On 21 June 2022, Citybus Limited, one of Hong Kong’s largest bus operators, received its first hydrogen powered double-decker bus from Bravo Transport. Bravo Transport plans to operate a full fleet of zero-emission buses in Hong Kong by 2045[1]. Cliff Zhang, the chairman of Bravo Transport, believes that hydrogen fuel cell technology, alongside electric batteries, are viable options for Hong Kong’s challenging operating environment[2]. This is consistent with the HKSAR Government’s announcement of the Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan in late 2021, reaffirming the region’s commitment to promote green transport and decarbonisation.

“Green transport: Achieve the long-term target of attaining zero vehicular emissions and zero carbon emissions in the transport sector before 2050, through the electrification of vehicles and ferries, development of new-energy transport and measures to improve traffic management. The Government will cease the new registration of fuel-propelled and hybrid private cars in 2035 or earlier. Apart from promoting electric buses and commercial vehicles, the Government also plans to collaborate with the franchised bus companies and other stakeholders in the next three years to test out hydrogen fuel cell electric buses and heavy vehicles.”

Amidst this wave of excitement for hydrogen-powered vehicles (HPV), the question remains: Is our legislative regime permissive of the use of hydrogen as a fuel in vehicles?

No hydrogen-specific regime, but Government is looking into it

There is currently no hydrogen-specific regime for the use of hydrogen fuel in vehicles in Hong Kong. The Government set up an inter-departmental working group in 2021 and former Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated in her 2021 Policy Address that the Government will collaborate with franchised bus companies to conduct trials of HPVs.

Presently, the manufacture, storage, transportation and use of hydrogen is governed by the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap. 295) and supplemental regulations:

Section 6 of the Dangerous Goods Ordinance provides that no person shall manufacture, store, transport or use any dangerous goods except in accordance with a licence granted under it. Both compressed hydrogen and refrigerated liquid hydrogen are classified as ‘dangerous goods’ under the Dangerous Goods Ordinance. Hydrogen is categorised as Schedule 2 dangerous goods and Class 2 dangerous goods (see section 3(1)(l) of the Dangerous Goods Ordinance; section 6(a) and the table in Part 2 of Schedule 2 of the Dangerous Goods (Application and Exemption) Regulation). However, there are statutory exemptions for storage and use of up to 150 litres in industrial premises and 75 litres in general premises; and for transportation of up to 75 litres (section 9 and Part 2 of Schedule 2 of Dangerous Goods (Application and Exemption) Regulation).

Are HPVs allowed on Hong Kong roads?

Hydrogen is considered a ‘dangerous good’ under Hong Kong law.

Section 14 of the Tsing Ma Control Area (General) Regulation (Cap. 498B), section 12 of the Tsing Sha Control Area (General) Regulation (Cap. 594A), and section 11 of the Road Tunnels (Government) Regulations (Cap. 368A) state that a person ‘must not drive or cause or permit to be driven’ any vehicles carrying dangerous goods in any Hong Kong tunnels. This is a Level 2 offence with a penalty of up to HK$5,000 under the Criminal Procedure Ordinance (Cap. 221). The Transport Department also bans vehicles carrying Class 2 dangerous goods (which hydrogen is) from using the Lantau Link lower deck area during strong winds.

There are two exceptions.

  • Fuel carried for propulsion of vehicles - Section 14(2)(a) of the Tsing Ma Control Area (General) Regulation, section 12(2)(a) of the Tsing Sha Control Area (General) Regulation and section 11(2)(a) of the Road Tunnels (Government) Regulations permit the conveyance in tunnels of ‘fuelwhich is being carried in a fuel tank … for the purpose only of the propulsion of the vehicle’.
  • While the term ‘fuel’ may have been intended to mean ‘petroleum spirit’, a term used in other parts of the regulations, these particular exceptions refer only to ‘fuel’, which it could be argued is permissive of a broader range of energy carriers, including hydrogen. In this regard, the Transport Department now clearly regards LPG as a ‘fuel’, and the inter-departmental working group may also be considering classifying hydrogen as a ‘fuel’.
  • De minimis quantities carried - Section 14(1)(b) of the Tsing Ma Control Area (General) Regulation, section 12(1)(b) of the Tsing Sha Control Area (General) Regulation and 11(1)(b) of the Road Tunnels (Government) Regulations permit vehicles ‘carrying’ less than 75 litres of hydrogen to pass through Hong Kong tunnels.

No driver in a car park shall … bring a vehicle carrying dangerous goods, to which the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap. 295) applies, into the car park.’

Section 14 of the Road Traffic (Parking) Regulations permits the Commissioner to designate any place as a car park. On its face, this would appear to include indoor and outdoor car parks.

There are no exceptions to this regulation.

So, what exactly does ‘carrying’ mean? Cap. 374C came into effect in August 1984, and the bridge and tunnel exceptions described above were introduced from October 1997 onwards. While the term ‘carrying’ may have originally been intended to only capture the ‘transportation’ of a ‘dangerous good’ (eg as a cargo), the term is probably broad enough (even if it was not envisaged at the time) to capture the ‘carrying’ of hydrogen for the propulsion of a vehicle.

One would hope that relevant Hong Kong authorities treat ‘carrying’, in practice, as not including the ‘carrying’ of ‘fuel’ for purely propulsive purposes. Failure to do so could result in the parking of an HPV in a designated Hong Kong car park being a Level 1 Offence, and liability to a penalty of up to HK$2,000 under the Criminal Procedure Ordinance.

Section 3(1) of the Gas Safety (Registration of Gas Supply Companies) Regulations (Cap. 51E) states that only registered gas supply companies may import, manufacture and supply gas into Hong Kong.

Section 2 of the Gas Safety Ordinance (Cap. 51) defines gas as town gas, liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas and any mixture of those gases. Town gas is further defined as ‘… any gas which is primarily a mixture of hydrogen and methane….’.

The importation, manufacture and supply of pure (or near pure) hydrogen does not appear to presently be regulated by the Gas Safety Ordinance. While a licence to manufacture, store, transport or use hydrogen in excess of exempted quantities is still required under section 6 of the Dangerous Goods Ordinance, we anticipate that one of the first recommendations of the inter-departmental working group will be inclusion of hydrogen within the ambit of the Gas Safety Ordinance.

For sea transportation, sections 2 and 3 of the Dangerous Goods (Shipping) Regulation adopt the definition of ‘dangerous goods’ in both the Dangerous Goods Ordinance and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.

As hydrogen falls under the ‘flammable gas’ category in both the Dangerous Goods Ordinance and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, vessels carrying hydrogen in Hong Kong waters must comply with applicable movement, anchoring and berthing, and loading and unloading requirements in the Dangerous Goods (Shipping) Regulation, and the labelling, placard, packaging, documentation, stowage and segregation requirements in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. Vessel owners must also submit a dangerous goods manifest to the Director of Marine Department prior to arrival and check with port terminal operators for any additional handling requirements.

Fire service requirements

A person can only manufacture hydrogen with a suitable licence from the Fire Service Department, and only in premises that comply with relevant fire safety requirements (section 94(1) Dangerous Goods (Control) Regulation).

The storage and use of hydrogen exceeding the relevant exempted quantity also requires a storage and use license (section 94(2) Dangerous Goods (Control) Regulation). The Director of Fire Services may impose additional conditions under sections 96 and 98 of the Dangerous Goods (Control) Regulation.

What about other jurisdictions?


Similar to Hong Kong, there is currently no hydrogen-specific legislation in Singapore for the use, production and importation of green hydrogen. Hydrogen is presently regulated as a ‘flammable material’ under section 34 of Fire Safety Act. Licences are required for hydrogen dispensation, importation, pipeline conveyance, storage and transportation. Hydrogen is also categorised as a ‘dangerous substance’ under Schedule 1 of the Workplace Safety and Health (Major Hazard Installations) Regulations, which requires persons storing hydrogen gas to adopt all necessary safety precautions and prevention measures.

In 2017, to promote the use of renewable energy in Singapore, the Singapore Energy Market Authority introduced a new regulatory sandbox framework. The framework provides a ‘safe space’ for interested parties to experiment with energy innovation solutions. The Energy Market Authority relaxes specific legal and regulatory frameworks to which applicants would otherwise be subject for the duration of their sandbox experiment. The experiments also facilitate review by the Authority of existing regulations for future innovations. Successful applicants are also granted research and development subsidies. No HPV developers appear to currently be participating in the framework.

South Korea

In 2020, the National Assembly of South Korea passed the Hydrogen Economy Promotion and Hydrogen Safety Management Law. The law provides an overarching legal framework for the Government’s hydrogen development efforts. The law also establishes the ‘Hydrogen Economy Committee’, which oversees industry promotion, distribution and safety of green hydrogen fuels. The law was amended in May of 2022 to include ‘clean hydrogen’, ‘hydrogen power generation’, ‘hydrogen power generation business entity’ and ‘hydrogen gas turbine’. The amendments also introduced a clean hydrogen certification system for stable hydrogen power generation business entities, to encourage further developments.

What conclusions can be drawn?

The Hong Kong Government is clearly keen to facilitate the use of HPVs in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government recently appointed the Environment Bureau to lead an inter-departmental working group review of implementation issues for hydrogen energy. Their first action may well be to amend the Gas Safety Regulations to include hydrogen, but let’s hope they don’t stop there. Updating other ordinances and regulations to expressly permit the use of HPVs would no doubt also be welcomed by the people of Hong Kong, and the business community generally.