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January 7th, 2010:

No excuse not to switch bus fleet to diesel-electric hybrid models

SCMP, Charlie Chan Wing-tai, Sha Tin

7th Jan, 2010

I read with interest the report (“Roadside pollution a bigger life threat”, January 4).

The severe roadside pollution in Hong Kong is a result of traffic emissions, in particular those from diesel buses.

Even though bus companies have pushed for more environmentally friendly buses over the past few years, there is room for improvement.

As the largest bus operator in Hong Kong, KMB continues to study the feasibility of electric hybrid vehicles and the use of alternative fuels.

In a letter to these columns in 2004, Susanne Ho, the head of corporate communications at KMB, pointed out that the diesel-electric hybrid technology for buses was still in its infancy and was limited to a small number of single-deck prototypes.

She said that issues such as mechanical reliability, battery life, fuel economy, drivability and passenger capacity would need to be improved before diesel-electric technology could be seriously considered for a mass-transit bus fleet that provides reliable services.

However, there has been a rapid advancement of hybrid technology.

Bus operators running hybrid vehicles in London have been unreserved in their praise of the performance, reliability, fuel and CO{-2} reductions being achieved by the single and double-decker made by the firm Alexander Dennis.

Alexander Dennis is one of the main manufacturers of Hong Kong’s double-deckers.

This brand’s single and double-decker hybrid buses are already achieving CO{-2} and fuel reductions of between 35 and 38 per cent in London.

Also, the fleet of hybrid buses operating in Britain’s capital is achieving service availability of 94 per cent, a figure that is steadily increasing.

At the same time, the Greater London Authority has made it clear that it is determined to meet its greenhouse gas targets.

The British government has also made commitments.

It has set up a £30 million (HK$374 million) green bus fund designed to promote the purchase of several hundred new low-carbon buses.

Hong Kong, as a world-class city, must have good air quality.

London has already begun to replace the city’s public buses with a hybrid version.

So when will our government and bus companies follow and eventually catch up with policies being implemented in other international cities?