Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #010 -- Mr. Richard Hatter

Mr. Richard Hatter
Image from Hotel ICON

Locky Law (LL): We are very pleased to have invited a true pioneer of EV adaptation in Hong Kong for interview today. He is Mr. Richard Hatter, General Manager of Hotel ICON Hong Kong (hereafter, ICON) and Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Hotel & Tourism Management of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Welcome Richard.

Richard Hatter (RH): Thank you, Locky.

LL: Richard, we know that you have recently done a customer story for Tesla, which is great because you have told a lot about yourself in that story, but today I want to go a little deeper than that. I know that you have really pushed hard in EV adaptation in the hotel industry. Your vision and approach leading ICON towards eco-friendliness, as we can see today, has proven you right. Could you please tell us when this has begun and your motivation?

RH: ICON is an exceptional hotel with a special purpose: not only do we embody all the creative energy and spirit of Hong Kong, we are also a learning environment and a vision of hospitality for the future, through our partnership with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the esteemed School and Hotel of Tourism Management (SHTM). Sustainability and innovation underpins everything we do here and EV adoption is the perfect demonstration of this philosophy in action.

LL: As a student of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, I am trying to find opportunities that can bring Charged Hong Kong and the University together. I had a chance to have a lunch meeting with the PolyU president Prof. Timothy W. Tong yesterday, during which we talked about the many collaborations between Charged Hong Kong and ICON (such as Charged Hong Kong Rally 2015 and the latest Belilios Public School EV Summer Program), possible future collaborations with the University in promoting a green environment, ICON's and your contribution to the environment, the industry and the EV community. Because of your vision, ICON has earned many "Number 1s" or come "first" in Hong Kong, could you please tell us what those are?

RH: We have plenty of firsts to share: We were the first hotel in Hong Kong to introduce Paperless Check-in reception, saving four tons of paper every year. We introduced the Handy Phone, we offer completely free superfast Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, a TIMELESS lounge for jetlagged passengers or those arriving early, a free Shuttle BOAT during conferences in HK, a free minibar and much more. Much of this is to extend the spirit of generosity and hospitality to our customers and also to reinforce that there is a place in the market for a very unique new luxury hotel that has one foot firmly placed in the future. We also recognize that by creating value-added aesthetics in terms of room or interior design, comfort and in-room technology, that guests would welcome the ‘live laboratory’ aspect of our operation and that it shouldn’t be hidden as it’s in our DNA.

Hotel ICON's very own EV fleet
Image from Hotel ICON
LL: Awesome! And needless to say, you are a strong believer of electric vehicles. So how many EVs does ICON have at the moment?

RH: We currently have two EV shuttle buses, one BMW i3 and 2 Tesla Model S.

LL: Brilliant! I'm particularly interested in the reasons you have decided that ICON should purchase a Tesla Model S after a BMW i3. Because the i3 is really a pretty good EV.

RH: The BMW i3 is used as a run around town shuttle for guests whereas the Model S will be used as a Limo to add value to the Club Floor customer stay. All markets need continual innovation otherwise things stand still and customers get bored! We are constantly looking for ways to improve our service, add value and experiment with innovative approaches to marketing the rooms side of the business and operation generally.

LL: And I know that owners of EV can also benefit when they visit ICON. If I'm not wrong, there is a very unique offer for EV owners dining at ICON, since 2014?

RH: Yes, we have implemented 2 Tesla 3 phase High Power Wall Connectors in the car park, while Tesla owners are entitled to 45 minutes free charging service at Hotel ICON and can also benefit from 15% off when dining at any of Hotel ICON’s restaurants by showing their car keys. It is a valet parking-plus-free charging-plus-discount offer.

LL: Which leads us to one of the most dying questions: in what ways have EVs actually benefited ICON in terms of business?

RH: For a mini bus that runs 150km daily, it saves 40L of fuel every day. While an electric bus uses $1 per kWh. The cost saved is approx. HK$415 per day.

Richard and Hotel ICON's EV fleet
Image from Hotel ICON

LL: But I know your effort in pushing for EV adaptation is much more than just the cost effective factor, am I right?

RH: Absolutely. Electric cars themselves produce zero emissions and the environmental costs are lower than conventional automobiles. Therefore, it helps contribute towards a healthy and stable environment for our next generation.

LL: Just tapping into your vision of the future a bit more, what do you see as the trend in the role of EV in the hotel industry in the future?

RH: We foresee that more and more hotels will follow our lead and use EV as limousines. Also the Government has been promoting the use of EVs through different measures such as waiving the first registration tax for EVs, expanding the EV charging infrastructure in Hong Kong and more.

LL: Last but not least, what advice would you offer to our future EV owners, including hotels that want to follow your path of EV adaptation?

RH: My advice would be to consider the options carefully and do in-depth research before purchasing. But fundamentally adopting EVs represents a hugely-important and worthwhile step, both for your business and brand.

LL: Thank you very much Richard for sharing your valuable experience and insights with all of us today, it has been my great pleasure to have talked to you.

RH: Thank you and see you at Hotel ICON!

Win-win situation

Lunch meeting with PolyU President

Charged Rally 2015 at Hotel ICON

Belilios Public School EV Summer Program (Official Video)

Monday, 15 August 2016

Travelling & Living: Hotel ICON’s Staycation at Club 36 Harbour on 5/21/2016

From my Room 2616 +Hotel ICON
Image from Locky's English Playground

Valet-Parking (arrival time 12pm)

Tesla High Power Wall Connector for patrons
Image from Locky's English Playground
Valet staff were quick to open car door for passengers at the back, ask which luggage should be delivered to the hotel room, offer Tesla stamp on parking card and initiate free charging for my car. Probably the first hotel to offer both valet EV-charging and valet-parking in Asia. The staff also asked me technical questions about my Tesla Model S and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with him.


Front desk check-in

Check-in counter
Image from Locky's English Playground

The queue was long but staff were quick to clear the line. When I was at the front desk, the staff told me that I have booked an executive room so I should go to 28/F for an executive check-in. The front desk lady then took our luggage to the counter, placed labels on it, and then escorted us into the lift to 28/F. On the way up to 28/F, the staff introduced us the name of the restaurants and where breakfast will be served, pool deck, gym and spa, and wished us a happy stay. She had maximized the time inside the lift to provide the most information for us.

28/F check-in

Checking-in on 28/F
Image from Locky's English Playground

The staff at the counter welcomed us with warm lovely smiles and asked us if we would like orange juice or water, which we kindly declined. She kept baby Muse engaged and happy throughout the process and that is the best service parents can ask for: if the children are happy, the parents will be. After signing a couple of forms of which the details were read out to us, she told us that the room would be ready by 2pm and that we could have our lunch first. She asked me if I would like a call from the hotel if the room was ready before 2pm. I left my phone number and took the family down to G/F.

Room 2616

free-to-use speaker system + 3G phone with portable charger
Image from Locky's English Playground
The room is full of surprises. Love a 100% smoke residual-free room. Love the paper label saying “I have been sanitized”, it gives patrons confidence that sanitation has been performed with care. 

Alcatel Handy phone inside a stand with descriptions on the side is lovely. Great survey at the beginning to gather patron’s data. The software has been very well-designed and provides very useful information for tourists. 3G and IDD calls are perfect. 

A complete set of stationary
Image from Locky's English Playground
Love the stationary and laptop cables which can be really useful for some, Mediajack station too, but the USB could not charge the GP PowerBank. The laminated instruction + price list provides extremely useful. GP PowerBank is fully charged which I did use and it was good enough for one charge. Wireless speaker looks great but we did not try.

free-to-use printer
Image from Locky's English Playground
The presence of a printer really gives patrons staying for business or conference much relief. Having a DVD player in the room is a plus too.

“you are not seeing double mini bar is free"
Image from Locky's English Playground
“You are not seeing double mini bar is free” is a lovely piece of visual wordplay glass that says a lot about the creative character of ICON, although I still had to call the service to confirm the definition of “mini-bar”, and discovered that “mini-bar” includes the items in the fridge was a huge surprise.  
Image from Locky's English Playground
Still free!
Image from Locky's English Playground
All free!
Image from Locky's English Playground
My name on TV screen, personalised for every guest
Image from Locky's English Playground

The personalized first page on the TV screen with patron’s surname gives a lot of prestige. The interface is also simple to use. Unfortunately, local TV channels are very limited, if staycation is the direction ICON intends to explore, local TV channels should be at the top of the To-do list in order to make the TV-binging Hong Kongers want to stay in their room.

Mouth-rinse included
Image from Locky's English Playground

Bathroom amenities such as Colgate mouth-rinse and bath salt gave us good surprises, as they are usually not provided in hotel rooms. Very caring.

Circular mirror lighting uses LED light strips, which matches the overall eco-friendly theme of the hotel and resonates with the ceiling light inside the lift.

Image from Locky's English Playground

Tips: the location of the hair dryer is hiding inside the drawer inside the wardrobe.

9/F Changing Room, Pool & Lounge

Terrific service at the pool! Thanks Ray!
Image from Locky's English Playground

Service at the pool was terrific. Staff offered lots of help, tonnes of smiles. There is a pump available and we got assistance for pumping up the float. We received complimentary Japanese mineral water in bottles and thick towels. Another boy received a pair of goggles handed to him by another staff. My little girl had great fun that day!

Tips: Health Club the gym and Timeless the lounge are on the same floor as the pool. So's the Playstation. 

Swimsuit water extractor
Image from Locky's English Playground

I saw a swimsuit water extractor for the first time. It is easy and safe to operate. Clear instructions are given on the use of sauna and showers.

Sauna, anyone?
Image from Locky's English Playground

Dining: Dinner at The Market

Dinner at The Market with Adrian and Yvonne
Image from Locky's English Playground

Having successfully persuaded a Tesla Singapore group friend Adrian Peh and his wife Yvonne to stay at ICON, I recommended that they try the best buffet in Hong Kong as awarded by Openrice, 5 times!

There is no doubt about the variety and presentation of food and speed of replenishment. Quality and taste-wise, the food is top-notch. Adrian and his wife loved the durian desserts very very much and they will probably return to ICON just for the durian desserts (and probably for the Tesla limousine too).

Hotel ICON, no wonder they rank 4th in Tripadvisor's Top 25 Hotels in China! They truly deserve it, and more!

Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Image from Locky's English Playground
Congratulations! The Market has been voted as the Best ‪#‎Buffet‬ of Hong Kong diners for the fifth time at OpenRice Best Restaurant Awards

Top 25 Hotels in China - TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #009 -- Mr. Raymond Wu

Charged Hong Kong associate member Mr. Raymond Wu is ranked among the world’s top referrers in every round of Tesla Referral Program. He was rewarded with an invitation to the Tesla Model 3 Unveil Event on March 31, 2016 in Hawthorne, California, as well as tickets to the Gigafactory Grand Opening Party, and more!

 Here's our interview below:

Locky Law (LL): Hello viewers! I am super excited to have Raymond here with us today to talk about how he becomes Asia’s Number 1 and one of the world’s best Tesla referrer, who will share his experience riding on the Tesla Model X and the latest Tesla Model 3! Welcome Raymond!

 Raymond Wu (RW): Hello Locky, thanks for inviting me to be part of this interview! I hope you guys would enjoy my sharing! LL: First Raymond, you are very well-known in Hong Kong, probably in the entire Asia too, but for the sake of our world’s audience, please tell us about a little about yourself and your car?

RW: Sure. I live in Hong Kong and I am running a startup business, specializing in coconut oil. Any Tesla owners, ping me and I will give you a special discount. Currently, I own a multi-coat red 85 and it's been a year since I owned it. The first time I learned about Tesla was a California visit during Oct 2014. My friend, who invested in Tesla stock, earned herself a Tesla. That's my first Tesla ride. I was strongly attracted by this car, and eventually paid the deposit on January 2015...Actually I already played with the design studio since November 2014, haha. I love driving this car and I almost drive it everyday.

LL: You know what, I envy all those friends who can drive their EVs every day. I just don’t have the chance. Okay, back to your story of success. As far as I remember, there are 3 rounds of Tesla Referral Program. The first round is a little more complicated because it came in 2 phases: phase 1 has a limit to just 10 referrals, current owner --the referrer, gets HK$10,000 of referral credits and referree gets HK$10,000 off the purchase price of their new Tesla Model S. Then, as quoted from Tesla’s website, “The first person to refer ten friends in each sales region— North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific — will receive a free Model X.” Deadline was till October 31st, 2015. You started slow in this one, am I right? Then you simply went unstoppable! What happened then? Did you win the free Model X?

RW: I didn't participate at all during phase 1. I remembered someone suddenly got 10 referrals in a single day and won the game. I believed that he's from mainland China. However, anyone who referred more than 10 people have the right to buy a fully loaded model X at base price (base price of P90D). I know at least 4 people in Hong Kong achieved this goal.

LL: Ah! What a pity. Then came first round phase 2, which Tesla removed the 10 referral limit, threw in a Tesla Powerwall for every 5 referrals, and I quote again, “the customer who makes the most referrals by the end of October will be invited to swap their current Model S for a fully loaded Ludicrous P90D Model S, for free.” This one was a tough battle between you and Mr. Frank Lee! Everyone in Hong Kong was keeping an eye on that APAC scoreboard on Tesla app till the final day! In the end, you won! Please tell us more and what was the final result again?

RW: This was the time I started to get into the game. At first I just wished to have 5 referrals so I can get the invitation to the gigafactory opening. I started by introducing the car to my friends. Eventually, I started to think, why not sharing this amazing car to all the people on the internet? So I opened a Facebook page, launched a website, and helped people to understand this car and also leave my cell phone number online so that people can text me or call me anytime to ask questions regarding the car. I never imagined that I could move to the first rank! I almost lose to Frank, but on the last day a lot of people which I talked to all rushed in to buy the car! At last I referred more than 80 people. All credits go to Tesla. Most of these people were already interested in the car and I just helped them to understand more of it, listing the pros and cons to them, and provided test rides.

Meet up with top two Tesla referrers of Asia Pacific, Raymond Wu (right) and Frank Lee (left)
Image from Locky's English Playground

LL: And together, you and Frank managed to 164 referrals, that’s 984 tonnes of CO2 saved a year! And above all, you can swap your car for a fully-loaded P90D-L, which is fantastic! When will you get the new car?

RW: Currently I am still happily driving my 85. When you see me driving a P90DL, that's when I get a new car!

LL: I’m sure you can’t resist posting photos of it to your website though. Ok. Let’s talk about round 2. On top of the HK$10,000 referral credits for current owner referrer and HK$10,000 discount for referrees, Tesla added the following: 1) The top referrer in each sales region receive a fully loaded P90DL Model S for free, plus the invitation to model 3 unveiling event, travel expense included 2) 5 leads also gets your grand opening invitation for Tesla’s Gigafactory in April, 3) 10 leads gets you to invitation for model 3 unveiling event. Tell us how you did for this round?

RW: Frank told me he was not interested in round 2, so I thought I was going to win the second round. I actually just continued what I did in first round, helping people to know about the car. However, this time China was doing very strong. The top referrer is from China and he referred 209 while I referred 114. Although I was ranked no 2 in the world, I lose in the region. Despite of that, I still had the chance to attend the model 3 unveiling event! And I was also glad that China market seems to be picking up.

LL: Oh yes, we all want Tesla to do well in China and when they do, China will push renewable energy even harder. Now round 3 ended on April 15th, 2016, this round, there is no referral credits for referrer and has a limit of maximum 3 referrals per current owner, but referrees get HK$8,800 for home charging installation. “One lucky referrer will win a Ludicrous P90D Model X as well as a tour for two of the SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, including travel and accommodations.” And “five referrers will win a tour for two of the SpaceX headquarters in Los Angeles, including travel and accommodations.” This time, there was also no scoreboard for us to keep an eye on. And because of your amazing marketing skill, you decided to help other owners, including me, to get 3 referrals! I’m really curious, why you decided to help others?

RW: I just think that it doesn't hurt to help other people to have a chance to win. Even after the first and second referral program, I still continued to help people to understand this amazing car. Why not help them to save 8,800 while helping my friends to get a chance to win the lucky draw?

LL: Let’s move to the Tesla Model 3 Unveil Event in Hawthorne. You earned those free tickets. Tell me, what was the atmosphere like there?

RW: The atmosphere was so good, everyone was so energetic and seems very excited about the unveiling of the new car! There were a lot of Tesla fanboys there! I can tell that because they all wore Tesla t shirts and Tesla jackets. There was also a Model X on display where everyone got so excited and tried to experience the car. However they didn't allow us to play with the falcon wing door. There was also an area where there were some Macs available for people to preorder their Model 3. A lot of people were busy filling up their information there.

LL: You saw the car with your own eyes, how does it look different from what we see from the photos?

RW: I think the car looks gorgeous. Comparing to the photo, I think the real car created more “wow" effect. You just can't feel the curve simply by looking at the pictures.

LL: Some people talk about the trunk opening. What do you think about that? Is it really a problem? Can you suggest a way to improve on that?

RW: I don't think it's a big problem. It's just like a normal trunk. Maybe people are so used to the huge trunk of Model S and so used to hatchback. Yes, the trunk size is not ideal, but Elon said the production model will have a bigger trunk and a larger opening, so I don't think it's a factor that we need to worry about. Remember it's a smaller car, so we can't really expect it to have a big trunk. Not to forget, we also have a frunk!

LL: How big is the frunk in this prototype as compared to a the new Model S dual motor with HEPA?
RW: It's bigger. I think it can fit two small hand carry luggage. The model S frunk is getting smaller and smaller, that's a thing that I don't like about.

LL: You then queued up for the test ride of Model 3, how does it feel? What’s the difference from being in a Model S?

RW: The queue was super long. I was number 642 in the queue, and I wasn't able to ride on the Model 3 until 00:20! But while waiting for the test ride, there were two Model X and one Model S available for test ride as well. So I rode on a X twice and on a S once. Ludicrous mode is scary but awesome. Let's get back to Model 3. The test ride itself was great. I still think it look weird without the instrument panel, but i think it takes time to get used to it. I still believe that something similar to HUD would be introduced to Model 3. The overhead glass roof still amazed me even after riding on the model X. Plenty of legroom in the front, and the rear is also spacious, considering it's a smaller car. You don't know how much I want that overhead windshield to be introduced into Model S. In the end, this is just a prototype, I can't wait to see part 2 of the unveiling!!

LL: Let’s talk more about Model X because that will come to Hong Kong first. It’s got a huge overhead panoramic sunroof, Falcon wing doors 3 rows of seats, new auto-door present mechanism. What do you like about it?

RW: The overhead roof is the best thing I like about. The view is fantastic, everyone will love it. The falcon wing door is a hit or miss. Either you will like it or you will hate it. Personally I think it's very cool but I would question about it's reliability. Also it might not be practical in Hong Kong. About the 3rd row seat, at first I think it's not acceptable, because there were not enough leg room (I am 1.75m). But on the other day I got another chance to experience a 7-seater again. This time I found that actually I can make myself enough legroom by moving the second seat forward and straighten up the second seat a bit. Overall I think it's acceptable and comfortable, of course 6 seater would be nicer. The middle seat of second row, however, do not provide enough headroom because of the pillar. Finally let's talk about the auto present. I think it's a cool idea. You approach the car, it will open the door...I couldn't experience it because I didn't have the key fob with me. When you step on the brake, the door will close. So you don't actually need to touch the door at all. Again, don't know if it's practical in Hong Kong. I always think about what if I park at a meter space and just want to refill the meter? Would it open the door for me when I approach the meter just like the door handle of model S will pop out? How much do the door open? Would it slam into the door of the vehicle park beside you? A lot of question raised up in my mind.

LL: Will you feel worried if you were driving the X getting into Hong Kong car parks, say Festival Walk car park for Superchargers?

RW: I am getting more worry. I have already seen people sharing that their falcon wing door hit the beam in the parking lot. The ceiling height of Festival Walk is okay, as you can set to only open halfway. However, I do think that Tesla need to do more before they introduce Model X into Hong Kong, such as adding more sensors.

LL: Oh, I mean the width of the car as compared to the curbed entrance at Festival Walk car park. Because when I drove my Model S there, I think my back wheels went over the curb. The entrance is tight for Model S. Do you think Model X can avoid curb rash there?

RW: I think yes, curb rash can be avoided, you just need to be more careful, and might require some skill. Some car park might be trickier, like the one in Cyberport.

LL: Oh, I definitely need to work on my skills then. How about the Powerwall? I think you will be receiving a few in the future? How big is it and where do you think we can install it? Given that our homes in Hong Kong are mostly quite small.

RW: I don't think Powerwall is useful in Hong Kong. It's huge, much bigger than I thought. It's useful if we have different electricity cost during different time, but we don't have that system in Hong Kong. It might also be useful if you live in houses and can install your own solar panel. I don't think much people in Hong Kong will find Powerwall useful.

LL: Last but not least, as Tesla’s worldclass referrer, what do you think Tesla should do to ensure success in Hong Kong, and other APAC regions like Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore?

RW: They have a huge risk in Hong Kong. Tesla rely heavily on word-of-mouth for its rapid growth, but I think Hong Kong has the worst service satisfaction. We often heard from owners that their car were just sitting in the service centre for a few days for some service that normally just require just a few hours. No loaner car provided. Delivery experiences were not good comparing to the Tesla delivering experience in other countries as well. I think Tesla need to work hard on this part to ensure future success in Hong Kong. As of other regions, I believe Tesla is already planning to enter Taiwan and South Korea. i think government support is the most important key for gaining early success.

LL: Thank you very much Raymond for spending so much time with us today! RW: Thank you again for inviting me to this interview!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #008 -- Mr. Joe Nguyen

Mr. Joe Nguyen and his Tesla cap
Photo by Linda Nguyen
Singapore's Number 1 Tesla hero Mr. Joe Nguyen is a phenomenal figure at the world's stage. He's a true climate change fighter, sparing no expense in bringing in Singapore's first Tesla Roadster and also Singapore's first Tesla Model S P85. He overcame numerous challenges and paid ridiculous fines. Since then, he has shared his experience in numerous interviews and his story has been circulated around the globe. He was in Hong Kong for the weekend, and he's our guest of Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #008.

Joe (left) kindly accepted my interview invitation at the New Tesla Model S Unveil Event @Pacific Place Hong Kong
Photo by Linda Nguyen

Here's Part 1 of our interview below:

Here're some photos you should see before you watch Part 2 of our interview:
The infamous 444Wh/km
Photo from Joe
VICOM Technician taking off the bumper
Photo from Joe
VICOM Technician found no tailpipe
Photo from Joe
VICOM Technician not knowing what to do with Model S
Photo from Joe
Here's our Part 2 of the interview:


Joe Nguyen's Facebook:

Joe Nguyen's Twitter:

Joe's story on Charged Hong Kong Facebook

Joe's 444Wh/km

Elon replying to Joe over Twitter

Tesla Model S owner protests Singapore's carbon emissions surcharge @CNBC

UN body on Tesla: Singapore likely to be only nation factoring carbon emission from grid for EVs +Channel NewsAsia

Tesla owner Joe Nguyen opens up about his ordeal @RazorTV

Everyone wants to sit in the one and only Tesla Model S in Singapore @RazorTV

Electric Car Owner Fined $15,000 Because It Causes Too Much Pollution

Singapore Fines Tesla Model S Owner for Excessive Emissions +Car and Driver Magazine

Singapore’s LTA says the Tesla Model S it tested was a used car, hence its low efficiency +Tech in Asia

Singapore’s Penalty for Electric Cars – The First Tesla Model S in Singapore @Alvinology

LTA on Tesla: CO2 emissions for electric cars start at power grid +Channel NewsAsia

Tesla boss calls PM Lee over CO2 surcharge levied on first Model S in Singapore @Straits Times

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #007 -- Mr. Mark Webb-Johnson

Mark with the Bond girls at the Electric Vehicle Fiesta 2015

Mark Webb-Johnson, arguably Hong Kong's most notable spokesperson for EVs. He has appeared frequently on the media since the very first EV set wheels on Hong Kong soil. The Number 1 go-to person to ask anything about EVs, moderator of Tesla Motor Club forums and now the heart and spine of Charged Hong Kong. He's our guest of Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #007, he's our James Bond, and he's the Charged Hong Kong chairman.
Here's our interview below:

Locky Law (LL): Hello everyone! Today we have our own Charged Hong Kong chairman Mr. Mark Webb-Johnson to appear in Charged Hong Kong Members' Stories #007 and talk about his views about EV developments in Hong Kong. So, welcome Mr. Bond, pleased to have you here with us!
Mark Webb-Johnson (MWJ): Great to be a part of this, Locky, and thanks so much for donating your valuable time to get these member stories documented and out there for everyone to see.

LL: You are most welcome! Everyone in Charged Hong Kong wants to contribute to promoting clean air in one way or another. We have previously had 6 heroes in 6 stories and now, Mark, as our chairman and Hong Kong's EV pioneer, you know you will be getting the toughest questions ever. But before I begin to literally torture you with them, please tell us something about yourself.

MWJ: I’m fortunate to have found and married the love of my life Jasmine, and we have three fantastic kids (aged between 7 and 12). Being 50+ years old, I’ve owned a few cars in my time, from a tiny mini in my youth, to my first car in Hong Kong, a Land Rover. Back then I was teaching a lot of scuba diving; we’d load the Land Rover up with petrol driven air compressor, tanks, and gear for five divers, and head north (sometimes off road) to dive the waters off remote Sai Kung beaches. After 10 years with the Land Rover, I traded it in for a Toyota Prius; great technology but lousy performance. After five years with the Prius, I sold that and switched to a Tesla Roadster. My wife drives a Tesla Model S.

LL: Lovely! Let's start with your Tesla Roadster, as I know, you have actually developed some very cool software and hardware for it, could you please tell us what it is and how it works?

MWJ: Back in 2011, myself and two other Roadster owners, Sonny Chen and Michael Stegen, developed an open source telemetry system for the Tesla Roadster called the Open Vehicle Monitoring System (OVMS). This was a small module that plugs into the car. With a 2G cellular modem, it could communicate the state of the car via the Internet to smartphone Apps running on either Android or iOS. The owner can use those Apps to do things like check on battery status, start/stop charges, see the tyre pressures, and get alerts when the charge is interrupted. It is a hobbyist project, and as such can do some pretty cool stuff - like automatically activating your homelink gate opener when the GPS says the car is approaching your home. Since then, the project has been extended to work on the Renault Twizy, Volt/Ampera, and a host of other EVs. Today, the project has a global development team of more than 40 active open source contributors, and has really helped bring smartphone telemetry to EVs that otherwise wouldn’t have it. It is just one part of my life goal of making EVs easy to own and operate.

LL: Few actually know about this, but I remember that in the past, no EVs were allowed to be driven on highways of Hong Kong, and you are the ONE person who sort of single-handedly fought for a change in the legislation and succeeded! So the fact that we can now drive an EV on highway is in fact because of you! Do correct me if I am wrong.

MWJ: I can’t take all the credit, but I certainly pushed hard for it and was likely considered a pain in the neck by many in the transport department at the time. The expressway permit situation does highlight how ridiculously rigid our government’s approach to the legislative process is. At the time, the legislation (CAP374Q) made it illegal to drive on expressways unless your vehicle had an engine bigger than 125cc. Of course, EV’s don’t have engines, so owners had to apply for individual exemption (expressway permits). The transport department had ignored the situation for years, completely failed to adapt the legislation to the arrival of EVs, and complicated things by imposing an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on the whole expressway permit process. Finally the legislation was changed, but only for private electric vehicles; commercial electric vehicles still require expressway permits to this day. We’re hitting the same issues with overly restrictive legislation and regulation regarding 3rd row child seats, auto-pilot, self-driving, summon, infotainment, etc. Our Transport Department still refuses to be proactive in anticipating support for emerging technologies; the reactive approach they adopt merely serves to delay each new technology by years (or decades in some cases).

LL: As we all know, some people who are skeptical about EVs will always ask challenging questions. The first one will be about battery degradation. Some claims that battery degradation happens exponentially, so say first year 5%, then next year will be 15%, then by 3rd year maybe 50%, so an EV will have to replace battery every 4 to 5 years, which is a very short lifespan compared to ICE, according to some research. How far do you agree with this?

MWJ: I hear this often, and it is pure mis-information that ignores the differences in battery technology. Simply put, you can make a battery that stores a huge amount of power in a small space, or you can make one that last a long time, but you can’t have both. It is a trade-off. That is the reason why cell phone batteries last a relatively short time, but electric vehicle batteries are made from cell chemistries designed to last. From my own point of view, I’ve been driving my Tesla Roadster for about 5 years and have put more than 50,000km on it. My battery is today 92% the capacity it was 5 years ago - so 8% capacity loss in 5 years, 50,000km, and the degradation has been pretty much linear. I expect the battery in my car to be good for many years to come. With a larger data set, Plug In America conducted a long-term study of hundreds of Tesla Roadsters, and came up with the conclusion that on average, a Roadster battery pack will have between 80% and 85% of original capacity after 160,000km. Those figures compare very favourably with Internal Combustion Engine vehicles.

LL: So EVs batteries actually do have a very long lifespan, that’s great news for all EV owners. Next claim, and we get this a lot. "EVs are not environmentally-friendly because it uses lithium which needs to be mined. When people throw away these batteries, it will pollute the environment."
MWJ: It is laughable that the very same people who complain that Lithium batteries are so expensive also say that they will be discarded and will pollute the environment. The truth is that the Lithium Ion batteries are (a) categorised as non-toxic, (b) recyclable, and (c) valuable. Every EV manufacturer is introducing programs to collect back these batteries at end-of-life and recycle or repurpose them for other uses.

LL: This one continues on lithium battery. Some say “Lithium is highly flammable, so it is very dangerous to use it in car batteries. There has been several reports of EV burning up in flame!” Seems like we need to show some numbers in this one.

MWJ: Batteries, hydrogen, petrol, diesel, whatever; it is all about storing large amounts of energy in as small and light a place as possible. Different fuels have different energy densities. For example, Uranium is at the high end, storing 80,620,000 MJ/kg. Hydrogen (at 700 times atmospheric pressure) is 142 MJ/kg. Diesel 48 MJ/kg. Petrol 46 MJ/kg. Down to rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries at less than 1 MJ/kg. Google ‘energy density’ for more information on this. So you can see that when releasing this energy (fire/explosion), for the same amount of fuel, a Petrol fire is going to release more than 46 times the amount of energy than a Lithium Ion battery fire. The other point to think about is flammability - how easy it is to ignite that release of energy. The truth is that Lithium Ion batteries store less energy than petrol fuel tanks, are harder to ignite, and they release that energy slower and in a more controlled manner. Each year in USA there are more than a hundred thousand Internal Combustion Engine vehicle fires, causing hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. By comparison, there have been just a handful of Electric Vehicle battery fires, ever. The difference is that whenever an EV is crashed at 100 Mph, ripped into two, impaled against a building and the shattered remnants suffer a small controlled fire, it is shown on every news channel. When the same thing happens to a petrol car, a hundred thousands times a year, nobody says anything unless there is a celebrity inside. For those who think petrol cars are safer, I invite you to sit on top of an open petrol tank holding a naked flame, while I do the same for a Lithium Ion battery.

LL: Haha! That’s a wonderful example, and funny! Next one. Again, very common one. "If we EV owners strip down the whole EV and calculate each piece of material's carbon footprint during manufacturing and transportation to their destination, we will see that EV actually isn't green." What do you think?

MWJ: In the same way that an EV is greener than a comparable petrol car, a bicycle is greener than an EV. But even a bicycle is not green. There have been several recent studies comparing cradle-to-grave lifecycles of EVs versus petrol cars. For example, have a look at the well respected Union of Concerned Scientists 2015 report and their conclusions: “Electric vehicles already result in far less climate pollution than their gas-powered counterparts, and they’re getting cleaner. Optimizing EV production and the disposal or reuse of batteries could further increase their environmental benefits. And as electricity becomes cleaner -- which it is, the difference between electric cars and gasoline cars will only grow—cementing the role of electric vehicles in halving U.S. oil use and cutting global warming emissions.”


LL: Alright! Next statement goes "The electricity EVs use for charging are mostly from fossil fuels, so promoting EVs in Hong Kong is pointless. Promoting EVs in China is a nightmare!"

MWJ: An EV powered 100% from electricity generated from coal is still cleaner (less total emissions well-to-wheel) than one powered by petrol. Do you know how much electricity it takes just to refine petrol from crude oil? I can drive my EV further on just the electricity it takes to refine one litre of petrol than an equivalent petrol car, and that ignores all the other aspects. And where does the electricity for the refinement come from? The same power plants. Look at a picture of an oil refinery and you’ll see huge power lines coming in, leading to an electricity sub-station. Sure, we need to improve our electricity generation, and that is happening. The Environmental Protection Department of Hong Kong publishes a great chart showing 20+ years of electricity generation in Hong Kong. During that time the amount of electricity generated almost doubled (increased population, increased consumption), while the pollutants released during that generation: NOx, RSP, SO2, etc, were reduced to below 20% of their 1990’s levels. The reason for this is that it is easy to regulate and control a handful of large power plants in fixed locations. It is much harder to control a million little petrol engines spread around the roads of Hong Kong. The government is also working hard on long-term improvements to the fuel mix in our electricity generation. So an EV here today pollutes 1/10th that of the exact same EV twenty years ago, and the same cannot be said for a petrol or diesel vehicle. What we can say for sure is that over the coming years, the EV we drive in Hong Kong will get cleaner and cleaner.

LL: Agree! I think people should stop thinking that the fuel they use for their ICE is step 1: dig it out from the ground and step 2: pump it to your ICE’s fuel tank. Oil drilling is well-known for its eco-damage and oil refining is a huge, huge energy consuming process, a fact that oil companies do not want the public to know or admit.

LL: Mark, how are we doing? Do we need a break?

MWJ: No, I’m fine, but I can hear the Internet trolls champing at the bit… I hope the answers I’m giving are helpful for our community to answer back.

Mark's Tesla Roadster

LL: Brilliant! Now, bringing our focus back to Hong Kong again. This one’s on you. You own a Tesla Roadster, you own a Tesla Model S, you have ordered a Tesla Model X, you have reserved a Tesla Model 3. That puts you in the "Rich Man" category. You have more cars than you need, therefore you have many "Rich Man's Toys"

MWJ: Not quite. I have more cars on order than I need, not yet delivered. I live in a remote area, with very limited public transport, and work literally on the opposite side of Hong Kong. By public transport, my daily two-way commute would be 3 to 4 hours, while by private car is it about 1 hour. I drive the roadster and my wife drives our Model S. By the time the X is delivered in Hong Kong, my roadster will be almost six years old. It is fantastic thrill to drive, but with 3 kids it is time to give it up for something more practical, so I plan to trade it in for the X. I’ll drive the S and my wife will drive the X. Then, in 3 to 4 years when the Model 3 arrives, my plan is to trade in the Model S for that. That’s the current plan, but who knows - circumstances and requirements change and 3 years is a long time in the world of EVs. What I do know is that two EVs is perfect for my family, and I hope to never purchase a petrol car again in my life.

LL: So you are a “Rich Man”, but your cars are just not your “Toys”?

MWJ: When I first heard that “Rich Man’s Toys” statement, referring to EVs and the first registration tax exemption, I felt insulted. There I was, driving my EV every day, clocking up 10,000km/year with zero emissions on the road, and these ‘representatives’ stand up in the legislative council, knowingly lie, and have the gall to insult those trying to make a difference. Like someone puffing on a cigarette, blowing smoke in your eyes, and complaining about people giving up smoking. These ‘representatives’, taking home HK$93k/month base salary + expenses + medical + 15% bonuses, claiming to represent the poor. It is nothing short of hypocritical; just trying to score points to get themselves re-elected. Look at the costs of this air pollution. According to the Hong Kong University Hedley study more than 3,000 people here died prematurely last year, and 150,000 were hospitalized, due to air pollution related illnesses. In just one year, almost HK$40billion in medical bills and loss of productivity. Rich or poor, we all breath the same air.

LL: That’s crystal clear! Next claim is, "if more people in Hong Kong, or any other places, are switching to EVs, then we are just creating more and more unwanted cars which just pile up the dump sites."

MWJ: The goal is to replace the petrol and diesel vehicle fleet with electric vehicles, not to increase the number of vehicles on the road. Everything eventually ends up back in the ground - better that than in the atmosphere or in our lungs.

LL: But then they’ll say, maybe some people can afford 2 cars, or 3 cars or 10 cars in their garage, then how does owning an EV help the air quality for these owners?

MWJ: I know EV drivers in Hong Kong who purchased an EV as their first car - hopefully they will never have to drive anything other than EV. Others have switched their petrol car to an EV. And, yes, a small minority have no doubt bought an EV to add to their stable of Ferraris and Maseratis. But, to me, it is really simple. Better a rich person buys an EV than a Hummer. Rich, poor, it makes no difference; we will all benefit from improved air quality. We need to lead the way to displace the tailpipe polluting personal vehicles and replace them with emission-free EVs. Then, the commercial vehicles will follow, as will public transport. Every time an EV driver shows his car in public, or takes friends or colleagues for a trip, he is demonstrating that these vehicles work. Not toys, but real practical daily driver vehicles. And that is huge.

LL: Yes, and when such owners do drive their EVs instead of their ICEs that day, then they are contributing less emission that day. One person can't drive two cars at the same time, right? This is one of the latest. The Tesla Autopilot. There have been many demonstrations of the use of Tesla Autopilot caught on videos around the world, some correctly, some not. Even after the latest update, which basically does a few things 1) restricts the Autopilot to be usable only on certain highways in Hong Kong 2) at restricted speed 3) requires the driver to hold the steering wheel at all time, people still want to test the software's limits by going beyond what the instructions have stated. Now of course, this version of Autopilot is only approved by the Transport Department of Hong Kong after months of rigorous testing while working closely with Tesla HK engineers. What are your views on this? Are these daring testers right to perform their heroic act? Because their claim is mostly that they are doing it for the rest of the owners who are unaware of the potential danger and they are the ones helping to prevent accidents.

MWJ: I think that we, as a community, need to be very careful with what we say or do. The press, in general, love negative stories. Sexy catchy headlines that drive page views. I try to put forward the positives in everything I do, not the negatives. What these ‘testers’ are ignoring is the fact that this is a driver assistance feature, not a self-driving car. If an airline pilot sets his autopilot to 10,000 feet bearing East, leaves his seat to go to the toilet, and the plane crashes into a mountain of 11,000 feet height, is it the autopilot’s fault, or the plane manufacturer’s? The driver is in control of the vehicle, and it is quite simply his responsibility. The Transport Department’s actions in this matter exceeded the legislative requirements. Such actions were in response to those press stories, and were quite frankly ridiculous. There is already ample legislative control in these matters, and it is counter-productive to impose additional administrative restrictions.

LL: So then, would you agree that, if anyone is truly heroic and wants to really prevent others from accidents, maybe they should just call the car company and arrange engineers and technicians to get into his car, and under the supervision of the professionals, demonstrate what he considers as ‘imperfect’ or ‘problematic’? Because simply doing it in front of the press, as far as I can see, has two problems, 1) you may not be using the Autopilot function correctly in the first place, 2) you might not ever be able to reproduce the same scenario for engineers to work on, so there’s no data for the engineers to enhance the feature.

MWJ: I would see little benefit in going to the press, before even at least discussing the issue with the manufacturer/supplier. Remember that these are opt-in features - if you don’t like them, or don’t consider them safe for your use case, then simply don’t enable them.

LL: That is awesome! This one's on charging etiquette. Some EV owners do occupy the Superchargers way beyond the time needed to full-charge their cars, and I have an acronym for this: SPOT -- Superchargers Parking Over Time. So sometimes some owners waiting in line want to know if these cars are SPOTing, so they go to the Supercharger cable and give it a press on the button. Now, they do that because the car does not show the charging lights and therefore the charging status unless someone give the cable a press on the button. The big question is: To Press, or Not to Press? Because pressing it will temporarily stop the charging, harmless to the car of course, but will also send a message to the owner's phone through the Tesla phone app, which might trigger his return to his car or his annoyance. What do you recommend?

MWJ: I, personally, would not press. I would not interfere with anyone else’s car or charging system. I understand the frustration, but there are always two sides to a story and such actions just cause conflict within the community. I’ve seen people ranting on forums about an EV parked but not charging, for the owner to come back and say that he tried but the charger was broken so he reported it to management. Others have complained about EVs plugged in but not charging, when it turns out that the charger tripped and that particular EV doesn’t have a facility to alert the vehicle owner. There is a well know saying that ‘assumption is the mother of all problems’, and that is oh so true. We’ve got enough problems with ICE cars blocking our charging spots, without fighting amongst ourselves. In my view, it is better to concentrate on the bigger issue of getting these EV spots reserved for charging, and penalties introduced for those violating that (and enforced by the car park management, not community vigilantees). Make sure that we personally only park in charging spots if we need the charge, always plug in (irrespective of whether the charger is working or not), and move our car when the charge is complete or we have sufficient charge. Then, we as a community can work together to educate and encourage our less considerate members to change.

LL: Absolutely! I bet our viewers will definitely follow your advice from now on. So good that you have said it! Just a couple more questions left. EV FRT waiver will end on 31st March 2017. Now, Charged Hong Kong is working hard in so many ways in the hope of increasing the chances of an extension. But almost certainly, some politicians will use "Rich Man's Toy" as an argument against the waiver's renewal. Another argument they might have is, with so much money forgone, they are not seeing significant improvement in air quality, and why should the taxpayers of Hong Kong be, double-quotation marks, "sponsoring" a small group of people to buy their Rich Man's Toys?

MWJ: Let me give you an example. My Tesla Roadster is based on a Lotus Elise, so has a direct comparison. The Lotus Elise was ~HK$400k, including FRT. The Roadster was ~HK$1m, excluding FRT, or more than HK$2m if FRT wasn’t exempted. At the moment EVs are more expensive than petrol cars, and without incentives the fantastic momentum achieved will surely grind to a halt. So, let’s start from the premise that we recognize the problem of poor air quality -- 3,000 deaths, 150,000 hospitalized, HK$40billion in costs, annually, etc. (These figures can be found on Hedley Environmental Index, published by School of Public Health at the Hong Kong University). So, what is causing the pollution and how do we reduce it? The answer of course, at least for roadside pollution, is the commercial vehicles. But, we can’t make much progress there today. The government has been sinking billions into that hole and the results are dismal. Now, in just a few short years of the EVs finally becoming available, and FRT exemption, the people have spoken and the switch has started. Locky, you have the figures - the uptake of EVs is incredible, and we have such amazing momentum. We need to keep a FRT exemption in place to maintain that momentum, at least until the next generation of more affordable EVs with 300km+ range come in 2 to 3 years, at a price point comparable to petrol engine vehicles. In the coming years, it is clear that this progress will then leak over to the commercial fleets. Firstly private transportation services (we’re already seeing Uber and hotel limousines change the EVs), then taxis and commercial delivery vehicles. Eventually, the buses will be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century (first single decker buses and coaches, and finally double deckers). When every other vehicle around you is an EV, it is hard to say they don’t have the range, they are not practical, we can’t charge them, etc.

Mark and family at Tesla Rally 2014

LL: Finally, the last question. Pick a question to ask and answer it by yourself. But if it is not a good question, I will reject it and you'll have to think of another one. Haha!

MWJ: You've covered so much above, this is perhaps the hardest question. One thing I think we could ask is what difference can I make as an individual? The answer to me is that every journey begins with a first step. Everybody needs to make a commitment to themselves for change, then drive that change forward. For me, that commitment is to improve Air Quality. I’m doing that by both personal change :reducing my own energy consumption, as well as switching to sustainable transportation, but also going further to make owning and operating an EV easier for others -- via projects such as OVMS and Charged.HK. I’m driving my EV on the roads of Hong Kong every day, to show it is a practical means of transportation, and having a blast doing it. Because you and I both know that quite apart from the environmental benefits, EVs are simply better vehicles.

LL: That's all! Thank you SO SO much! Mark! Thank you for answering all these tough questions! I think you probably hate me by now?

MWJ: Not at all. You’re doing a fantastic job with these member stories and I look forward to reading what others say.

LL: Thank you! Oh! Oh! Hang on! Almost forgot! Any thoughts about the new Tesla Model S v2.0 which was announced late last night?

Tesla Model S 2.0 - Image from Tesla

MWJ: I’d like to see Tesla focus on getting Model 3 out the door, and improving service and support for their existing products.

LL: Thank you once again! I think we all can save a copy of this and use Mark's answers as reference when we go around EVangelising around the world! We hope to see you again very soon, Mark!

MWJ: Thank you.