RTHK Radio 3 Backchat 2016-04-18

Mark Webb-Johnson, Chairman, Charged Hong Kong, was a guest on this morning's RTHK Radio 3 Backchat radio program. Talking about EVs, the need for government incentives, environmental protection and our air quality.

Of particular focus was the recent report from Investment research firm Bernstein with the ridiculous allegation that EVs pollute more than petrol vehicles.

The report's author (Dr Neil Beveridge) is a 19+ year veteran of the oil and gas industry, holding an investment position in oil and gas stocks. He is hardly an independent authority. Let's try to avoid getting our environmental advice from an oil and gas investor. We'd rather listen to the dozens of academic papers from credible universities and private sector researchers, the environmental protection agencies around the world, and governments - all of whom are promoting and encouraging the switch to electric vehicles.

The report itself deliberately chooses the least favourable assumptions for EVs and the most favourable for petrol vehicles, in a blatant attempt to skew the results. For example, the use of HKE, rather than CLP or some mix of the two, despite the fact that 70% of electric vehicles in Hong Kong are powered by CLP, and CLP generates 3/4 of all the electricity we use in Hong Kong. For example, the use of non-realistic non-real-world performance tests like NEDC for the comparison. For example, the accounting of pollution from making an EV battery pack, but ignoring the pollution from manufacturing the petrol vehicles's engine, exhaust system, catalytic converter, ignition system, etc. And many more such examples.

For an independent view, just go to the US government's www.fueleconomy.gov, choose a state with comparable fuel generation to Hong Kong, and then you can compare the figures for different types of cars for yourself. Or go to the Union of Concerned Scientist's site for a comprehensive unbiased report.

The truth is that Electric Vehicles, even when powered by dirty coal, are still cleaner than comparable petrol vehicles today. In most cases the petrol vehicle pollutes 50% to 100% more than a comparable electric vehicle. An electric vehicle purchased today will get cleaner and cleaner in the coming years (as the power generation is improved), while a comparable petrol car will simply get dirtier and dirtier. The electricity used to power an electric vehicle purchased in Hong Kong twenty years ago would today produce just 1/10th of the respiratory emissions compared to twenty years ago. Government proposals for the coming ten years will further reduce those respiratory emissions, as well as reducing carbon emissions by around 50%. Quite simply, the same cannot be said for a petrol vehicle.

It is a shame that the authors of this report chose to shoot themselves in the foot in this way. They have a valid point in that we need a cleaner fuel mix for electricity generation. Such a migration to cleaner and more renewable fuels is inevitable, and in progress. We as a community should support that, because it is not just electric vehicles that run off electricity. In fact electric vehicles are just a tiny user of electricity in Hong Kong.

Listen to the broadcast here.