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Cleaning the Air at Street Level

Street Level Air Pollution

Progress of Vehicle Emissions Control Measures

Tightening Fuel and Vehicle Emission Standards

Cleaner Alternatives to Diesel Vehicles

Controlling Emissions from the Remaining Diesel Vehicles

Strengthening Emission Inspection and Enforcement

Promoting Better Vehicle Maintenance and Eco-driving

Roadside Air Quality Trends

Building a Local Vehicle Emission Database and Introducing In-use Compliance Program

 

Street Level Air Pollution

In our busy streets, air pollution is mainly caused by motor vehicles, particularly diesel vehicles such as trucks, buses and light buses which emit a large amount of particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The pollutants are often trapped at roads flanked by very tall buildings, thereby causing the roadside levels of respirable suspended particulates and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to exceed the Air Quality Objectives over the years.

Photo of busy street

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Progress of Vehicle Emissions Control Measures

The Government has been working for years to control emissions from motor vehicles. Although there had been progress made, such as the tightening of vehicle emission standards, the improvements from these measures had tended to be offset by the increases in emissions from the continued growing vehicle numbers and kilometres driven.

Chart of growth in vehicle number and mileage

Therefore, in 2000 the Government pressed ahead with an enhanced programme to address the problem. The programme aimed to reduce particulate emissions from motor vehicles by 80% by the end of 2005, and NOx emissions by 30%. The main initiatives included :

  • Adopt tighter fuel and vehicle emission standards;
  • Adopt cleaner alternatives to diesel vehicles where practicable;
  • Control emissions from the remaining diesels with devices that trap pollutants;
  • Strengthen vehicle emission inspections and enforcement against smoky vehicles; and
  • Promote better vehicle maintenance and eco-driving habits.

The Government earmarked $1.4 billion for this programme. The investment was for providing grants to owners of diesel taxis and light buses for switching to cleaner alternatives, and for helping owners of older pre-Euro diesel vehicles to install devices that trap pollutants.

 

Initiatives in 2007

A one-off grant was launched on 1 April 2007 to encourage vehicle owners to replace their pre-Euro and Euro I diesel commercial vehicles (DCVs) with new ones complying with the prevailing emission requirements for newly registered vehicles, which, at that moment, was Euro IV standard. About 17,000 applications (i.e. 29 % of the eligible vehicles) were approved, involving about $770 million of grants when the scheme ended in March 2010.

To encourage the use of environment-friendly petrol private cars with low emissions and high fuel efficiency, reduction in the First Registration Tax (FRT) was offered to buyers of newly registered environment-friendly petrol private cars from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2015.

 

Initiatives in 2008

To encourage the use of environment-friendly commercial vehicles which have lower emissions, reduction in the FRT has been offering to buyers of newly registered environment-friendly commercial vehicles from 1 April 2008. The qualifying standard for environment-friendly commercial vehicles was first set at Euro V level. The Government reviews the qualifying standards annually in the light of technological advancements and the prevailing statutory emission standards. The objective is to ensure that tax incentive is available only to vehicles of outstanding emission performance outstripping the prevailing statutory requirements. If tightened, the new qualifying standards become effective on 1 April of the following year.

 

Initiatives in 2010

An incentive scheme for Euro II DCVs was launched in July 2010. About 7,400 DCVs (i.e. about 27% of the eligible vehicles) were replaced by new vehicles with the aid of about $650 million of grants when the scheme ended in June 2013.

 

Initiatives in 2011

A $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund was set up to support the testing of green and innovative transport technologies applicable to the public transport sector and goods vehicles.

 

Initiatives in 2014

An incentive-cum-regulatory scheme was launched in March 2014 to phase out some 82,000 pre-Euro IV DCVs progressively by end 2019. $11.4 billion was set aside for ex-gratia payment to assist the affected vehicle owners. We also limited the service life of DCVs newly registered on or after 1 February 2014 to 15 years.

Starting from 2014, the Government has been funding the franchised bus companies the full cost of retrofitting some 1,400 eligible Euro II and III franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices (SCRs), which could upgrade their emissions performance comparable to that of Euro IV or above level.

The Government is fully subsidizing the franchised bus companies to purchase six double-deck hybrid buses and 36 single-deck electric buses for trial runs to assess their operational efficiency and performance under the local conditions. The six hybrid buses already commenced their trial in late 2014, and the trial of electric buses is expected to commence progressively by end 2015. The trials will last for 2 years, with an interim review to be conducted about one year after the commencement of trial. The ultimate policy objective of the Government is to have zero emission buses running across the territory.

 

Photo of double-deck hybrid bus

Double-deck hybrid bus                                                                       

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Tightening Fuel and Vehicle Emission Standards

Vehicle emission standards

Emission standards for newly-registered vehicles have been progressively tightened since 1995. The most recent change is in 2012, when we implemented Euro V emission standards. A Euro V diesel vehicle emits about 95% less particulates and 78% less NOx than a pre-Euro vehicle manufactured before 1995.

 

Comparison of Vehicle Exhaust Emission Standards - Large Diesel Vehicle (>3.5 Tonnes)

Chart of comparison of vehicle exhaust emission standards for large diesel vehicle weighing over 3.5 Tonnes

 

Vehicle fuel standards

Petrol- We have tightened the sulphur content in unleaded petrol from 0.015% to 0.005% since January 2005 in tandem with the European Union.

 

Ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD)- ULSD has a sulphur content of 0.005%, which is the Euro IV requirement for motor vehicle diesel. It became the only motor diesel fuel available at petrol filling stations in Hong Kong, after the Government introduced a concessionary duty on ULSD in July 2000. Since April 2002, ULSD has been the statutory minimum requirement for motor vehicle diesel, 3 years ahead of the European Union. Hong Kong is also the first place in Asia to introduce ULSD on a full scale for its vehicle fleet.

 

Euro V diesel- On 1 December 2007, the Government offered a concessionary duty rate of $0.56 per litre for Euro V diesel, which has a sulphur content of 0.001%. Since then, all petrol filling stations in Hong Kong are exclusively offering this fuel. Starting from 14 July 2008, the duty rate for Euro V diesel has been waived to further encourage drivers to use this more environment-friendly fuel.

 

Biodiesel- The Air Pollution Control (Motor Vehicle Fuel) (Amendment) Regulation 2009 came into force on 1 July 2010. The Amendment Regulation provides statutory control on the specifications of motor vehicle biodiesel and the labelling requirement on selling of motor vehicle biodiesel with biodiesel content over 5%.

 

Euro V Motor Vehicle Fuels- As from 1 July 2010, we have tightened the statutory motor vehicle diesel and unleaded petrol specifications to Euro V level. The major difference between Euro IV and Euro V motor vehicle fuels (both diesel and petrol) is the tightening of the cap on sulphur content from 0.005% to 0.001%.

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Cleaner Alternatives to Diesel Vehicles

LPG Taxis and Light Buses

Taxis- To encourage a quick switch of the 18,000 diesel taxis to environmentally-cleaner vehicles, the government provided a one-off grant of $40,000 for each replacement of diesel taxis with one that operates on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in a subsidy programme starting in August 2000. The programme was completed at the end of 2003. Almost all (about 99%) taxis are now fuelled by LPG.

Photo of LPG taxi Logo of LPG vehicle

 

Light Buses- We started a programme in August 2002 to offer incentives to encourage the early replacement of the 6,000 diesel light buses with LPG or electric ones. For diesel public light buses, we offered a one-off grant of $60,000 or $80,000 for each diesel public light bus that was replaced with an LPG or electric one respectively; for diesel private light buses, each replacement LPG vehicle was exempted from the first registration tax. At present, electric vehicles are exempted from first registration tax. The programme was completed at the end of 2005. Right now, about 68% of the registered public light buses run on LPG.

Photo of LPG Light Bus

LPG Light Bus

Photo of Electric Light Bus

Electric Light Bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Controlling Emissions from the Remaining Diesel Vehicles

Light diesel vehicles- A programme to help owners of pre-Euro light diesel vehicles to retrofit their vehicles with particulate traps or catalytic converters was completed in 2001. More than 80% of the fleet, or 24,000 light diesel vehicles, were fitted with these devices under the retrofit programme. A particulate trap/catalytic converter can cut particulates emission from a pre-Euro light diesel vehicle by about 30%. From December 2003, a regulation requiring all pre-Euro diesel light vehicles up to 4 tonnes to be installed with suitable particulate reduction devices has been implemented.

Photo of particulate reduction device

Particulate reduction device

Photo of particulate trap

Particulate trap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medium and heavy diesel vehicles- A programme to help owners of pre-Euro heavy diesel, other than those heavy duty vehicles that require the operation of on-board equipment during idling (i.e. long idling vehicles) which were retrofitted separately in another programme, to retrofit their vehicles with catalytic converters was completed in 2004. More than 96% of the fleet, or 34,000 heavy diesel vehicles, were fitted with catalytic converters under the retrofit programme. A catalytic converter can cut particulates emission from a pre-Euro heavy diesel vehicle by about 25% to 35%. From April 2006, a regulation requiring all these pre-Euro heavy diesel vehicles to be installed with suitable particulate reduction devices has been implemented.

Photo of heavy diesel vehicle

A similar programme to help owners of long idling pre-Euro heavy diesel vehicles (i.e. concrete mixer, gully emptier, lorry crane and pressure tanker) to retrofit their vehicles with catalytic converters was completed in 2005. About 95% of the fleet, or 2,500 long idling pre-Euro heavy diesel vehicles, were fitted with catalytic converters under the retrofit programme. From April 2007, a regulation requiring all these long idling pre-Euro heavy diesel vehicles to be installed with suitable particulate reduction devices has been implemented.

 

Buses- The franchised bus companies have retrofitted about 2,000 older buses of pre-Euro or Euro I models with Diesel Oxidation Catalysts (DOC), which can reduce their particulate emissions by about 30%.

 

Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)- In 2010, the franchised bus companies completed retrofitting their Euro II and III buses with DPF, where technically feasible. A DPF can reduce particulate emissions from diesel vehicles by over 80%.

Photo of Diesel Particulate Filter

Diesel Particulate Filter

 

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Strengthening Emission Inspection and Enforcement

Controlling smoky vehicles

 Photo of dynamometer smoke test

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) operates a Smoky Vehicle Control Programme that requires smoky vehicles spotted by accredited spotters to undergo a smoke test within a specified period. Failure to pass the test will result in the vehicle licence being cancelled. More than 21,000 vehicle licence cancellations have been recommended since the implementation of the programme in 1988.

 

To enhance the effectiveness of the Smoky Vehicle Control Programme, we introduced an advanced emission test: the dynamometer smoke test - for diesel vehicles up to 5.5 tonnes in September 1999. Since the dynamometer test proved to be a more effective smoke testing method, it was extended to all diesel vehicles in December 2000.

 Photo of joint operation with the Police

 

The Police supports the action to control smoky vehicles by mounting roadside smoke-testing operations. Police officers will stop vehicles having excessive emissions on road for a smoke test using a portable smokemeter. Fixed penalty ticket will be issued to the owners of vehicles failing the smoke test. The fixed penalty for smoky vehicle was raised from $450 to $1,000 on 1 December 2000.

 

Strengthened control of emissions from LPG and petrol vehicles

From 1 September 2014 onwards, a strengthened vehicle emission regime for petrol and LPG vehicles has been implemented that includes limits for carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and NOx to improve roadside air quality. Roadside remote sensing equipment are deployed to screen out vehicles with excessive emission which will be required to pass a dynamometer emission test after repair. Failure to meet the specified standards will lead to cancellation of the vehicle licence by the Commissioner for Transport.

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Promoting Better Vehicle Maintenance and Eco-driving

Training and seminars on vehicle maintenance

Since August 1999, the EPD, in collaboration with the Vocational Training Council and other organisations had been offering training sessions for vehicle mechanics on proper engine repair and maintenance to reduce emissions from vehicles. At present, vehicle maintenance courses are still being offered by Vocational Training Council for vehicle mechanics.

 

Since September 2014, the EPD has been deploying roadside remote sensing equipment to measure the exhaust emissions from LPG and petrol vehicles. Excessively emitting vehicles identified have to pass a dynamometer based emission test to confirm that they meet the emission limits. To help the vehicle mechanics to get familiar with the new emission test, technical seminars and demonstration tests have been organised to explain the technical details. The EPD has also commissioned Vocational Training Council to deliver free short courses to the trade teaching the technique of maintaining the LPG and petrol vehicles to pass the dynamometer based emission test.

 

Seminars on eco-driving

The EPD, in collaboration with the Vocational Training Council, Hong Kong Productivity Council and some relevant trade associations/institutions, conducted eco-driving seminars for the public. These seminars aim at promoting proper vehicle maintenance and eco-driving practices for fleet operators, commercial vehicle drivers and vehicle owners and drivers with a view to reducing vehicular emissions and switching off idling engines; and hence improving the roadside air quality. We will continue to organise such eco-driving seminars.

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Roadside Air Quality Trends

The above measures have brought some improvements in roadside air quality. Compared with 1999, the roadside concentrations of some of the major air pollutants have dropped in 2013: respirable suspended particulates, sulphur dioxide (SO2) and NOx, have been down by 37%, 59% and 29% respectively, and the number of smoky vehicles spotted has also been reduced by nearly 90%.

 

However, NO2 at the roadside has increased by 21% during the same period. The rise in roadside NO2 levels has resulted in an increase in the number of days with roadside air pollution index (API) reaching the “very high” level (API exceeding 100) in recent years.

 

 Chart of number of days with API exceeding 100

 

To further improve roadside air quality and tackle the NO2 problem, we have embarked on additional vehicle emission control measures including the phasing out pre-Euro IV DCVs; strengthening the emission control of petrol and LPG vehicles through the deployment of roadside remote sensing equipment and chassis dynamometers for emission testing; and retrofitting Euro II and III franchised buses with SCRs. The Government is also actively promoting the use of electric vehicles in Hong Kong.

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Building a Local Vehicle Emission Database and Introducing In-use Compliance Program

We also evaluate the performance of the latest vehicle technologies over time, especially the performance of after-treatment devices and build up a local in-use vehicle emission database by portable emission measuring systems (PEMS) that can account for the emission design standards, operating conditions and engine conditions of local vehicles. With the database, we shall be able to estimate with greater precision motor vehicle emissions and better understand how different emission control measures will affect local emissions. Conducting vehicle emission measurements by PEMS is considered worldwide to be the most effective. We also use PEMS to develop and make preparations for introducing an in-use compliance programme, which form part of the Euro VI vehicle emission standard adopted by the European Union in 2013. PEMS are considered an effective means of in-use compliance checking. So far, we have conducted vehicle emission measurements for about 270 in-use vehicles of various vehicle classes, like petrol cars, taxis, light and heavy goods vehicles, public and private light buses, franchised and non-franchised buses.

 

Photo of the PEMS installation on and measurements of a public single-decked bus

The PEMS installation on and measurements of a public single-decked bus

Photo of the PEMS equipment installed inside a public single-decked bus

The PEMS equipment installed inside a public single-decked bus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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User review date: 
Wednesday, 2 September, 2015