Last HK e-taxi ends up on scrap heap

Top News | Sophie Hui 2 Jan 2019

The last of Hong Kong's four electric taxis has been turned to scrap, prompting the aggrieved owner to lambast the government for a "lack of support."

Wong Wing-chung, head of the NW Area Taxi Drivers and Operators Association, fumed that there is no subsidy for changing the taxi's battery and its maintenance.

He added he would have needed to pay a huge tax bill if he transformed the taxi into a car for private use.

Wong said he trashed his China-made BYD e-taxi - the last of its kind to run solely on electricity in the city - in October, saying it cost too much to operate the vehicle without any subsidies.

It was Wong's second e-taxi, which he bought for more than HK$300,000. He was subsidized under the Pilot Green Transport Fund for his first e-taxi in 2013, but the trial ended in failure as the vehicle's range and power system came up short.

"There are no more electric taxis in Hong Kong," Wong said.

"It was said that when the warranty expired, there would be no support in maintenance, so I had to quit. And now the car has been turned into scrap iron."

He accused the government of misleading him as he initially thought he would not need to pay a hefty amount to convert the e-taxi for private use.

"The Transport Department told me that I didn't need to pay tax but after the taxi was ready to be used, they told me I needed to pay HK$300,000 in tax," he said. "If I didn't need to pay tax, of course I would have turned it into a private car."

Wong said he has to drive liquefied petroleum gas cabs as the costs of e-taxis are too high.

Last month, undersecretary for the environment Tse Chin-wan told lawmakers the high population density and uneven terrain have made it difficult to use electric buses on a large scale in Hong Kong.

But the Environment Bureau is not giving up on finding buses that suit people's needs. Asked if such difficulties obstruct the use of e-taxis, Wong played it down, saying e-taxis have enough horsepower.

However, he said people would not want to buy an e-taxi if they knew it would end up being scrapped, after it can no longer be used as a taxi and cannot be turned into a private car.

To boost e-taxis, Wong said drivers should only pay for the vehicle, while the government or power firms should provide the battery. Through this arrangement, drivers can change the battery daily instead of charging it.

Meanwhile, Shenzhen changed its entire fleet of taxis to e-taxis last year.

Drivers said the government accelerated the process by allowing them to exchange two old vehicles for three electric cars.

However, Li Guangming, a driver in Shenzhen, said business has dropped by about a quarter lately since the economic situation has been dismal.

He added that traffic congestion has also played a role in the loss of business.

He said drivers pay higher rent for taxis - it has risen from 8,000 yuan (HK$9,106) to 10,000 yuan per month.

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