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Less emissions, more electric buses for Hong Kong

Shenzhen-based BYD Auto Co. Ltd.'s electric buses have entered the US market. Photo: Xinhua

Shenzhen-based BYD Auto Co. Ltd.’s electric buses have entered the US market. Photo: Xinhua

Hong Kong has a large population and limited space, yet its traffic network is well established.

Buses are the second-most commonly used form of public transport, bested only by the MTR.

However, most buses use diesel fuel, which emits a large quantity of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides — adversely affecting air quality in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Air Pollutant Emission Inventory released by the Environmental Protection Department in 2013 showed navigation and road transport are the main sources of air pollutants, with road transport emitting 1,090 tonnes of respirable suspended particulates (RSP).

To improve air quality on the streets and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, diesel buses can be replaced with electric buses.

Shanghai and London strongly promote electric buses

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been adopted by many big cities around the world.

Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka and London have started to popularize EVs.

Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, has 3,050 buses that use new energy for public transport, and there is a plan to add 3,600 more electric buses to the city.

However, in Hong Kong, there were only 2,889 EVs for road use by the end of September.

While the number of total licensed vehicles in Hong Kong reached 681,000 in 2013, the ratio of EVs to traditional vehicles was less than 0.5 percent.

These statistics show that EVs are still not very popular in Hong Kong.

We are introducing electric vehicles to Hong Kong more slowly than the cities around us, as well as those in Europe and America.

London is also a heavily populated city, the citizens of which usually travel by bus.

There are 9,000 buses in London carrying 6.5 million people per day – a demand equal to that of Paris and New York City combined.

The London government has been promoting electric buses and is now conducting a five-year trial of electric double-decker buses.

Recently, the world’s first electric double-decker was unveiled to the public when President Xi Jinping visited Britain.

The British government has also placed an order for 51 electric buses, and it is expected that these orders will continue to increase as citizens embrace the idea of going green.

Transport for London (TfL) is purchasing EVs and hybrid buses with the aim of having 300 electric-only buses by 2020.

Other governments around the world are likewise promoting electric public transport and EVs, with different targets that aim to reduce emissions.

The National Development and Reform Commission in China said it aims to lower the operating costs of EVs by 2020 through financial subsidies and planned charging facilities, creating more incentives for consumers to purchase EVs.

Although Hong Kong has very good plans for developing electric public transport, there is still a need to keep up with other countries in terms of development.

The transport systems in Hong Kong and London are very similar.

Hong Kong can take London’s strategy as a reference and plans to bring in the benefits of EVs and help Hongkongers enjoy cleaner air and blue skies.

Electric buses are safe, with good endurance

Safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to public transport.

Thanks to technological advancement that has led to using an iron-phosphate battery as an energy source, electric buses are not only safe but also stable and environmentally friendly.

An iron-phosphate battery can handle extreme environmental conditions and will not act adversely if a collision occurs or in cases of burning, short circuit, needling, high temperature, compression or overcharging.

Such a battery is itself a green product, generating no pollution during its manufacturing process and, with a long battery life, lasting the entire life cycle of an EV.

Used iron-phosphate batteries can even be recycled.

Many people are concerned about the endurance of EVs.

Some also worry that using EVs for public transport will affect efficiency.

In fact, some single-decker buses need to charge for only four hours to run 250 kilometers, and there have been endurance breakthroughs in electric bus design.

The newly invented electric double-decker can run 300 km when it is fully charged.

Hong Kong Island is 50 km around, which means electric buses can travel around it five or six times once fully charged.

Air pollution has been a key issue in Hong Kong for some time.

The Health Environmental Index from the University of Hong Kong shows 2,616 people died earlier than normal last year because of air pollution.

Therefore, we have to tackle related problems and find the most effective ways to improve air quality.

Promoting EVs is not only a global and environmentally friendly trend, it can also improve the image of a city.

Introducing zero-emission electric buses is a direct and effective way to reduce air pollution at its source and pave the way for Hong Kong to be a zero-emission city.

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