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Asia Briefing: Hong Kong cabbies go electric in effort to cut emissions

Hong Kong is proving to be not immune to the pollution issues clouding people’s minds north of the border, where 16,000 dead pigs have been fished out of the Huangpu River and face masks against foul air are an increasingly common sight.

The city’s amazing neon skyline is a major light polluter, it emerged last week, and, while the PH2.5 microparticle pollution is far short of Beijing, the air is a lot dirtier than it used to be.

Now the chairman of the Shenzhen-based Chinese battery maker BYD, Wang Chuanfu, is trying to replace 3,000 taxis running on liquefied petroleum gas in Hong Kong with its E6 electric cars within two years.

Hong Kong’s taxis are one of the symbols of the city, in their distinctive red and white livery. The first batch of charging stations has been completed and the second tranche is expected to be in place before May, ensuring that each e-taxi can be charged in time and fully.

“Hong Kong has been working on the promotion of green transportation in recent years,” says BYD’s Wang. “Electrifying the public transit will not just effectively lower the operation cost for transportation industry but, more importantly, it will largely reduce the vehicle emissions and improve air quality, achieving enormous social value.”

Who will pay?
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought 10 per cent of BYD in 2008.

There has been a delay of around eight months in getting the first taxis out, but 45 BYD electric taxis are due to take to the streets in May, according to Wang. He expects to add 1,000 E6 taxis in Hong Kong next year.

By 2015, the number should grow to 3,000 and Wang is investing up to
€4 million to set up 45 charging units in various Hong Kong car parks.

Taxi owners are sceptical, the South China Morning Post reports. Questions remain about who will pay for the electricity, who will build the charging facilities and who will pay for the car – which costs twice the price of the popular Toyota Crown cab.


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