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Hong Kong Expressway Permits - Changing Government

Discussion in 'Hong Kong' started by markwj, May 5, 2011.

  1. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    Currently, in Hong Kong, the law states that in order to be permitted on an expressway (aka highway), a car has to have a minimum size engine (specified as number of CCs of the ICE). As EVs have 0cc engines, they are not permitted on the expressway without a special permit being issued.

    Tesla Hong Kong have shown that this process takes at least 4 weeks or so, from first registration of the car. As the number of EVs grow, this is becoming a bigger issue, and is a real dis-incentive to buying an EV for some people.

    I want to get this changed.

    A LEGCO (legislative council) question was recently raised on this:

    LCQ 19: The wider use of electric vehicles

    and the government response was that if you apply for the expressway permit at the same time as first registration, you get it in two days. Sounds reasonable and easy, so knowing the real situation, I went that route when applying for registration of my new Tesla Roadster this week. True enough, I got the expressway permit immediately. The problem: it is only valid for 1 month!

    So here is the reason: The government currently requires that when you apply for an expressway permit you show them an insurance document, and the permit will not be issued with an expiry date later than the insurance document. See:

    Transport Department - Permits

    As I only had a 30 day cover note, I only got 30 days of permit.

    I see nothing in the regulations (http://www.hklii.org/hk/legis/en/reg/374E/s50a.html) that require this. It is up to the Commissioner to determine what he requires and how he implements this. He has chosen to do it in a bureaucratic and impractical way.

    It turns out that if you apply for the permit at the same time as first registration, you do get it in a day or two. If, however, you apply later then the application procedure takes 3 weeks. But, when you first register a car, you will only have an insurance cover note (at best) and that can only be 30 days until the insurance company issues a formal certificate valid for 1 year (it takes them a couple of weeks to do this). The insurance company won't issue a formal certificate without seeing the vehicle registration document. Catch 22.

    So, you have two choices in HK at the moment:

    1. Get a 30 day cover note. Quickly get a 30 day expressway permit. When your insurance certificate arrives, in a couple of weeks, renew the expressway permit. Result: you can drive on the expressway legally, but have to jump through bureaucratic hoops.

    2. Wait a couple of weeks for the certificate of insurance, and then apply for expressway permit (waiting 3 more weeks). Result is just one application, but you have to wait 5 to 6 weeks to get the permit to be able to legally drive on the expressway.

    I chose 1 (to clearly demonstrate the point by doing it the way the Secretary for the Environment specifically suggested) and am now going to pursue this with government with a view to getting this changed.

    Long-term, the best solution is to change the law to allow a vehicle to be type-approved for the expressway and remove the permit requirement all together.

    Short-term, the goal is to pursued the Commissioner to change his policy to not restrict the expiry date of the permit to be later than insurance cover. There is precedent for this in that the road tax is issued for up to 1 year, irrespective of how many days of insurance you have (so long as you have insurance on the day you apply).

    Using my case as an example, I am now writing to the Commissioner, Mr Cheung Hok-ming and the Secretary for the Environment (Edward Yau), to point out the catch 22 and bureaucratic nonsense, to get this changed.

    Sorry for the lengthy post, but my goal is to get EVs on the road in Hong Kong and I thought it useful to document the process. I'll update this thread with any response I get, or changes I see. Please let me know your thoughts, and if anyone can offer any help it would be much appreciated.
     
  2. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    The legislation:

    374Q Title: ROAD TRAFFIC (EXPRESSWAY) REGULATIONS Regulation: 4

    1) Subject to subregulation (2) and regulations 23 and 24, no person shall drive or use on an expressway any vehicle unless it is-

    (a) a private car;
    (b) a taxi;
    (c) a private light bus;
    (d) a private bus;
    (e) a public bus;
    (f) a light goods vehicle;
    (g) a medium goods vehicle;
    (h) a heavy goods vehicle;
    (i) a motor cycle;
    (j) a motor tricycle; or
    (k) a recovery vehicle,
    of which the cylinder capacity of the engine is not less than 125 cubic centimetres.

    (2) Subregulation (1) shall not apply to-
    (a) a trailer which is being towed by a vehicle referred to in subregulation (1) or in paragraph (b) or (c);
    (b) a motor vehicle in respect of which a permit is issued under regulation 50A of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374 sub. leg. E); or
    (c) a motor vehicle other than one of those referred to in subregulation (1), which is-
    (i) owned by the Government, the Urban Council or the Regional Council; or
    (ii) used by Her Majesty's forces,
    in respect of which written permission has been given by the Commissioner to use an expressway.

    374E Title: ROAD TRAFFIC (REGISTRATION AND LICENSING OF VEHICLES) REGULATIONS Regulation: 50A

    (1) The registered owner of a motor vehicle which is not permitted to be used or driven on an expressway under regulation 4(1) of the Road Traffic (Expressway) Regulations (Cap 374 sub. leg. Q) may apply to the Commissioner for a permit ("expressway permit") which authorizes him to drive his vehicle or cause it to be driven by another person authorized by him on an expressway.
    (2) The Commissioner may, on receipt of the payment of the appropriate fee prescribed in Schedule 2, issue an expressway permit subject to such conditions and for such period as the Commissioner may think fit.
    (3) No expressway permit shall be valid for more than 12 months. (L.N. 52 of 2007)
    (4) The holder of an expressway permit and any person who drives on an expressway a motor vehicle to which such permit relates shall comply with the conditions, if any, of the permit.
     
  3. Nik

    Nik Dreaming no more :-(

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    Do Her Majesty's forces keep many vehicles in Hong Kong these days?
     
  4. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    Nope. But, our friends north of the border have quite a few green-colored vehicles here.
     
  5. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    Hong Kong law is typically taken from UK law. Does anyone know if there is/was any such regulation in effect in the UK for electric vehicles on the highway? I seem to remember there was a restriction in place for mopeds (or motorcycles less than 125cc).
     
  6. NigelM

    NigelM Recovering Member

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    I have been out of the UK for some time now....but it used to be that the restriction on mopeds and low cc motorcycles was related to a) their inability to maintain minimum speeds and b) the fact that you could ride them at age 16 with only a provisional license. Similarly, there were restrictions on farm vehicles as they could not maintain minimum speeds.

    I am sure that someone currently in the UK will correct me if any of this has changed in the last few years.
     
  7. AndrewBissell

    AndrewBissell Member

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    The alternative would be to ask them to reframe the 125cc requirement so that it alternatively has a kW or bhp interpretation.
     
  8. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    I suspect they just copied the UK regulation. The 125cc similarity is too much of a coincidence. I'm just wondering how UK changed as they have had EVs for a while. Probably easiest to get them to copy the new UK change a well ;-)

    Interesting idea about kW equivalent. Particularly as electric motorcycles now coming.
     
  9. Nik

    Nik Dreaming no more :-(

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    AFAIK, UK law states which vehicles may NOT use motorway-class roads, rather than those which may. The prohibited classes are pretty much as you describe them, and haven't changed for a while.

    The Segway and similar vehicles have problems in the UK (you can't ride them on pavements, nor on the road), but battery-assisted bicycles are ok, somehow.

    Nik
     
  10. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    Interesting piece just came out on 2011-05-04:

    TAC briefed on progress of Sha Tin to Central Link and use of electric vehicles on expressways

    Sounds like they are moving towards something along the lines of what you suggest.
     
  11. AndrewBissell

    AndrewBissell Member

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    Great! Maybe they read TMC - Hello Hong Kong Government! :)
     
  12. SByer

    SByer '08 #383

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    It's always seemed to me that governments have a complete incapacity to step back to what I'd call the 'root cause requirements'. Maybe it's a lack of imagination. While having an EV power equivalent patches over the current goof, I'm left wondering if they would really be better off spec'ing a 0-highway speed time. If you can make the car lighter, you could get away with a smaller engine, or other way of providing motion (e.g., a compressed air car, as much fun as can be made of it) could conceivably meet the heart of the requirements which is to not clog up the expressways with things that can't get to and hold a traffic flow speed - and, presumably, meet other at-speed safety requirements.
     
  13. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    ^^ this. I too was wondering why they don't just specify a minimum acceleration and maintainable speed. I guess they figure engine displacement is something that's easy to determine by inspecting the vehicle.
     
  14. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    I don't think the _law_ can be so flexible. My problem is not actually with the law. They will change it, and that will take time. Maybe they should have started the process earlier, but there are still less than 100 EVs on the road here.

    They have the expressway permit system (which is a good way to deal with emerging technologies) - the problem is when civil servants get involved and make the process of getting the permit too cumbersome and illogical.

    Maybe there is some reason it takes 3 weeks. Maybe there is some legislative restriction that means they must tie the expiry date to insurance term, or even why they need to see insurance coverage. But, I doubt it. I suspect that someone simply made a bad interpretation of the regulation. They erred to be cautious and to ask for more than necessary - no one in government ever got fired for being too cautious or for asking for documents not necessarily required.

    It will be interesting to see what they say. One good thing about Hong Kong is that government here is responsible and approachable. Most things are very clear and straightforward.
     
  15. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    I sent my letters in on 9th May.

    Just got a reply from Transport Department (delivered 21st May, dated 19th May) saying that they have received my letter, are looking into the matter and will give me a 'substantive reply' as soon as possible. They also provided a direct contact and telephone number.

    I have a feeling they are looking for a legal reason for the current policy.

    I plan to reply that my permit will expire in a couple of weeks, and need an urgent reply to get this problem addressed before it expires.
     
  16. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    I renewed my expressway permit today. Procedure wasn't too bad (which, I have to say, is the case with most Hong Kong procedures). Get the paperwork together, fill in the forms (in duplicate), go there, apply, get called back to the counter twice. Spent about 20mins inside the transport department, and about 3 to 4 hours in total. 1 wasted afternoon times 2 times the number of EV cars being registered.

    They gave me an 11 month permit, based on the 11 months remaining on the insurance document.

    IMHO, assuming they can now do on-the-spot issue and renewal, the only problem for this temporary arrangement of expressway permits is the insurance requirement, and especially the tie of the permit expiry date to insurance expiry. Without that, it would not be too bad as an interim measure until they change the law. But, with the insurance expiry connection, this is a waste of time and resources.
     
  17. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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  18. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    After six weeks, still no substantive reply from Transport Department. They have sent two 'holding' letters, but no reply to the points raised.

    I suspect that they are unwilling to make the change as that would be an admission that the legislation doesn't require them to link the permit expiry date to insurance coverage, and that could be seen as a mistake on their part in formulating the procedures. They are most likely trying to find some excuse (however tenuous) while they stall for the legislative changes that are supposedly coming this year (but as with such things may slip another year due to the legislative process).

    I have heard from Tesla Hong Kong that the Transport Department has told them that expressway permits can now be issued 'same day' for certain classes of EV (presumably Tesla included) even if the application is made some time after first registration. That is a small win, but still doesn't address the core concern of insurance coverage term. If the applicant delayed the permit for the three weeks it takes to get the insurance certificate, he would still be unable to drive on the expressway in those three weeks (down from six weeks with the previous arrangement).

    I have today tried to escalate this to Mr Edward Yau (the secretary for the environment), as:

    I, and other EV drivers I have spoken to, intend to publicise this to the press and legco representatives that will listen. Both the Hong Kong and China governments are pushing towards, and supporting, the wider adoption of Electric Vehicles, but the Transport Department appears to be the department that is dragging their heels and making this overly complicated and onerous on the owners/drivers.
     
  19. SByer

    SByer '08 #383

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    I really wish you luck. Government bureaucrats, no matter the country or party affiliation, seem to be the same worldwide. And since I have nothing good to say, I'm shutting my mouth.
     
  20. markwj

    markwj Moderator, Asia Pacific

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    Thanks.

    I'm 99% certain that by the time it comes to renew my permit, the law will have been changed and it will not be an issue. However, in the interim we've got >200 EVs coming on line this year, and each one of those is going to have to go through this waste of time before being allowed to drive on the freeway. The problem comes down to a procedural issue now (not law) - all we need to do is convince them to streamline that as much as possible.

    I'm concerned that this problem will leak as bad-press for EV adoption (just another reason not to get an EV). Given the transport departments lack of response, I think we have no choice but to go to the press now. Better to get publicity with our message, rather than allow the bad publicity to come later out of our control.
     

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