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January 12th, 2013:

Hybrid buses in use

Hybrid buses in useNew hybrid buses

There are 301 diesel-electric hybrid buses in London, running on routes 3, 12, 15, 16, 19, 23, 24, 38, 73, 76, 94, 139, 141, 188, 211, 380, 328, 360, 371, 436, H91 and E8.

How they work

Hybrid buses are powered by a mix of an ordinary diesel engine and an electric motor.

The hybrid buses we use also have regenerative braking, which means they generate electrical energy when the brakes are pressed.

This electrical energy is stored in a battery pack and used to drive the electric motor.

Download our factsheet on hybrid technology (PDF 102KB)

The hybrid programme

Since the initial introduction of hybrid buses in 2006, manufacturers have developed variations of hybrid systems for trial in London. The trial has helped develop newer generations of hybrid bus for full scale roll out.

The programme to deliver 300 hybrid buses has been achieved ahead of the December 2012 target. This milestone is now complete but our work with bus operators and manufacturers of increasing the number of hybrid buses across the London bus network will continue. By March 2013, an additional 150 hybrid buses will be expected to have joined the fleet. In addition the Mayor is committed as part of his manifesto to deliver 600 NBfL hybrid buses by April 2016.

The pace of the roll-out of hybrid buses will depend on available funding streams and standard route contract tenders.

Environmental benefits

We test hybrid buses to make sure they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, harmful pollutants and lower noise levels.

Compared with diesel buses, hybrid buses deliver environmental benefits, including:

  • Minimum 30 per cent reduction in fuel use
  • Minimum 30 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide
  • 3 decibel [dB(A)] reduction in perceived sound levels
  • Reduced oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide

Why is the Environmental Protection Department Like an Incinerator Salesman?

Download PDF : EPD as incinerator salesman

I’m an environmentalist living on Cheung Chau, so was especially interested when I learned of the Environmental Protection Department’s plans for a huge waste incinerator on an artificial island beside nearby Shek Kwu Chau. This was around two years ago, and I then believed the department’s claims the incinerator would include new technology ensuring emissions were clean and safe; though I was concerned it would blight a beautiful area, and threaten Hong Kong’s small population of the globally endangered finless porpoise.

Since then, I have learned far more about waste treatment and incinerators, including major problems with incinerators. But also, disturbingly, I have found the Environmental Protection Department is extremely biased in favour of the incinerator, and unable to admit drawbacks with incinerators or really consider alternatives.

This intransigence was demonstrated at a meeting on waste last month [[Dec – I anticipate Jan publication]], during which I voiced concerns regarding incineration, and said there are far better alternatives. As the meeting closed, EPD assistant director Elvis Au told the audience he had known me for two years, and my concerns were based on 40-year old incinerator designs.

It’s true that Elvis has known me for close to two years – he serves as the EPD’s front man for the incinerator project, and in several meetings I’ve questioned him and attacked the plans, which remain in place despite strong opposition. But it’s nonsense to assert that my information on incinerators and health issues is outdated.

Elvis did note that newer incinerators produce far less dioxins than early designs. But this ignores a host of other poison emissions and the highly toxic chimney ash – which are of great concern worldwide.Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 3.26.17 PM

For instance, incinerators belch massive amounts of particulates. Indeed, when Hong Kong closed its three waste incinerators in the 1990s, a key reason was that they contributed around 20 percent of local particulate emissions. Even newer technologies are far from efficient in trapping particulates – particularly the tiniest ones, which can travel hundreds of kilometres, and when inhaled may penetrate deep into the lungs, aggravating asthma, causing lung damage, and increasing risk of premature death. Gases also contain a wide range of organic chemicals, along with metals like cadmium and mercury.

If you still want to believe Elvis’ claims that the emissions will be clean and safe, consider that the design for Shek Kwu Chau incinerator include a 150-metre chimney. Then, I once suggested to Elvis that since the incinerator will be so fabulous, it should be sited beside the new government offices in Central. He replied that the emissions would lead to air pollutants over the harbour exceeding target levels. So, it won’t be so safe after all.

While discussions of incinerators often focus on emissions, the chimney ash is another major problem, as it may contain harmful chemicals that do not go up in the smoke, such as dioxins, mercury and other heavy metals. Indeed, it is listed as absolute hazardous waste in the European Waste Catalogue.

Elvis and others in the EPD have never mentioned this last fact, that I’ve noticed. But they do cite Europe when it suits their salesmanship, asserting that the incinerator emissions will meet European Union standards. If adopting a balanced approach to informing Hong Kong people, they might also highlight the European Parliament’s goal to ensure that, by 2020, there is no incineration of waste that could be recycled or composted.

But the EPD is quiet about this too. In the meeting, Elvis ignored my mention of new research finding significantly more cancers near waste incinerators in Spain. Nor does EPD tell of current research into infant deaths near UK incinerators, or high asthma rates around Detroit’s massive incinerator, or health concerns from badly disposed of chimney ash, or pollution from Singapore incinerators, or many other problems with modern incinerators around the world.

I have asked Elvis why he is such an avid promoter of incineration. It is not based on science; and though he’s an engineer, this does not qualify him to make grand statements regarding human health. As yet, no reply.

Nor have Elvis or other incinerator proponents made informed responses regarding an alternative treatment using plasma arc technology. This involves temperatures of perhaps 4000°C that blast molecules apart, creating a simple gas mixture plus material like solidified lava that seals heavy metals within. This is relatively new for waste treatment, but major facilities are being built and planned worldwide, with some generating electricity, others to make jet fuel and shipping fuel. Maybe similar facilities could be built here, and make Hong Kong a world leader in waste treatment.

With no real answers as to why the EPD remains wedded to incineration, we can only guess at the reasons. My suspicion is that there have been deals made or nearly made behind the scenes, and companies are eagerly expecting their shares of the estimated HK$15 billion for the incinerator and its island, and HK$8 billion to extend the life of landfills during the eight-year construction period.

Then, there’s the sad fact that under director Anissa Wong and former Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau, the EPD seemingly forgot about protecting our environment, and became besotted with building yet another grandiose infrastructure project at taxpayers’ expense.

Dr. Martin Williams

Dr Martin Williams 衛林士 is a writer and photographer specialising in wildlife and conservation, who has lived in Hong Kong for 25 years. Originally from the UK, he has a PhD in physical chemistry, and is a keen birdwatcher with a special interest in migration. Martin believes nature tourism should be promoted in Hong Kong as it can help protect beautiful rural areas and their wildlife, whilst benefitting local people. Dr. Martin Williams

Chinese translation of this article published on 12-January-2013, MPW No. 2305

Act now on city’s pollution crisis, warn campaigners

Submitted by admin on Jan 12th 2013, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong

  • px205_6c96_7.jpg

A haze of pollution as the sun sets over the harbour in Hong Kong on Jan.9 2013. Photo: AFP

Cheung Chi-fai

Green group urges measures on roads and at sea as environment official pledges ‘big moves’ on city’s pollution crisis ahead of policy address

Air quality at shopping and commercial districts is continuing to decline ahead of new measures to curb the city’s pollution problem, says a green group’s review.

The group, Clean Air Network, has called for bold and immediate action to improve air quality, including implementing rules to scrap old diesel trucks and make all sea vessels switch to cleaner fuel.


Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai echoed their wishes, suggesting yesterday that tough action was on the way. “We will have big moves,” she told a meeting of the Legislative Council’s subcommittee on air quality. “After all the money is spent … there will be apparent changes on the roads.”

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is expected to announce, in his maiden policy address on Wednesday, a generous subsidy scheme to replace old vehicles .

Clean Air Network’s call came after their review found no improvement in the roadside nitrogen dioxide level in Mong Kok, despite bus firms agreeing in 2011 to deploy low emission vehicles to busy districts.

The pollutant’s annual average concentration in the area hit a new record of 122 micrograms per cubic metre last year – 1.6 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2011.

And although there were slight improvements the nitrogen dioxide levels in Central and Causeway Bay – dropping to 117mcg and 120mcg from 125mcg and 126mcg respectively last year – these levels were still at least three times the limit advised by the World Health Organisation.

The pollutant, which can cause respiratory and heart diseases in cases of over-exposure, has become one of the city’s biggest problems in recent years.

While roadside sulphur dioxide and particulate levels have fallen, nitrogen dioxide levels have surged since 2008, peaking in 2011. Officials blame bus and truck emissions, poor maintenance of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) vehicles and chemical reactions with other pollutants.

Clean Air Network’s chief executive officer, Kwong Sum-yin, said old diesel trucks and franchised buses were the main culprits of pollution in Mong Kok.

The group’s review also found that Sham Shui Po and Kwai Chung – districts situated close to the container ports and key logistic routes – remained the most affected by sulphur pollution.

Addressing the issue of pollution by marine emission, Loh said legislation was necessary to make vessels switch to cleaner fuel. She said if this was done, Hong Kong would be the first in Asia to introduce such rules. “What should be done must be done with great force,” she said.

Loh said she had asked two local universities to submit proposals on long-term research on public health and air pollution.

This was crucial to show the health costs of pollution and the benefits of curbing it, she said.

Professor Anthony Hedley, of the University of Hong Kong, told the subcommittee yesterday that American studies had showed that for every US dollar spent on cleaning up the air, four dollars of benefits were generated.

An index, named after Hedley and which tracks real-time air pollution, showed that poor air quality caused more than 3,000 premature deaths and monetary loss of HK$39 billion last year.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said most roadside pollutants showed a slight to moderate drop in concentration last year, compared to the 2005 levels.

But the nitrogen dioxide level was 24 per cent higher than in 2005. He said the number of days when the roadside air pollution index was over 100 also fell, from 172 days to 142 last year.




Clean Air Network

Christine Loh Kung-Wai

More on this:

Paying for clean air can never be too expensive [2]

The sheer wilful stupidity of official inaction on pollution [3]

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 12th 2013, 12:27pm):


Paying for clean air can never be too expensive

Submitted by admin on Oct 29th 2012, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

SCMP Editorial

A government study has shown that the city achieved its overall clean-air targets in 2010, cutting emission levels of four pollutants by up to 60 per cent compared with 1997. But this ignores the real problem – roadside air pollution – which just keeps getting worse.

Since the study was released, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has named the environment as one of the deep-rooted problems he will address with an interventionist approach to governing, such as phasing out old diesel-run vehicles. And environment secretary Wong Kam-sing has said the government will consider tough measures, such as not renewing licences for diesel commercial vehicles more than 15 years old, which are among the chief roadside-pollution culprits.

We trust this is a taste of things to come. Road transport accounted for 286,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide pollution in 2010, up 15,000 tonnes in one year alone. When other countries are preparing to introduce Euro VI emission standards starting next year, Hong Kong still has 60,000 Euro I and II emission standard vehicles of 12 to 18 years old on its roads.

Wong said what air-quality experts have been saying for years – that if Hong Kong is to tackle bad air seriously, it needs policies to specifically deal with roadside pollution.

That said, the operators of polluting diesel vehicles are not breaking current transport and environmental rules, since their vehicles are licensed under them. One operator has warned, reasonably enough, that some will be prepared to take legal action to defend their right to continue to earn their livelihoods.

Clearly, there will need to be effective incentives for drivers to upgrade willingly to acceptable standards. Existing subsidies have proven to be inadequate in value and coverage of the city’s 120,000 diesel vehicles.

The government is right to be prudent with such handouts. But in this case it can be confident that the public would see cleaner roadside air – the stuff that we breathe – as good value for a lot of money.


Air Pollution


roadside pollution

old diesel vehicles

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 12th 2013, 12:25pm):

The sheer wilful stupidity of official inaction on pollution

Submitted by admin on Nov 16th 2012, 12:00am



Tom Holland

It would be far cheaper for the government to tackle air pollution now, rather than in a few decades when the health costs will be incalculable

This week’s Audit Commission report on the effectiveness of the Hong Kong government’s pollution policy makes depressing reading.

That is not so much because of the government’s repeated failure to meet even its own modest environmental targets, although that’s dismal enough.

No, the real reason the report is so discouraging is the sheer wilful official stupidity that lies behind the government’s failure.

Back in the late 1980s, the government introduced targets for the maximum permissible concentrations of harmful atmospheric pollutants and set up the Environmental Protection Department to enforce them.

A quarter of a century later those targets look feeble compared with the latest international standards.

For example, the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines recommend an annual average PM10 – that’s cancer-causing diesel soot to you and me – concentration of no more than 20 microgrammes per cubic metre.

The Hong Kong government’s target is not even half as onerous; a generous 55 microgrammes per cubic metre.

But the government has never come close to meeting even its own undemanding objectives. For instance, last year the average roadside concentration of lung-shrivelling nitrogen dioxide was 50 per cent above the government’s target, and three times the WHO’s ceiling.

Officials cannot blame their failure on pollution from the mainland. Yes, smog drifts down from Guangdong. But pollution concentrations are inversely proportional to the cube of the distance from the source.

So although a factory 80 kilometres away in Dongguan might emit 100,000 times as many pollutants as that bus roaring past you in the street, the bus is doing twice as much damage to your health. In short, the harmful stuff is pumped out right here in Hong Kong.

Yet the government has consistently failed to tackle the problem. Despite 10 years of official promises to clear the air, there are still more than 50,000 trucks and buses with highly polluting pre-2001 diesel engines plying our roads.

Similarly, the government has failed to introduce new standards requiring shipping to use less polluting low-sulphur fuels.

Meanwhile, most of the electricity we consume is still generated locally by burning coal instead of natural gas, which is much cleaner.

Nor can officials blame their failure to do anything on a lack of resources.

At the last count the Hong Kong government was sitting on accumulated excess reserves of HK$1.3 trillion. That’s more than three years’ worth of government spending.

And this is where we encounter mind-boggling levels of stupidity. Asked what all this money is for, officials occasionally mutter something about needing the reserves to meet future health care liabilities as the city’s population ages.

Yet the single most effective thing the government could do to ensure it can meet its future health care liabilities would be to cut local pollution levels.

According to estimates compiled by the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, last year the city’s high pollution levels were responsible for 8.7 million visits to the doctor, 24,500 hospital admissions and 3,600 deaths.

HKU estimates the total cost to Hong Kong’s economy was more than HK$42 billion.

What the cumulative health effects of living in such a polluted environment will turn out to be over the coming decades is incalculable. But it is safe to assume that the annual cost will be many multiples of last year’s figure, placing a massive strain on the city’s economy.

As a result, on the principle that prevention is better than cure – and far better than palliative care – the government should do now what it ought to have done 10 years ago and spend as much as it takes to cut local pollution levels to meet, and even exceed, the WHO’s most stringent guidelines.

In the short term, it should order all pre-2001 dirty diesel-engined vehicles off our roads. It should require all shipping to comply with the latest International Maritime Organisation emission standards, while insisting local vessels like ferries use only ultra-low-sulphur fuels. And it should compel Hong Kong’s power companies to stop burning coal entirely, switching to natural gas as soon as possible.

In the longer term the government should draw up plans to phase out diesel-engined trucks and buses altogether.

Starting with the city’s buses, it should replace them with electric-powered vehicles, moving the source of pollution away from street level where it does the most harm.

All this will be expensive. But Hong Kong can easily afford it. And in the long run the costs of doing nothing will be far higher.

Surely our officials aren’t that stupid.scmp_02aug12_ns_mk4_nora7254a_30319997.jpg

The single most effective thing the government could do to ensure it can meet its future health care liabilities would be to cut local pollution levels. [1]


Air Pollution in Hong Kong

roadside pollution

Health Care

Environmental Protection Department

World Health Organisation

Air Quality Index

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 12th 2013, 11:52am):