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Editorial : Government should be more radical in accelerating use of electric cars

【明報專訊】In recent years, the government has been promoting the use of electric vehicles. But the latest Director of Audit's report shows that the number and proportion of electric vehicles in the government vehicle fleet have been declining — instead of rising — over the past five years.

Climate change has global consequences, and it is incumbent on every one of us to halt global warming. Governments around the world have set targets for emission reduction, aiming to achieve "net zero emissions" by the middle of this century. In Hong Kong, cars are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The policy address published in November last year identified carbon neutrality by 2050 as the target, and the government would take a multi-pronged approach to achieve it. One of the strategies would be the acceleration of the popularisation of electric vehicles. It was also mentioned in this year's budget that the government would take the lead in using more electric vehicles. The latest Director of Audit's report, however, has unavoidably cast doubt on the government's determination to do so.

The Audit Commission has found that electric vehicles account for less than 4% of the cars in the government vehicle fleet. The number of electric cars dropped by over 30% from 249 in late 2016 to 169 at the end of last year. The Government Logistics Department's explanation is that after an electric motorcycle in a government department (the Police force) caught fire, the related government departments became concerned about battery safety, and they suspended the use of dozens of electric vehicles. The Environmental Protection Department has stressed that the government has updated the procurement specifications. Unless there are sufficient grounds, all vehicles with fewer than five seats to be purchased must be electric. But figures do not lie. The fact is that the number of electric vehicles in the government has decreased, not increased.

Last month the Environment Bureau announced a road map for the popularisation of electric vehicles. The bigger goal is to achieve zero emissions from vehicles in Hong Kong by 2050. As for the short-term goals, the authorities hope that 150,000 private parking spaces in Hong Kong will have charging facilities by 2025, and there will be at least 5,000 public charging facilities by then. When it comes to medium-term measures, the government will explore the possibility of transforming oil and gas stations into charging stations. In the road map, it is also suggested that new petrol-fuelled private cars should no longer be registered in or before 2035. Ten years ago, a government document stated that the "long-term goal" was that 30% of all private cars in Hong Kong would be either electric or hybrid by 2020. However, the authorities later "clarified" that that was just a "vision", which, if we do away with the embellishment, actually means all has been empty talk. Now the government has come up with a relatively specific road map for the popularisation of electric vehicles. This is better than an empty "vision". Still, the road map has many practical shortcomings in reality, and the goal is hardly ambitious.

Countries around the world are scrambling to develop innovation and technology to achieve "green transformation". In recent years, the development of electric vehicles has advanced by leaps and bounds with the active participation of traditional car manufacturers. Many technical problems in the past, such as battery safety, charging time and insufficient horsepower, are expected to be solved readily. Many major carmakers around the world have planned to suspend the production of fuel-powered vehicles around 2035. By proposing to stop the registration of new petrol-fuelled private cars by 2035 at the latest, the government is merely going with the trend instead of pioneering the change. A government that is more far-sighted and determined would propose a more radical timetable.

明報社評2021.04.30:加快電動車普及步伐 政府帶頭勿光說不練

政府近年推廣電動車,審計報告卻顯示,政府車隊電動車數目及比例,過去5年不增反減。

氣候變化影響全球,遏阻暖化人人有責,各地政府紛紛定下減排目標,力爭本世紀中葉「淨零排放」。汽車是本港溫室氣體排放一大來源。去年11月發表的《施政報告》,提出以2050年前實現碳中和為目標,政府多管齊下,其中一招就是加快電動車普及化,今年財政預算案便提到,政府將帶頭採用更多電動車,可是最新公布的審計報告,卻不禁令人懷疑當局的決心。

審計署發現,政府車隊中,電動車所佔比例不足4%,具體數目更由2016年底的249輛,降至去年底的169輛,減幅超過三成。物流署解釋,之前有政府部門(警務處)的電動電單車起火,事件令相關部門對電池安全有疑慮,數十輛電動車遭停用。環保署強調,當局已更新採購規格,若無充分理據,5座位以下車輛應全數購買電動車,然而數字不會騙人,過去數年政府電動車數目不增反減,乃客觀事實。

環境局上月公布電動車普及化路線圖,大目標是2050年前達到全港汽車零排放,短期目標方面,當局希望2025年全港有15萬個私人車位有充電設施,公共充電設施則不少於5000個;中期措施方面,政府將探討把油站及加氣站轉型為充電站的可能,路線圖還建議在2035年或之前,停止新登記燃油私家車。10年前,政府文件曾列明,「長遠目標」是2020年全港有三成私家車屬電動車或混能車,然而當局後來「澄清」,這只是「願景」,難聽一點,就是隨便說說而已。現在政府就電動車普及化,拿出一份相對具體的路線圖,總比之前空談「願景」好,可是這份路線圖,實際仍有諸般不足,目標也談不上進取。

各國爭相發展創新科技,實現「綠色轉型」,近年電動車發展一日千里,傳統車廠積極投身其中,以往很多技術問題,諸如電池安全、充電耗時、馬力不足等問題,可望迎刃而解。全球多間大車廠已打算於2035年前後停產燃油車,港府提出最遲2035年停止新登記燃油私家車,僅屬順勢而為,而不是走在前頭推動。倘若政府有遠見有決心,理應提出更進取的時間表。

■Glossary

生字

by leaps and bounds : very quickly; in large amounts

pioneer : when sb pioneers sth, they are one of the first people to do, discover or use sth new

radical : thorough and complete

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