms of emission per passenger or VKMT
- Prioritise the adoption of e-buses along routes/districts that bear the heaviest burden of roadside pollution and where health data would demonstrate highest incidents of air-pollution induced illness/hospitalization among children and elderly
- Establish a clear charging infrastructure development goal for CV and P
- “Transition” – quick adoption of hybrid technology before total EV solution arrives
- “Elimination” – establish a deadline when no conventional CV and PT vehicles are allowed to be registeredThe Roadmap should outline a measurable goal to phase out conventional diesel commercial vehicles and ultimately to achieve a zero-emission vehicular fleet. Taking reference from regional counterparts, Singapore aims to have all vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040, Tokyo aims to have 300 zero emission buses by 2030, and Seoul aims to have 3,000 electric buses (40% of total) by 2025.
 Study shows that Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicles (HDDV, the buses and trucks) and Light Duty Gasoline Vehicles (LDGV, the taxis and minibuses) account for over 40% of respiratory mortality and lung cancer among population in Hong Kong due to Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emission.
Xingcheng Lu, Teng Yao, Ying Li, Jimmy C.H. Fung, Alexis K.H. Lau, Source apportionment and health effect of NOx over the Pearl River Delta region in southern China, Environmental Pollution, Volume 212, 2016, Pages 135-146, ISSN 0269-7491, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2016.01.056 (2016)
 Since established in 2009, the Steering Committee is delegated with the objective to recommend a strategy complementary with specific measures to promote the use of electric vehicles in Hong Kong.