My thoughts on yesterday's budget

Firstly, let's all stop to take a breath (not too deeply - remember our air is polluted). Sure, this is undoubtedly a setback for Electric Vehicles in Hong Kong, but does anybody really think we will be driving petrol cars in 10 or 20 years time? This government policy change will merely delay the inevitable, not change the end result. It is terrible that in the meantime, more Hong Kong people will have to get sick and die from our air pollution.

I'm not sure if this is political retaliation against John Tsang, or just a short-term cooling-off measure introduced in response to the dramatic growth in the number of EV private cars. Whichever, it is a short term measure for 1 year only. Many are reading that as a negative, but it could equally be a positive.

To be clear, I am 100% against this policy change. The government's stated reasoning is control of private car ownership, but this penalises the 1% of the problem that is EVs, while not affecting the 99% of the problem that is the petrol/diesel vehicles producing the pollution. The purpose of EV incentives is to persuade buyers to purchase clean electric vehicles vs equivalent petrol/diesel polluters, not to cause growth in private car ownership.

Our Transport Department statistics on vehicle registrations clearly show that the growth rate has been slowing in recent years. There is nothing to show EVs contributing to that growth disproportionally. We must also remember that Hong Kong has one of the lowest (if not the lowest) private car ownership rates in the world - we are ranked #117 (just above Samoa, Sri Lanka, and Peru). Above us is Singapore (#93), Taiwan (#52), and United Kingdom (#34). Our private car ownership rate is just 1/2, 1/4 and 1/6 of those countries. Even when comparing against cities (not countries), our private car ownership rates are amongst the lowest in the developed world. If the goal is truly to reduce the growth in private vehicles, and FRT is the chosen tool, then FRT should be increased for ALL vehicle types - why penalise EVs (which are the only vehicle type affected by this budget)?

According to the Hong Kong University school of Public Health, last year our air pollution resulted in 1,686 premature deaths, 113,000 hospital bed days, and 2.6m doctor visits - with a total economic loss of HK$21 billion. Nothing in this budget adequately addresses these issues. Electric vehicles today make up less than 1% of the private car fleet, and the numbers for commercial vehicles are significantly lower than that. In this infancy of Electric Vehicles in Hong Kong, it is far too soon to withdraw the support.

It is abundantly clear that the net result of this policy change will be that the commercial sector will continue to ignore electric vehicles and the result will be more polluting petrol and diesel vehicles on our roads. In the private sector, we will see more petrol and a lower percentage of electric private vehicles.

None of this is good for the people of Hong Kong or the air that we breath.