Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Transport
Operation of the Octopus
Trial of Taxis using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
This paper informs members of the trial of taxis using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) which will commence on 29 November 1997.
2.In urban areas in Hong Kong there is chronic presence of respirable suspended particulars (RSP). In recent years, RSP levels have breached the Air Quality Objective. Diesel vehicles, which constitute about one-third of Hong Kong's vehicle fleet and travel almost two-thirds of the total mileage in the urban areas, are the biggest source of RSP. In 1994, the emissions from diesel vehicles accounted directly for 40-55% of RSP in different parts of the territory and 98% of RSP emissions from vehicles.
3.For the purpose of reducing emissions from diesel in order to bring down the ambient RSP concentrations, the Administration drew up two proposals :
- replacement of diesel vehicles of four tonnes and below with petrol vehicles, using unleaded petrol and catalytic converters;
- increased emission control on diesel vehicles above four tonnes for which petrol replacements were not readily available.
In the public consultation conducted in 1995, while there was support for strengthening emission control on large diesel vehicles, there was opposition to Proposal (a) from the taxi trade. They raised concerns about its impact on their operating costs and their competitiveness versus other modes of transport.
4.Due to the advancement of gas and diesel vehicle technology, other options have been explored. Among the viable technologies, only gas-fuelled vehicles can reduce RSP emissions by as much as petrol vehicles. Moreover, they emit less reactive hydrocarbons than petrol vehicles and pose less risk of ozone formation and photochemical smog.
5.Both natural gas and Light Petroleum Gas (LPG) are clean motor fuels widely used in overseas countries. Natural gas, however, does not offer a practical option as its supply is less reliable and the use of natural gas vehicles has more technical and infrastructural issues to resolve than the use of LPG vehicles. On the other hand, LPG vehicles emit very little particulates and less nitrogen oxides and toxic chemicals than diesel vehicles. The experience of Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Japan over 30 years of using LPG vehicles has shown that modern LPG vehicles built to good technical standards are as safe as or even safer than petrol vehicles.
6.LPG taxis are readily available in Japan. In Hong Kong, if all diesel taxis are switched to LPG, the RSP emitted from vehicles in the urban area would be reduced by about 30%.
7.To ascertain the reliability of LPG vehicles when used under the local intensive driving environment, and to gauge operational data on fuel consumption and repair and maintenance requirements, we will launch a trial run using LPG taxis. The trial will commence on 29 November 1997 and will last one year. The information and data collected will enable Government to formulate a strategy on LPG vehicles.
8.During the trial period, no duty on the use of LPG as a motor fuel will be levied. The LPG taxis will look the same as the existing diesel taxis but will display a logo to facilitate proper handling of accidents and help make our commitment to introduce a cleaner fuel to abate air pollution more visible to the community. In parallel with the trial, we will launch a publicity campaign to inform the public of the environmental merits of LPG vehicles and stress that these vehicles are as safe as their diesel and petrol counterparts.
LPG Filling Stations
9.Four temporary LPG filling stations will be set up in Chai Wan, Kowloon Bay, Tsing Yi and Shatin. Except for the station at Chai Wan which is on a Government land site, the other three filling stations are located in existing petrol filling stations. To achieve the highest safety standards, the LPG stations are required to comply with very stringent controls under the Gas Safety Ordinance. These include a minimum separation distance from residential buildings, installation of gas leakage detectors, application of fire resistant coating for the LPG storage tanks, and extensive use of fail-safe devices to prevent leakage in the vehicle fuel tank and the dispensing facilities. Except for the filling station in Shatin which is scheduled for completion in February 1998, the other stations will be commissioned in mid November 1997.
10.Initially, 30 LPG urban taxis will be put on the road. The taxis will be supported by existing taxi licences obtained from the taxi trade and operated by professional taxi drivers in real market situations. They will be divided into five fleets of six taxis, each fleet comprising four new and two old taxis supported by the two major vehicle companies in Hong Kong. Experienced taxi operators will be selected as fleet managers, who will be required to provide Transport Department the cost data on the day to day operation of the LPG taxis (including information on fuel consumption, repair and maintenance requirements and drivers' feedback) and similar data on one diesel taxi for comparison purpose.
11.A Monitoring Committee on the LPG Taxi Trial will be set up to review progress of the trial and the information obtained from the trial fleets. The Committee will comprise relevant Government departments, fleet managers, vehicle suppliers, representatives from the taxi trade and personalities who are knowledgeable in gas vehicle technology. The Committee will be formally appointed in November 1997 pending election of representatives from the taxi trade.
LPG Vehicles for Government Use
12.In parallel with the LPG taxi trial, two LPG saloon cars are being procured for use by Government departments. The operational data and experience obtained from the Government LPG vehicles will provide supplementary information for formulating a strategy on LPG vehicles.
LPG Vehicles for Private Use
13.Some private individuals have expressed interest in using LPG vehicles. However, under the Air Pollution Control (Vehicle Design Standards) (Emission) Regulations which require all private cars with spark ignition engine to use unleaded petrol, LPG private cars are precluded from first registration. In view of the limited number of LPG filling facilities and that our prime targets for conversion are diesel vehicles, we have no plans to amend the legislation to enable LPG private cars to be registrable for the time being.
Road Tunnels (Government) (Amendment) Regulation 1997
14.Regulation 11 of the Road Tunnels (Government) Regulations prohibits vehicles conveying dangerous goods, including petrol, diesel, and LPG, from using government tunnels. However, vehicles carrying petroleum spirit, which covers petrol and diesel, for the sole purpose of their propulsion are exempted from such restrictions. Vehicles conveying petroleum spirit of up to 20 litres contained in a securely closed can for refilling purposes are also exempted. On the basis of the Government Chemist's advice that " petroleum spirit " does not include gaseous fuel, the then Attorney General's Chambers confirmed that existing legislation did not allow LPG vehicles to use road tunnels and that legislative amendments were necessary for the trial run. As we are continuously exploring other practicable alternative motor fuels, the generic term " fuel " will replace " petroleum spirit " so as to avoid the need for further legislative amendments should we decide to introduce a new fuel in future. Vehicles carrying fuel other than for the purpose of their propulsion will still be prohibited from using government tunnels.
15.Against such background, amendment will be made to regulation 11 in such a way that vehicles propelled by all types of fuel, instead of only petroleum spirit, will be allowed to pass through government tunnels. Vehicles propelled by petroleum spirit may carry spare petroleum spirit up to 20 litres for refilling purposes.
Amendments To Other Tunnel Legislation
16.The Secretary for Transport will make similar amendments to the Tsing Ma Control Area (General) Regulation. The tunnel companies for Cross-Harbour Tunnel, Eastern Harbour Crossing, Tate's Cairn Tunnel, and Western Harbour Crossing will also make similar amendments to their respective Bylaws and submit to the Provisional Legislative Council for approval.
17.A publicity campaign will be launched to enhance the public's understanding and awareness of LPG as a clean and safe alternative motor fuel. The publicity materials to be produced and disseminated include Announcements of Public Interest on TV and radio, information pamphlets and posters. The Environmental Protection Department will also set up a hotline to respond to any public enquiries relating to LPG vehicles and to gauge feedback on their use. Press releases will be issued on the various key dates leading up to the commencement of the trial.
[TRAN 3/10/28(97) Pt.5]