Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #005 -- Mr. Alex Wai

Alex Wai with his Tesla Model S

Alex Wai, a name known to many globally, yet we know so little of him, he tells EV stories of Asia to tens of thousands, yet almost none has told stories of him - he's an international man of mystery, he's the journalist of InsideEVs and he's our guest for today's issue of Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #005!

Here's our interview below:

Locky Law (LL): Hello everyone. We have a very special guest with us today and I am very excited about this interview. I say this because our guest rarely accepts interviews, not because he rejects them, but because he is the one who usually asks others for interviews instead of being asked, that being said, he is probably more famous globally than any of his interviewees! Let's welcome Charged Hong Kong founding member Alex Wai from InsideEVs!

Alex Wai (AW): Well thank you Locky for having me here today. I am actually a rookie when I began writing for InsideEVs but being an EV enthusiast does help in finding the topics that may interest the readers.

LL: Alex, is this your very first time to be interviewed by someone?

AW: I would have to say YES in this format.

LL: Haha! I am honoured! Alex and I are actually do communicate quite a lot because I am one of his biggest fans, so whenever I feel I should be reading a new article by him, I will text him and chase him for new stories.

AW: Thank you actually the honor is mine to have you interview me. I believe you have probably cover more local and now Singapore news with Mr.Joe Nguyen's experience on ChargedHK and your own blog than what I have done in the past year.

Alex at Charged Hong Kong Rally 2015 +Hotel ICON 

LL: Well, that's because I'm less busy than you are. So, Alex, maybe you can share with us what usually keeps you busy in a day?

AW: Where to begin.....I am married and have a son who is turning 3 years old next month so I tired to keep enough family time while not working. After having spend my early career in desktop publishing then into the field of IT, lately I have been primary focusing on managing an Aesthetic Medical Clinic with my wife where she also practice as a doctor consulting patients. The remaining time I have setup my own company wanting to do something related to EV or charging business but that is still idling at the moment as I have not found the right solution and it is too early to tell the market trend for charging. I have also spent much time in contacting different commercial electric vehicle manufacturer and converter in US/Europe to discuss a feasible solution for Hong Kong market but most of the solution are impractical today as many were original developed by government back funding. Unless it can be mass produced, the unit cost could not be justify for daily commercial use. One of the area I have also looked at is electric school bus and have some very preliminary talks with a school about the idea. And of course the remaining time I spend is writing for InsideEVs and participate in ChargedHK events, like the Charged Hong Kong Rally 2015 at Hotel ICON.

Alex Supercharging at Cyberport car park

LL: Of course, about InsideEVs, please tell us a little about it and when you have started writing for InsideEVs ... what you cover.

AW: Early last year, I was looking at different online website about EVs while waiting for my Model S delivery spanning for 9 months period, I came across the InsideEVs website. I have been reading it for many months before I realized they were looking for someone to cover EV news for Asia. At first, I didn't pay much attention about it until I had gained deeper knowledge about EV technology then thought I could try something new and take up the challenge in covering stories for the site. So I wrote to the editor and that's how I joined their team.

LL: So basically, you started writing about EVs before you've got your own EV. What's so fascinating about EVs in your opinions?

AW: Yes, before I took delivery of my Model S. One of the things that fascinate me the most is how insanely fast (Or I should say Ludicrous) this industry is evolving. I very much enjoy learning the latest technology and trends so I guess this is why this new industry has caught my attention. I am more into battery, motor and inverter technology than the car itself.

LL: And I know you own 2 Tesla Model S? Why Tesla Model S? Could you please share its configurations with us and tell us why you choose this model?

AW: I spent almost 6 months in doing research before deciding to place deposit on my first Model S P85D. Besides all the cool features the driving range was the key factor I chose it over other brands. Technically I also like how the battery pack is designed to be swapable. This gave me confidence that I could keep this car for a very long time if I choose to and allows me to upgrade in both software and hardware. Many of the other brands have limited driving range and some were design around their ICE model family that technically forbids you to upgrade even if the manufacturer wants to offer such option. Initially I was only considering a 85 or 85D but couldn't resist the insane mode feature that can outrun most exotic sports car in 0-100km.  The second Model S 70 which my parents uses was purely being a stock model with the practical options and without having to wait 2-3 months delivery time. With the affordable finance plans and warranty coverage the monthly cost is similar to my brand new Prius that I got 10 years ago, I thought it was a good time to phase out the hybrid technology (which I believe was quite advance at the time)

Alex's Tesla Model S finds a friend

LL: Excellent. Now, if I am to force you to pick 1 favourite thing about your Tesla Model S, what would it be?

AW: Simplicity compare to an ICE car and even other EV models from other brand.

LL: Well, that's neatly answered. My questions are going to get tricky, almost like a quiz. Ready? How many types of EVs are sold in Hong Kong? Name a few brands off the top of your head.

AW: Well from what I recall there are about 50+ models and 30+ of them are private cars or motocycle. The remaining are either public transport or commercial vehicles. Of course Tesla, BMW, VW, Renault, Nissan, BYD, Zero (motorcycle)....

LL: Rank the top three most popular EVs sold in Hong Kong and say why the Hong Kong EV market is as such.

AW: Tesla Model S, BMW i3......ummm the third most popular is kind of tricky to tell. I would have to say Nissan Leaf but the Renault models are catching up since it is popular with government dept. I think Hong Kong EV market will gradually go from range anxiety to charging anxiety. As long as there are charging location as common or as easy as getting your iPhone or smartphone charge I agree with the comment made by Elon while he was in Hong Kong for the special event in Jan... the driving range don't matter as much. Hong Kong is such a small place compare to mainland China, US or European having a EV packed with a 300km compare to a 1000km does not make much difference other than having to charge less frequently. So let me ask you would a phone battery that will last few days or even a week be a top feature in your phone pick list? We don't think about it since we can charge our phones almost anywhere.

LL: Hong Kong is the No. 1 city with the highest concentration of EVs in the world. How many EVs and public EV chargers are there in Hong Kong?

AW: As of the end of Jan 2016 EDP reports the number of EVs registered in HK is 4464 units with over 1300 EV chargers for the public. Out of those, more than 200 medium chargers and 150 plus quick chargers. I believe these numbers will continue to move upwards.

LL: You ARE well-prepared for this interview! Nice! Is that enough to cope with the growing EV numbers then?

AW: If we want the transition to a full ICE free roads that is never enough. We need EV drivers to have best experience where they can go to any location and there is charging facility available. Having home charger made available to all EV owner is a good start which will offload the queuing stress at public chargers.

LL: Agree, many of our members want home charging, the difficulties lie in not having permission to do so in their car parks, but that's a huge topic to discuss. Okay, next one. What's the next most anticipated EV in Hong Kong and why?

AW: I would have to say Model 3 even though Model X has not arrived in Hong Kong yet. Model 3 price point should convince more ICE owners to switch assuming the charging anxiety problem has been resolved.

LL: Tesla Model 3 has just been unveiled on April Fool's day, what do you think about this much anticipated EV? Has that fooled you and will you get it?

AW: I believe the Tesla team has done a good job so far when presenting the Model 3 at the event. Even though it will be at least a two years wait, it is in Tesla's DNA that the final product will not just be good but GREAT. I have put in a deposit and will decide then if I should trade-in my current MS when the invitation arrives to configure the car.

LL: So before you can configure your car, here's my next question: what's the next most incredible function you want to see added to your car? And when do you think that will happen?

AW: Next generation auto-pilot with Summon that can drive through HK busy streets on its own. I could drive to work then let the car drive home by itself to be parked. Then call up my car again when I am ready to leave. The same feature will also likely drive down the need for people having to own their car where car sharing business model will become a common trend that consumers prefer if all the legal or monopoly barriers are removed.

Alex charging at a multi-standard charger at Ap Lei Chau, Hong Kong

LL: I'm sure Tesla Hong Kong is working hard on getting Summon approved by TD (Transport Department of Hong Kong). This question's on charging standard: will CHAdeMO be here to stay in Hong Kong and why? Because it seems to be disappearing in Europe and in the States.

AW: This is like predicting VHS vs Betamax or Blu-Ray vs HD DVD. Supporting multiple standard requires much more resources and confuses consumer. Manufacturers are holding up with their standard to keep competition behind while having leverage and control on the market...maybe except for Tesla who makes it available to others as long as they pay the share cost. Also the benefit of one standard over another is not that substantial to justify to keep multiple standard. Although I do own CHAdeMO adapter for my MS, I personally in favor for a single standard as a consumer.

LL: That's true, one more standard means one more cable or an adapter. Lastly, name one thing you would like to see happening in 2017.

AW: I hope there will be more charging stalls at most parking facilities but using the power distribution method where each stall does not require a dedicated or fixed amount of power. Any stalls can be a quick, medium and standard charger depending on the status of the EV or based on price when the free public charging ends. If you need a quick charge you have to pay a premium or if you can stay for hours then the cost is less.

LL: Lovely! Well, that's all the time we can have with Alex today. Thank you very much Alex for your insights and hopefully we'll see more of your articles soon!

AW: Thank you.... great to be talking to you.