markwj's blog

Open letter to Mrs Carrie Lam - Support for electric vehicles in Hong Kong

Dear Mrs Lam,

I am sure that you are aware of the situation with the poor air quality in Hong Kong, and in particular our roadside air quality. This is affecting the quality of life of everyone in Hong Kong. It is impacting our health, and the competitiveness of HK in the region. According to HKU School of Public Health, in 2016 our poor air quality resulted in 1,600 premature deaths, 2.6 million doctors visits, and $21.6billion direct economic loss. 2017 looked similarly bad. It is clear that the worst of the pollution is at the roadside and in the lowest floors of our buildings; and this affects the lowest privileged members of our community the most.

Governments, and Environmental Protection Agencies, around the world all conclude that electrification of transport is the correct approach to address this problem, as well as help meet CO2 emission targets.

Here in HK, we were finally making good progress. Since 2014, we have grown our fleet of Electric Vehicles (EVs) from a handful to more than 10,000; without affecting the growth rate of the private car fleet. However, in April last year’s budget the previous administration significantly capped the tax incentives for EVs; increasing the price of most by 50%, and making HK amongst the most expensive places in the world to buy an EV.

My thoughts on yesterday's budget

Firstly, let's all stop to take a breath (not too deeply - remember our air is polluted). Sure, this is undoubtedly a setback for Electric Vehicles in Hong Kong, but does anybody really think we will be driving petrol cars in 10 or 20 years time? This government policy change will merely delay the inevitable, not change the end result. It is terrible that in the meantime, more Hong Kong people will have to get sick and die from our air pollution.

I'm not sure if this is political retaliation against John Tsang, or just a short-term cooling-off measure introduced in response to the dramatic growth in the number of EV private cars. Whichever, it is a short term measure for 1 year only. Many are reading that as a negative, but it could equally be a positive.

To be clear, I am 100% against this policy change. The government's stated reasoning is control of private car ownership, but this penalises the 1% of the problem that is EVs, while not affecting the 99% of the problem that is the petrol/diesel vehicles producing the pollution. The purpose of EV incentives is to persuade buyers to purchase clean electric vehicles vs equivalent petrol/diesel polluters, not to cause growth in private car ownership.

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