Electric vehicles are making their presence known in Hong Kong—in the form of taxicabs. Early adopters are quite critical, of course, of the standard EV issues (small driving range, charging infrastructure, and so on), but Hong Kong in particular suffers from a major emissions problem, and vehicular pollution accounts for almost 17 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions according to the government.
Back in April, numbers for EVs were dismal. Out of more than 550,000 vehicles in the city, just 310 were wholly electric. However, now that taxi companies are increasingly mulling over transitioning to EVs, it could mean a significant victory for electric vehicles considering there are more than 18,000 taxicabs plying Hong Kong’s roads.
Nissan (TYO: 7201), for example, stated that it would introduce 50 Leaf EV taxis in 2013 and follow that up with 100 NV200 electric vans. These latter are already pegged for use as taxicabs in London and New York.
China’s BYD expressed its intention to introduce the e6 EV as a taxi, and Fiat (BIT: F) is considering the same with its Doblo electric van. Toyota (NYSE: TM), too, claimed to have received orders for 20 hybrid taxicabs.
“Most people in Hong Kong still have some reservations about using electric cars,” said Eric Cheng, professor of electrical engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
While EVs could see real gains in public perception through introduction via the taxicab route, this sword cuts both ways. Taxicabs in particular require long-range possibilities. Most taxis, for example, drive up to 400 kilometers per shift, while EV ranges hover around 100 kilometer per charge.
That is going to be a concern, especially given the meager charging infrastructure in the city (about 1,000 charging ports).
But the government is providing hefty subsidies to promote the use of greener vehicles in public transportation, so it may as well be a start to greater things to come.