Clean Autos & Clean Air In Hong Kong?

Does this man...

...hold the key to clean air here...?

Quite possibly, yes.

The man in question is Wang Chuan Fu, Chairman of BYD Company Limited (, a mainland firm listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Today I went to a financial results press conference held by the company. This is highly out of character as I usually avoid these dull affairs like the plague.

In case you've never heard of BYD, I'll try to explain in just a few lines why they are one of my favourite companies, and why I decided to buck the boredom factor to attend their presser this morning.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, are primarily a maker of Lithium-ion batteries, but in recent years have branched out into the production of electric cars. Electric cars. That means cars that run cheaply, don't emit dirty smoke, and don't contribute to global warming. As I posted a few weeks ago, the main source of air pollution in Hong Kong does not come from factories across the border in China. No. It comes from roadside fumes. According to the Hong Kong Clean Air Network website, industrial emissions do make up a significant portion of the filth we breathe, but contrary to what most people believe, the largest slice of the air pollution pie chart in Hong Kong does indeed comes from the roadside; cars, trucks and buses that run on dirty old diesel and gasoline. And what is strikingly obvious to me, but not to others, it seems, is that air pollution does not come from electric cars.

My love affair with BYD is simple really. I hate sucking in a white sky everyday, so I love BYD. And it seems a lot of other people love BYD too. They all live in China, where BYD electric cars are selling like hot cakes. At today's presser Mr Wang announced that BYD's net profit for the first half of 2009 leapt by an eye-popping 98% on the back of "increased brand recognition" and the huge demand for their cool electric cars. Cars that are powered by their funky little Lithium-ion batteries. First half sales volume leapt to 180,000 units, up 150% compared to 2008. And US billionaire Warren Buffett thinks they're a cool company too. MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a unit of his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway Inc bought a 10% stake in BYD back in September 2008. (I still kick myself daily for not having bought just a handful of BYD shares, when that was announced). And at today's press conference Mr Wang announced that Mr Buffett wants to increase his stake in BYD, a fact which sent the stock price soaring to close up 8%. (Alas, it must really, really, be too late to buy now. Sell on the news, and all that).

The BYD factory is just across the border in Shenzhen. I have an idea. Wouldn't it be great if the Hong Kong Government could support a great Chinese company that are doing the world a big favour by introducing to this city a 'cash for clunkers' scheme similar to Mr Obama's? If the Government of Hong Kong fast-tracked the retirement of all the city's dirty smoky vehicles, wouldn't that be a fine thing? Imagine the peace and quiet on Hennessey Road if every vehicle that passed you was electric? Imagine how clean the buildings along King's Road, Fortress Hill would be after they get their first good scrub up in decades, on the day that residents awake to news that fossil fuels, and the fith and grime they cause, have been banished from the city's streets forever?

And as the buses thundered past me in Admiralty tonight, deafening me with the roar of their engines and enveloping me in a hot cloud of dust and carbon monoxide fumes, the only question on my mind was: how long will we have to wait for that Utopian vision to become reality, Mr Wang?

All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011