on 27 November 1998
Panels of Environmental Affairs and Transport
A Proposal to Introduce LPG Taxis A Consultation Paper
Members were briefed on 6 November 1998 on the proposal to introduce liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) taxis on a large scale to Hong Kong. The meeting was also attended by a deputation of representatives of the taxi trade in the Monitoring Committee on the Trial of LPG Taxis, the LPG taxi fleet managers, environmentalists and green groups.
2. . The deputation presented their written submissions at the meeting. A member of the deputation had also made additional comment.
3. At the end of the meeting, Members requested a written reply to the views expressed at the meeting and to discuss the proposal again at the meeting on 27 November 1998.
The Deputation's Views and the Administration's Responses
4. The deputation has made 10 written submissions. The Administration's responses to the written submissions are in Annex A1 to A10.
5. .A member of the deputation made a comment on 6 November 1998 that LPG taxis had a shorter operating life than diesel taxis because an LPG taxi involved in the trial scheme, HM 3532, needed a major repair during the trial period. The fact was that the LPG taxi had operated for about 260,000 km, which was about the mileage of a local taxi 2 to 3 years old. In June, this taxi was found to have a damaged cylinder head that needed replacement.
6. The supplier of HM 3532 has investigated the case and explained to the Monitoring Committee that the damage had nothing to do with the age of the vehicle nor the LPG fuel. The damage was caused because the driver did not take remedial action when the engine over-heated due to insufficient cooling water. A diesel taxi would experience the same problem if run with insufficient cooling water.
Information sought by Members
7. In response to Members' requests, additional information is provided in Annex B1 to Annex B6
8. We look forward to further discuss the proposal with Members and seek Members' advice on whether the Administration should proceed with the proposal to replace the diesel taxi fleet with LPG taxis.
Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
Responses to the Written Submission from Chung Shing Taxi Ltd.
The Company considered the trial of LPG taxis successful and that introducing LPG taxis could help improve air quality. They were of the view that the taxi trade was willing to accept LPG taxis but worried about the increase in operating cost.
However, they were doubtful whether sufficient workshops for LPG vehicles and LPG filling stations could be set up in 2000. If these supporting infrastructures were not set up in time, the owners of the LPG taxis would suffer great loss in rentals.
The Administration is fully aware of the importance of setting up sufficient LPG vehicle workshops and LPG filling stations in time to support a mandatory use of LPG for newly registered taxis.
For LPG vehicle workshops, the requirements are such that it is not difficult to find suitable premises in non-residential areas. Many small vehicle workshops have already expressed interest to service LPG taxis. So far, 12 vehicle workshops have been identified to be suitable for servicing LPG vehicles if proper safety measures are put in. We will continue to closely monitor the development in this respect and will consider taking appropriate measures to help sufficient vehicle workshops for LPG vehicles to be set up.
As to the setting up of LPG filling stations, we have already identified 62 potential sites. Information on these sites has been passed to potential LPG suppliers. Of these sites, 30 to 40 could be able to be set up before the end of 2000, which should allow support for all new taxis to start using LPG. More stations will be established in 2001 and onwards. We are continuing the search for potential sites to ensure that enough LPG filling stations in different locations will be established to support the whole taxi fleet using LPG.
To help streamline the administrative procedures for setting up LPG filling stations and to reduce the time required to a minimum, an interdepartmental working group has been set up to consider and process relevant applications.
Responses to the Written Submission from the
N.W. Area Taxi Drivers & Operators Association
The Association suggested the owners of taxi licence to form taxi fleet companies so as to have better bargaining power for cheaper LPG taxis and LPG. These companies could also organize their own maintenance services and provide better training for their taxi drivers.Responses
We welcome the Association's initiatives to organize their own maintenance services and to provide better training for their drivers. Also, we will endeavour to assist the taxi trade, in general, to use LPG without incurring increases in their operating cost by ensuring that sufficient LPG filling stations and vehicle workshops are set up, and that competitive supplies of LPG can be made available.
Responses to the Written Submission from Dr. Gordon S. Maxwell
Dr. Maxwell considered LPG a very good fuel and that the general targets for conversion to alternative fuels should be urban cars and vans generally and not just taxis. He reckoned that diesel taxis were obvious targets but petrol driven vehicles produced unseen dangerous gases e.g. carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide.
He suggested that a few famous people like movie stars could convert their cars to LPG and create a new fashion with huge environmental advantages.
If a cost benefit analysis was taken, he opined that it might reveal a net saving to the people of Hong Kong in terms of medicine, environmental health, quality of life, image and tourism, new industries (LPG kits made in Hong Kong) and new infrastructure (conversion courses at Polytechnics) and other advantages.
ResponsesWe welcome Dr Maxwell's support for LPG taxis
Regarding the suggestion of converting petrol cars to LPG cars, emissions from a modern petrol vehicle are already a lot better than those shown in Dr. Maxwell's written submission. Our current air pollution problem with respirable suspended particulates and nitrogen oxides mainly comes from diesel vehicles. Using LPG vehicles to replace petrol vehicles will not help resolve the air pollution problems in Hong Kong.
Furthermore, the environmental performance of LPG cars converted from petrol cars is not very reliable. Thorough studies done in the USA have concluded that a significant number of petrol cars modified to run on alternative fuels, including LPG, may be exceeding one or more applicable federal emission standards. This is a main reason why we require OEM (original equipment manufacturer) LPG vehicles to be used as taxis in Hong Kong. Because of workmanship, OEM LPG vehicles are also better than cars converted to use LPG in terms of safety performance.
Given the above considerations, our priority is to introduce suitable LPG vehicles to replace diesel vehicles. Furthermore, we would require OEM LPG vehicles to be used in Hong Kong. We will be working with the relevant trades in the next year to launch a trial for LPG public light bus. Annex A4
Responses to the Written Submission of the
New Territories Taxi Drivers Association
The Association agreed that the LPG taxi was suitable for operation in Hong Kong and LPG was a clean practicable fuel that could help solve the serious particulates pollution in Hong Kong. However, they considered it necessary for the Government to assist the taxi trade to use LPG and requested the following to be considered:
- Waive the first registration tax and licence fee of an LPG taxi
- Waive the duty on LPG
- Lower the price of LPG to $2.5/litre
- Lower the price of LPG taxi by introducing more LPG taxi suppliers
- Train sufficient LPG vehicle mechanics and help LPG vehicle workshops to be set up widely
- Set up sufficient LPG filling stations to avoid traffic congestion during peak shift-changing hours.
i. & ii. The Administration shares the view of the taxi trade that the cost of operating an LPG taxi has to be competitive with a diesel taxi if the scheme is to be successful. We have clearly stated that financial incentives such as tax concessions may need to be considered. We have an open mind and welcome comments from the public as any financial incentives that we ultimately offer come from public funds.
iii The Administration does not set fuel prices. We welcome and encourage competition between gas suppliers to keep down prices for users. The new sites identified for LPG filling stations will be offered to new suppliers as well as to established companies.
iv. We welcome any vehicle supplier to bring in LPG taxis. The Motor Traders' Association has already been briefed on the safety and emission requirements for LPG taxis to facilitate them to import LPG taxis for the local market.
v. Making the maintenance facilities for LPG taxis widely available is crucial to reducing the maintenance cost of an LPG taxi to a level comparable with that of a diesel taxi.
The Vocational Training Council has already started their first course for training vehicle mechanics to service LPG vehicles. They originally planned to train up 100 vehicle mechanics per year, but in response to demand will increase the number of part-time training courses by 50% and will incorporate LPG vehicle training in the syllabus of their existing full-time courses in order to ensure adequate provision of mechanics to service LPG taxis.
The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department has already prepared a preliminary guideline on the safety requirements for a vehicle workshop for LPG vehicles. The requirements are being explained to the relevant trades. Suitable premises are widely available in non-residential areas.
Already, 12 vehicle workshops have been identified to be likely suitable for servicing LPG vehicles, subject to installation of proper safety measures. Further appropriate measures to help ensure there are sufficient vehicle workshops for LPG vehicles will be taken if required.
vi. Please see the 3rd paragraph of the responses in Annex A1.
Responses to the Written Submission of the Universal Taxi Limited
The Company supported the introduction of LPG taxi to replace diesel taxis and strongly requested the Government to assist the taxi trade to have a smooth transition to LPG. The following were their suggestions:
- The price of LPG for taxi should be lowered to between $2.5 and $3.0 per litre
- The Government should provide suitable locations for taxi dealers to apply for setting up maintenance workshops for repairing LPG vehicles.
- The Government should waive the first registration tax for an LPG taxi and exempt its licence fee for 2 years.
- The Government should provide an interest-free loan with a long repayment period (say 5 years) for the vehicle owners to replace their old diesel taxis for new LPG taxis.
- Please see response iii. in Annex A4.
- Please see the 3rd paragraph of the response v. in Annex A4.
- Please see the responses i. & ii. in Annex A4.
- The Administration will consider this suggestion, together with any others made during the consultation period. However, an interest-free loan would constitute a subsidy to the taxi trade. Subsidy to a particular trade is not generally accepted in Hong Kong. There would have to be very strong justifications to do so.
Responses to the Written Submission of Mr. John Jarman
Mr. Jarman proposed to increase the penalty against smoky vehicles. Specifically, he suggested requiring the owner of a smoky vehicle who had to attend an emission test to bring a banker's draft for HK$10,000 made out to the government. If his vehicle passed the test, he got his money back in full after 1 month. If it failed, then he lost the money.
He also suggested to increase the fixed penalty fine for smoky vehicles to HK$10,000.
We shall consider the suggestion in stepping up the control on smoky vehicles.
Responses to the Written Submission from Clear the Air
The Association supported the proposal but had the following questions:
- Air quality and health
- What advice is being given to people who work in Causeway Bay and other polluted districts, especially those who work at street level?
- How much are people in Causeway Bay and other similar districts at risk from short-term exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants?
- What advice is being given to doctors, sports clubs and schools about the risk of conducting strenuous activity outdoors on days of high air pollution?
- LPG scheme
- Why do we need to wait for another 6-7 years for all taxis to be running on LPG?
- Can the schedule for construction of the new LPG filling stations be fast-tracked in any way?
- What financial incentives will be given to support the implementation of the LPG switch for taxis and other vehicles?
- What is the timetable for the extension of the LPG option to minibuses and other vehicles?
- Inspection and enforcement
- What are the resources, in terms of time and manpower, allocated to stepping up inspection and enforcement against smoky vehicles?
- Whether legislation to increase the fixed penalty fine for smoky vehicles can be introduced into the current Legislative Session?
- When compulsory emission testing will be introduced for all vehicles as part of the annual road-worthiness test?
- Will vehicles failing the test have their licences revoked?
- What is the timetable for the introduction of advanced emission testing equipment (dynamometers) for all vehicles and can this be expedited?
- Other vehicles
- Does the Administration have any plans to pilot advanced zero-emission (or significantly reduced emission) vehicles including hybrid vehicles, natural gas, electric, and fuel-cell vehicles?
- Environmental/Transport policy
- What is the Administration's long term strategy to introduce cleaner-burning or operating fuels and engine technologies?
- What are the Administration's plans to address the projected growth in traffic?
- Air quality and health
- The Causeway Bay roadside air monitoring station measures air quality at urban roadside in busy commercial area with very heavy traffic and surrounded by many tall buildings. When the roadside Air Pollution Index (API) is between 100 and up to 200, people with heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to avoid prolonged stay in busy urban roadside as represented by the Causeway Bay station. If it is necessary to stay in such busy roadside, they are advised to reduce physical exertion as far as possible.
In the unlikely event when the roadside API is within the range of 201 to 500, the general public are advised to avoid prolonged stay in areas with heavy traffic. If it is necessary to stay in streets or roads with heavy traffic, they are advised to reduce physical exertion as far as possible.
The above advice to the public is also applicable to persons who need to work at the street level. Those workers with heart or respiratory illnesses who need to carry out strenuous work outdoors regularly for long hours should consult their doctors on their fitness to work outdoors on days of very high API.
- Health effects from air pollution come about due to a combination of the concentration of air pollutants and the amount of time you are exposed to the air pollutants. Exposure to moderately high pollution levels for a short period of time normally will not lead to any significant problem. For the general public who are pedestrians or stay in busy streets only for a small portion of the day, their health should not be significantly affected even when the roadside API is high. For most of us, the general API is more relevant as it represents the air pollution that we will be exposed to for most of the time. Those workers with heart or respiratory illnesses who need to carry out strenuous work outdoors regularly for long hours should, however, consult their doctors on their fitness to work outdoors on days of very high roadside API.
In general, high roadside API values for places such as Causeway Bay, reflect the high concentration of air pollutants close to vehicular emission sources. Nuisance effects in the form of objectionable odour and short-term irritation to eyes and noses may result.
- A booklet 'Guidance for Physicians on Assessment of Medical Fitness to Use Respiratory Protection in Conditions of High Roadside Air Pollution Index' has been issued jointly by the Hong Kong Medical Association, Labour Department, Department of Health and Environmental Protection Department in June 1998. The booklet provides useful information on the API and gives guidelines to the practising medical doctors in assessing the medical fitness of their patients or clients in using respiratory protection.
For schools, the Education Department has issued a School Miscellaneous Circular No. 3/98 on Air Pollution Index, giving advice to the Heads of all schools for precautionary measures to be taken in the event of very high API. An individual Sports Club manager has also written to Environmental Protection Department for advice on the measures to take on days of high air pollution.
- LPG scheme
- The proposal is to require all newly registered taxis to use LPG by the end of 2000 and encourage all diesel taxis to be replaced by LPG taxis by 2005. It is not possible to make it mandatory for taxis to switch to LPG until there are sufficient filling stations and sufficient maintenance services, well distributed throughout the territory, to support the full conversion of taxis to LPG. Any means to increase the number of LPG taxis in advance of the imposition of mandatory conversion will be taken.
- We will fast track the administrative process for the construction of new LPG filling stations. An inter-departmental working group has already been formed for this purpose.
- The Administration will consider providing financial incentives to the taxi trade if necessary. At the end of the day it will depend on whether there are sufficient justifications to do so. It's too early to reach any conclusion now because the price of auto LPG has yet to be worked out by the oil companies and the purchase price of an LPG taxi is not yet precisely known. However, we expect them to be available in the coming months after the commencement of the voluntary scheme for LPG taxis.
- Next year the public light bus trade and the vehicle suppliers will be consulted about running a trial of LPG public light bus as soon as practicable. The trial will help collect local operation data and allow the public light bus trade to gain experience with this new type of vehicle.
- Inspection and enforcement
- EPD has a dedicated team working full time on enforcement against smoky vehicles. The team has 3 professional officers, 15 inspectors, 3 workmen and 9 general grades staff.
A major task of the team is to operate the Smoky Vehicle Control Programme. In 1997, the team, as part of this programme, processed 40,536 smoky vehicle from about 1,200 accredited spotters and managed 17 private-run emission testing centres.
The team is also working on the introduction of a more effective smoke test with aid of a chassis dynamometer. They also engage in joint operations with the Police to catch smoky vehicles for fixing. These smoky vehicles will also get a fixed penalty fine.
This team has also assisted the Transport Department to introduce a strengthened smoke test in their annual roadworthiness inspection on a sampling basis. The key element of the strengthened test is to check the engine speed of a vehicle as a simple guard against improper engine tuning.
In addition, the Transport Department has, based on their existing manpower resources, introduced since last November a smoke check for all diesel vehicles by means of smoke meters.
- Consultation with relevant parties about an increase in fixed penalty fine will commence shortly.
- All commercial diesel vehicles are required to have their smoke emissions checked as part of their annual road-worthiness inspection. Since November 1997, a strengthened smoke test that also measures the engine speed to check against improper tuning of the engine, together with inspection of air filters has been carried out on a sampling basis. Wider application of the strengthened smoke test is being considered. In addition, the feasibility of introducing a regular emission inspection for petrol vehicles is being considered and proposals will be presented shortly.
- A vehicle cannot pass its annual roadworthiness inspection and get its vehicle licence renewed if it fails the emission check.
- The advanced smoke test (using a dynamometer) for all diesel vehicles up to 5.5 tonnes will be introduced in mid 1999. A 3-month pilot scheme for the test for a system for diesel vehicles over 5.5 tonnes has just been launched. If successful, this system should be introduced in early 2000. The schedules for introducing the smoke tests are already very tight because the tests require the installation of additional equipment and training of mechanics to carry out the more sophisticated test procedures.
- Other vehicles
- We are monitoring closely the development of clean vehicle technology. When they are practicable and available in Hong Kong, we will encourage their trial and introduction.
- Environmental/Transport Policy
- The Administration welcomes the development of clean burning fuels and clean engine technologies, and their rapid introduction into Hong Kong as they become practicable and available in the market.
- Traffic can adversely affect the environment. It is however a fact of daily life and essential to our economic development. We will seek to achieve the minimum impact on the environment from transportation by careful planning, effective traffic management and continued investment in the railways which is an environmentally more friendly public transport mode. The Third Comprehensive Transport Study which is on going will pay attention at a more strategic level to inter-alia the possible air quality impacts which transport development may create and will suggest mitigating measures.
Responses to the Written Submission from the Friends of the Earth
The Organization considered the introduction of LPG taxis a reliable and practicable first step in the goal towards achieving better air quality - bringing about immediate and significant reductions in RSP and NOx.Responses
The Administration welcomes the views of FoE. We agree that introduction of LPG taxis is practicable but that it is only one step among many that are being taken and will be introduced to move Hong Kong towards better air quality.
Responses to the Written Submission from the
Urban Taxi Associations Joint Committee
ViewsThe Government should:
- at least refer to the proposal for phasing out light duty diesel vehicles in five years and replacing them with modern petrol vehicles to propose incentives to encourage the taxi trade to use LPG;
- help the taxi trade to obtain from the vehicle suppliers the price of an LPG taxi and the designed service life (in years or mileage) with validity for a certain fixed period;
- help the taxi trade to obtain from the LPG supply companies the selling price of LPG with validity for a certain fixed period;
- appoint a number of workshops for maintaining LPG vehicles just like the designated centres for testing vehicle emissions to promote competition and thus keep their maintenance cost lower than that of a diesel vehicle.
- Please see responses i. & ii. in Annex A4.
- Although the 2 LPG taxi suppliers under the trial scheme have yet to disclose the price of an LPG taxi, they have already told the Monitoring Committee for the Trial of LPG Taxis that an LPG taxi is cheaper than a diesel taxi. Since LPG taxis will be introduced on a voluntary basis soon after the completion of the trial, the price of an LPG taxi is expected to be known by then. Please also see response iv. in Annex A4.
The 2 vehicle suppliers have also told the Monitoring Committee for the Trial of LPG Taxis that their LPG taxis and diesel taxis are designed to have the same useful service life.
- The price of LPG will be fixed by the market. The Administration is, however, taking steps to help potential suppliers to identify their costs quickly, so that they can take these into account when determining prices. Any potential supplier is encouraged to enter the market so as to increase competition.
- Please see response v. in Annex A4.
Responses to the Written Submission of the
United Friendship Taxi Owners & Drivers Association Ltd.
The Association supported the Administration's strategy and target to clean up the air but had the following concerns:
- How could the Administration guarantee the fuel cost of an LPG taxi will not be higher than that of a diesel taxi?
- The trial of LPG taxis might not have reflected the actual maintenance requirements of an LPG taxi because the age of the LPG taxis were relatively young. Given the more sophisticated requirements for maintaining an LPG taxi, the maintenance cost of an LPG taxi would be higher than that of a diesel taxi.
The Association requested the Administration to provide suitable financial incentives through tax concessions to assist the taxi trade to use LPG.Response
- On fuel cost, please see response iii. in Annex A4.
- The vehicle suppliers have already confirmed that the two types of taxis have similar maintenance requirements. There is also no significant difference in the maintenance requirements between the LPG taxis, both old and new, and the diesel taxis in service.
The Administration will consider providing financial incentives to encourage the taxi trade to use LPG, if necessary.
Measures to Encourage Usage
- What concrete measures would be taken by the Administration to ensure that :
- the oil companies would not join together to form a cartel so as to maintain the price of automobile LPG at high level;
- the oil companies would continue to maintain the price advantage of automobile LPG to that of automobile diesel; and
- the operating cost of LPG taxis would be comparable to that of diesel taxis.
- Whether the Government is prepared to absorb the extra cost so incurred in case the operating cost of LPG taxis is higher than that of diesel taxis.
- Whether the Government is prepared to waive the first registration tax and annual licence fee for LPG taxis so as to speed up the conversion process.
- Despite the training of mechanics by the Vocational Training Council, what other measures would be taken by the Government to ensure the adequate provision of mechanics and garages for servicing LPG taxis in a timely manner.
- Concrete Measures
- Concrete measures to prevent cartel: the Administration's policy is to maintain an open market for LPG. Any party can apply to become a Registered Gas Supply Company with the Gas Authority (i.e. Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services) so long as they can satisfy the necessary requirements. A number of new sites suitable for putting in a petrol cum LPG filling station have been identified. Subject to public consultation and other planning procedures, we will put these new sites to open tender so that anyone who is interested in the retail market can participate.
- Concrete measures to maintain the price advantage of LPG: The price of LPG will be set by the market. The gas suppliers have firmly provided their support for the introduction of LPG taxis to Hong Kong. Their pricing strategy during the trial period has been to maintain a price advantage of LPG over diesel. There is no reason to believe they would not maintain this pricing strategy in future. We are prepared to facilitate the setting up of LPG filling stations by streamlining our administrative procedures so that the suppliers can identify their costs quickly, which will help them to determine pricing strategy and the viability of investing in the new infrastructure required.
- Concrete measures to ensure comparable operating cost of LPG taxis: We are discussing with the taxi trade, the vehicle suppliers, the gas suppliers and other relevant trades on ways to keep down the future operating costs of LPG taxis. We have already received very positive assurances from existing LPG vehicle suppliers that the prices of LPG taxis will be less than those of diesel taxis. The Vocational Training Council has also agreed to step up its LPG vehicle maintenance training courses so that a large pool of qualified mechanics will be available to repair the fuel system of LPG vehicles. This will have an effect of lowering the future maintenance cost of LPG taxis, compared with the costs incurred during the trial period. We are also working closely with the gas suppliers to maintain a competitive price of auto LPG. We will be happy to listen to any suggestions the public may have on how we can further reduce the operating cost of LPG taxis.
- We have pledged to work closely with the taxi trade and other relevant trades to ensure that the operating cost of LPG taxis remain competitive with diesel taxis. Any artificial means to keep the costs down, such as through government intervention or subsidy, is unlikely to be sustainable and healthy to the economy. As any government intervention or subsidy involves public money, very careful consideration of public interests is needed before final decisions are made.
- Please see responses i. & ii. in Annex A4.
- Please see response v. in Annex A4.
Adequacy of LPG Filling Stations
- Whether the Government is prepared to construct additional LPG filling stations in the urban areas and, if so, how the associated problems could be resolved.
- Whether the Government is prepared to revise the risk guideline of not allowing the provision of an LPG filling station within 55 metres of a residential development.
- The need for sufficient LPG filling stations to facilitate the normal operation of taxis is fully appreciated. We will continue to search for more suitable sites in the urban areas. In particular, we are exploring with all relevant parties the feasibility of locating LPG filling stations in the reclamation areas and the Kai Tak airport site.
- Safety has to be an important consideration for the Administration and for the community. The 55 metre requirement is a guideline derived from a general risk assessment. For each potential site, an individual quantitative risk assessment will be undertaken, and requirements appropriate to that site will be laid down.
Foreign experience in using LPG vehicles/taxis
The Administration to provide further information on the use of LPG vehicles/taxis in other overseas countries including the working life of such vehicles.
The working life of a vehicle is largely determined by its design and construction. There is no reason that an LPG vehicle cannot be designed and constructed to work as long as its diesel counterpart. The vehicle suppliers of the LPG taxi on trial have already confirmed to the Monitoring Committee of the trial of LPG taxis that their LPG taxis and diesel taxis are designed to work for the same service life and have the same maintenance requirements.
We have also learnt from our recent visit to the two vehicle suppliers in Japan that it is a practice in Japan to replace both passenger cars and taxis, after in-use for 4 years, to avoid more frequent down time and higher maintenance cost. The change of vehicles is based on economic factors and not on the working life of the vehicles. Because of the poor economic climate, there are signs that these vehicles are now working longer than 4 years.
In addition, a supplier of LPG vehicles in Australia has also confirmed that their LPG vehicles of the size of a taxi can work up to 750,000 km without a major overhaul.
Smoky Vehicle Control Programme
- Whether the Smoky Vehicle Control Programme is effective in reducing air pollution.
- Whether vehicle owners will arrange to improve their vehicles during the lead-time between reporting and subsequent inspection and, if so, whether the Government is prepared to enhance the related prosecution and penalty to plug the loophole.
- The Smoky Vehicle Control Programme involves a spotter scheme, inspections and enforcement action. In overall terms, the effectiveness of the scheme can be assessed by the number of repeat offenders detected and the number of smoky vehicles spotted each hour. The number of repeat offenders has declined from 8987 in 1993 to 6857 in 1995 and declined further to 5161 in 1997. The average number of smoky vehicles spotted per hour has reduced from 18.14/hr in 1993 to 10.11/hr in 1995. However, from 1995 onwards, the number has stayed between 10.11/hr to 10.9/hr. Since many smoky vehicles are being spotted and reported by more than one spotter, it is clearly unnecessary to increase the number of spotters. To further improve effectiveness, better inspection procedures to compel better maintenance is needed, as detailed below.
- The aim of the Smoky Vehicle Control Programme is to get the owner of a smoky vehicle to fix the vehicle and pass a smoke test within a prescribed period. A vehicle owner is indeed expected to improve his vehicle before the test.
As noted in i. above, to improve the effectiveness of the Smoky Vehicle Control Programme, it is necessary to find a more revealing smoke test method which can ascertain in a reliable manner whether a vehicles has been truly fixed. This will force the vehicle maintenance standard to improve and eliminate the possibility of cheating. In this regard we are aiming to introduce a more effective smoke test (with the aid of a dynamometer) in mid 1999 for vehicles up to 5.5 tonnes and have just launched a pilot scheme for introducing the new smoke test for vehicles over 5.5 tonnes.
Despite the above enhancement to the test method, we also propose to increase the fixed penalty fine against smoky vehicles to raise the deterrent effect. We are also equipping the Police with more effective portable smoke meters to help them take action on street against smoky vehicles. Annex B5
Co-existence of LPG vehicles/taxis and diesel vehicles/taxis
What are the Government's stances towards the co-existence of LPG vehicles/taxis and diesel vehicles/taxis? Will there be any specific policy to deal with the situation?Answer
There will be no difficulty for those diesel taxis that continue to operate after the conversion to LPG begins, since diesel refueling facilities will still be available in existing filling stations.
Under the proposal, all newly registered taxis will be required to use LPG by the end of 2000. Voluntary conversion before then will be encouraged to the extent that maximum use is made of each LPG refuelling facility that can be made available before that date. It is necessary to mandate the use of LPG from the point at which enough filling stations and maintenance services are available to support any taxi running on LPG, so as to give all those responsible for establishing the filling stations and for providing maintenance services a firm basis on which to plan their investments and training.
It is expected that a significant proportion of the taxi fleet will switch over to LPG quickly once enough filling stations and maintenance services are available, since operators will have been keeping older vehicles in service in anticipation of the change. Of course, market conditions will have a bearing on how quickly the full changeover to LPG takes place. If it becomes apparent that there are obstacles to the changeover that it would be practicable and sensible to help overcome in order to ensure expeditious conversion of the entire taxi fleet to LPG, then the Administration will certainly consider this.Annex B6
Wider Environmental Issues
- Whether the Government should be responsible for creating the air pollution in Hong Kong as diesel vehicles have all along been allowed to operate in Hong Kong by the Government.
- Are there any plans to extend the technology of LPG to other classes of diesel vehicles such as light buses, goods vehicles and buses?
- What are the forecast levels of emission of major air pollutants for different classes of diesel vehicles in the next five years?
- Choice of diesel as a fuel has been determined by many factors that are considered by commercial and individual operators. These include not only the price of fuel, which is to some extent affected by duties, but also the efficiency of different engine technologies, the purchase price of vehicles and the availability of vehicles that suit the purposes that the purchaser has in mind.
- Please see the response in Annex A8.
- Air Pollution will reduce in the years ahead as old vehicles are replaced by less polluting models. This trend will be accelerated if the diesel taxi fleet can be replaced by LPG vehicles. When the whole taxi fleet uses LPG, the major sources of particulates will then be large goods vehicles (i.e. those over 5.5 tonnes) and buses. The former will account for 42% of the respirable suspended particulates from vehicles and the latter will account for 25% of the emissions. However, vehicle caused air pollution will deteriorate again as the growth in transportation demand gradually offsets the gain from the introduction of less polluting diesel vehicles. For the Administration's plans to address the problem, please see the response v. in Annex A7.