I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…
What with our splendid public transport system and the high costs of parking, fuel, maintenance, licensing, insurance, registration and tolls, you’d think opting to drive would be the reserve of planet-loathing egomaniacs. And you’d not be wrong, as only 5.3% of Hong Kongers own a vehicle in this, a city built around the automobile.
The outdated Capital Works Reserve Fund ensures there is always cash set aside for never-ending road building projects, yet environmental ruin awaits unless we stand up to the private car owning elite. Praise was heaped upon the city when it finally embraced the electric car this month but unfortunately, this flawed scheme will not lead us to any transport revolution.
Firstly, electric cars will still receive their charge from our dirty coal power stations for decades to come, so they are not CO2 free, especially when manufacturing carbon costs are added. Also, the impractical 5-7 hours recharge time will put a strain on the grid and the driver’s patience. Betterplace.com has a solution whereby drivers do not own batteries but instead exchange dead ones at filling stations. Stations maintain battery banks connected to renewable sources and will have vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology installed to recycle unused power.
The other part of the solution is to quit pandering to the car-wielding minority in the first place, as the restrictions, costs and extravagance of private ownership only make it a more desirable status symbol. Even our filthiest, oldest double-deckers are ultimately greener than having would-be passengers driving electric vehicles. Therefore, we need an annual quota on licences, road pricing, an end to highway construction and funds redirected to cycle lanes, projects to clear the air for pedestrians and subsidies on certain bus routes. Along with a re-think on battery logistics for the few who actually need to drive, this will, collectively, put us in the right lane for a greener city.