Following is a question by the Hon Charles Mok and a reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (February 7):
To curb the growth in the number of private cars, the Government has reduced the first registration tax (FRT) concessions for electric private cars from full exemption in the past to setting a cap at $97,500 starting from this financial year. It is learnt that since the beginning of the current financial year, the number of newly registered electric private cars has dropped by more than 90 per cent whereas the number of newly registered fuel-powered private cars has increased, as compared with the relevant figures in the same period in the year before. Moreover, an acute shortage of public charging facilities for electric vehicles (EVs) has caused quite a number of people to give up the idea of purchasing EVs. Regarding the policies and measures to popularise EVs, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that many countries and places around the world (e.g. France, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Germany, India, Norway and the Netherlands) have drawn up timetables for a total ban on the sale of fuel-powered vehicles, whether the Government will formulate a timetable in this respect, with a view to achieving zero vehicle emissions and improving roadside air quality; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will consider, starting from the next financial year, raising the cap of FRT exemption for electric private cars, so as to encourage private car owners to switch to EVs; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that the Government is planning to upgrade on-street parking meters and install multi-functional smart lampposts, whether the Government will consider incorporating charging facilities for EVs in these public facilities and identify more public places for installing charging facilities; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Commercial vehicles (CVs) account for about 95 per cent of the vehicular emissions of respiratory suspended particles (RSP) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), both major air pollutants. To improve roadside air quality, the Government has all along been implementing measures targeting mainly CVs to reduce vehicular emissions. Such emission reduction measures include phasing out old diesel CVs, strengthening the emission control of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and petrol vehicles, retrofitting franchised buses of earlier models with emission reduction devices, etc. With these measures in place, roadside concentrations of major air pollutants dropped by around 30 per cent over the past five years.
As electric vehicles (EVs) have no tailpipe emissions, replacing conventional fuel vehicles, especially CVs, with EVs will help improve roadside air quality. To promote the use of electric CVs (e-CVs), the Government has exempted the first registration tax (FRT) in full for e-CVs since 1994, set up the Pilot Green Transport Fund in 2011 to encourage relevant transport sectors to try out green innovative transport technologies including e-CVs, and fully subsidised franchised bus companies to try out electric buses since 2012, etc.
For electric private cars (e-PCs), the Government’s transport policy has been “underpinned by public transport services with railways as its backbone”. Members of the public are encouraged to use public transport as far as possible, and to choose vehicles that are more environmentally-friendly, such as EVs, should they need to acquire private cars (PCs). Owing to significant technology advancement achieved in recent years, the performance of e-PCs can now fairly meet drivers’ general needs. Manufacturers have also pressed on producing more affordable models of e-PCs, thereby narrowing the price gap between e-PCs and conventional fuel PCs. In view of all these latest development and the established public transport-oriented policy, the Government replaced the previous arrangement of fully exempting the FRT for e-PCs last year, by capping FRT concessions for e-PCs at $97,500 for the period from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018. In addition to the said FRT concessions, annual vehicle licence fees for e-PCs are far lower than those for conventional PCs, and the electricity tariffs incurred for running e-PCs are also less expensive than the fuel charges incurred for running conventional PCs.
My reply to the three questions raised is as follows:
(1) To mitigate tailpipe emissions and climate change, developing clean energy vehicles (CEVs) has become a global trend. Several places have set out timetables or targets for a total ban on the sales of PCs solely using petrol or diesel. We are collating relevant information, including the specific plans and measures to be taken by these places, and the work plan of various manufacturers in producing CEVs, with a view to exploring the availability of CEVs suitable for use in Hong Kong and their conditions of use, so as to consider the feasibility of setting local timetables or targets for a total ban on the sales of PCs solely using petrol or diesel.
(2) The current FRT concessions for EVs will cease by the end of this March. Relevant government departments are reviewing the FRT concessionary arrangement and will announce the results in due course.
(3) The provision of on-street parking spaces by the Transport Department is to cater for temporary parking needs and such spaces are usually installed with parking meters to increase the circulation of parking spaces, so that more drivers can use on-street parking spaces for short-term parking.
Providing charging facilities at on-street parking meters may encourage the prolonged occupation of such parking spaces by EV drivers for charging purposes, whereby affecting other drivers with parking needs and may cause EVs queuing for charging around on-street parking spaces installed with charging facilities, leading to traffic jam. Therefore, the Government should give careful consideration to choosing parking spaces for this purpose. The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will study whether trial for EV charging is possible at suitable on-street parking spaces and will discuss specific ideas with relevant departments.
The EPD is conducting a pilot scheme at four government open car parks (located at the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department Headquarters, Hong Kong Wetland Park, Wai Tsuen Sports Centre and Shek Kip Mei Park) managed by contractors, where a total of 11 outdoor medium chargers have been installed to assess their reliability. We will review the findings of the pilot scheme in 2018 to consider whether more outdoor chargers can be installed in other government premises.
The Government plans to launch the pilot Multi-functional Smart Lampposts scheme in 2019 to collect various real-time city data at selected urban locations to enhance city and traffic management, and at the same time provide data network and digital facilities. The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, the Highways Department and other relevant departments have formed an inter-departmental task force to explore the facilities and applications that can be made available at Smart Lampposts.
Overall speaking, in the light of the rapid changes in the usage of EVs, the Government is reviewing various policies and measures on promoting the use of EVs. Our efforts include exploring ways to encourage installation of charging facilities to tie in with the usage of EVs.