Campus Health and Safety
March 2015
Rise of Electric Cars in Hong Kong

In recent years, the Government of HKSAR has prominently promoted electric vehicles (EV) to help improve roadside air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This focus on EVs begs the question: are EVs really better for the environment than regular cars?  Let's take a closer look.

The first thing to recognize is that the electric motor is significantly more powerful and efficient than a regular car engine, called an internal combustion engine (ICE).  We see evidence of this all over Hong Kong – the MTR, trams, trolleys, and the Kowloon-Canton Railway all run on electric motors.  If electric motors are so great, then, why don't we have more?  There is one huge difference between MTR trains and personal cars – the MTR can stay plugged in.  Cars, on the other hand, can't remain plugged in, so they need  a large battery.  This battery has been the biggest problem for EVs, but we are finally starting to see progress in this area.

Turning away from the batteries for a moment, let's look at some other factors.  Since electric motors are more efficient than ICEs, EVs use roughly half the energy and produce 50% less greenhouse gases (GHG). Additionally, roadside emissions – a significant concern in Hong Kong because of the congested streets and large buildings trapping the pollutants at ground level – are eliminated.   

In terms of costs, on average, electric vehicles have a higher purchase cost, but that higher cost is largely offset by fewer maintenance requirements.  For example, EVs do not need oil changes, tune-ups, or MOT certificates, and there are much fewer things that can break. Additionally, the fuel costs for EVs are roughly one-third of petrol, and if the EVs are charged at night during the off-peak hours, the costs go down even further.  

With all these factors, the Hong Kong government recognizes that EVs will represent a much bigger portion of cars in the city in the future.  Next time you see a quiet, clean, and zero-emissions electric car driving through town, you can be comforted in knowing that more are on the way.

Charts and table for consideration:


Fuel Cost
(per liter equivalent)


Cost/ unit of distance (average)

Gasoline $14.50 17-21% $11.75
HEV $14.50 30-40% $9.43
Diesel $10.60 25-40% $7.10
EV (on-peak) $11.49 59-62% $4.48
EV (off-peak) $5.79 59-62% $2.26
FMO's new electric van will arrive on campus in the next few months.