Hong Kong has approved the 24th round of green transport trials under its HK$300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund, with approvals for five electric light vans for courier and food companies around the city. The latest round brings the total number of subsidised vehicles to 140 and a total subsidy of HK$139 million: the scheme has supported 106 pure-electric vehicles: three electric taxis, three light buses, 21 single-deck buses, 78 light goods vehicle and one medium goods vehicle. The scheme also supports hybrid vehicles and diesel-electric propulsion for ferries.
Pure-electric delivery vans are proving popular under the scheme, representing 78 out of 140 vehicle/system approvals since 2011 and around 60% of approvals made in 2018.
In August, Kum Shing (K.F.) Construction Company Limited reported its three Nissan e-NV200 electric vans reported a fleet average operating cost 7.7 times lower than its diesel fleet, and no issues reported with the vans. Airport Freight Forwarding Centre Co. Ltd is also trialling the Nissan e-NV200, and has made a positive interim report: the 620kg payload van offered significant fuel savings and operating costs, running at HK$0.28/km compared to HK$12.43/km for their Isuzu light van diesel predecessor, for one year’s operation. The operator did not see any decline in battery performance or fuel economy over time.
Chinese-made bus reliability disappoints
However, buses did not fare well in the test. Two electric FDG6102EVG buses supplied by Shenzhen-based Wuzhoulong as on-campus shuttles for Chinese University Hong Kong broke down within two days of the trial’s launch. According to CUHK, the manufacturer claimed the 100kW motor might not have been sufficient for the frequent stop-starts of the shuttle bus service, nor could the 100kW cope with the hills on campus, and they had burned out. An industry participant who preferred not to be named questioned whether a 100kW motor was feasible for an 18-tonne unladen bus, even running a relatively flat and stable route, being the same motor power as used in, for example, a 2-tonne Tesla Model S. Wuzhoulong did not respond to questions. Overall, CUHK was not impressed. “Substantive amount of work and time was required to improve the EVs and thus their utilization rates were very low: EV-1, 1.1% and EV-2, 3.9%,” says its report into the trial.
Two electric Feiyan buses made by Shandong Yixing, Shandong Province, for exhibition and convention venue KITEC also performed badly: according to KITEC’s interim report: “The EVs were plagued by a number of problems that led to frequent maintenance. The major ones were the large temperature difference among the battery compartments, battery management system fault and front axle suspension failure. However, during the trial period, about 50% of the EVs’ total maintenance downtime was unrelated to their electric drive systems; they were related to temperature sensor, brake, air compressor, axle balance and body works instead.” One of the buses caught fire and was damaged beyond repair, only running for 11 months of its 24-month trial.
Meanwhile Hotel ICON reported numerous problems with its two Wuzhoulong Light Bus shuttles. Drivers reported many problems with air-conditioning, doors, battery charging, braking, gear shifting. Drivers, owners and passengers alike did believe the EV was any quieter than their diesel counterparts. The two EVs had a total of 83 days downtime between January and June, compared to 28.5 days for their two diesel predecessors. Moreover, Hotel ICON reported “diminishing fuel economy” of the electric buses over just six months. The total operating cost of the EV buses came to 6.57 HK$/km for EV-1 and HK$3.53/km for EV-2, compared to 3.13 and 3.19 for the two diesels. While the hotel suffered no additional maintenance costs for the EVs, as they were under warranty at the time, they incurred vehicle replacement costs while the Chinese-made buses were being repaired.