Hong Kong’s compactness and population density have made it a ready adopter of electric vehicles (EVs) with the help of government incentives. In a bid to reduce roadside pollution, the first registration tax for EVs is waived until end March 2017. It is therefore no coincidence that we are seeing more and more EVs on the road including private cars from renowned makers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Tesla and Volkswagen.
The infrastructure of charging facilities is critical to the wider adoption of EVs. According to December 2015 figures from the Environmental Protection Department, there are 4,198 EVs for road use, up from less than 100 in 2010. There are now about 1,300 public EV chargers including over 200 medium chargers in Hong Kong, covering all 18 districts. In addition, there are now 157 quick chargers of different standards set up across the city. Charging in these public charging stations is currently free.
Tesla, whose popular Model S boasts a mouthwatering range of 425km, even has its own network of superchargers that can replenish half the battery of Model S in 20 minutes.
The ratio of charging stations per EV in Hong Kong is high compared to other markets such as London, which has roughly the same number of charging stations but for 10 times more EVs, according to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in the UK.
These figures represent vehicles that run on rechargeable battery power only but there are also hybrid models that contribute to pollution reduction. A Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) integrates a battery powered motor and a gasoline engine to achieve high fuel efficiency. It is powered by an electric motor that uses energy generated during acceleration, low speed driving or when stopped. An evolved version is the Plug-in HEV with a battery that can be recharged by connecting to electricity outlets. Compared with conventional HEVs, it further reduces roadside emissions and fuel costs.
When style meets efficiency
Driving may be a necessity for some but it is also a luxury, especially in Hong Kong. So all this talk of efficiency alone will not be enough to lure car lovers to turn electric. High end electric or hybrid cars are pushing the limits on performance while offering unique amenities and striking aesthetics. They often have a clean, futuristic feel that reflects their cutting edge technologies.
BMW, one of Hong Kong’s most popular luxury car brands, has gone full on electric with its BMW i3 model. Driven by a fully emission-free electric motor, the BMW i3 makes a strong impression with its acceleration, and boasts a range of up to 160 km which can easily cover all destinations in this city.
The innovative BMW ConnectedDrive app can help drivers find charging stations easily and monitor the vehicle remotely. True to its commitment to the environment, the ample interior features a visible use of sustainable materials. The company developed a completely naturally tanned leather with the customary BMW quality and feel. In addition, 25% of the plastic used in the interior comes from recycled material or renewable resources. The textiles used on the seats consist of up to 100% recycled fibres.
A unique feature in the BMW i3 is the single-pedal control. Recuperation mode is activated the moment the driver lets go of the accelerator. The electric motor switches from drive to generator mode, feeding power into the battery, while triggering a precision braking effect. This recuperation is speed-sensitive, which means the car “coasts” with maximum efficiency at high speeds and generates a strong braking effect at low speeds. The ability to accelerate and brake using just one pedal creates an impressive interaction between driver and car, and is perfect for the start-stop type of driving in city traffic.
Fuel saving supercars
With Formula E hitting Hong Kong roads in October 2016, the spotlight is increasingly on sports cars that are progressive on the sustainability front. Tesla Roadster is a highly regarded all electric super car, while traditional sports car makers such as Porsche also creates hybrid models that entice the enthusiasts. The BMW i8, on the other hand, is a plug-in-hybrid with the distinct aesthetic and acceleration of a low-slung sports car but the consumption and emission of a compact car.
EVs or hybrid cars come at a premium but the ever improving charging infrastructure, fuel savings and benefits to the environment should eventually outweigh the initial investment.