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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, making it difficult to clean up roadside air pollution.

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.

The Government has adopted an integrated vehicle emission control strategy which has 5 major elements :

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

The Government has introduced a host of vehicle emission control measures in recent years and the key measures are as follows.

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 first 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 first 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 first 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, market availability 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.

The specifications of motor vehicle diesel and unleaded petrol were tightened to Euro V standards from July 2010.

 

Initiatives in 2011

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

 

Initiatives in 2012

The vehicle emission standards for first registered motor vehicles (except for motorcycles and tricycles) were tightened to Euro V in phases starting from June 2012.

 

Initiatives in 2013

One-off subsidy of $150 million was provided to subsidise LPG/petrol taxi and light bus owners for voluntary replacement of the catalytic converters and oxygen sensors. The scheme was launched in August 2013 and completed in April 2014, with about 13 900 taxis and 2 900 light buses enrolled in the scheme.

 

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 first registered on or after 1 February 2014 to 15 years.

Starting from 2014, the Government has been funding the franchised bus companies (FBCs) the full cost of retrofitting eligible Euro II and III franchised buses with selective catalytic reduction devices (SCRs) and diesel particulate filter to upgrade their emissions performance to Euro IV or above level. The retrofit programme was completed at the end of 2017 with a total of 1 030 eligible Euro II and III franchised buses retrofitted with SCRs under the programme.

Selective catalytic reduction device and diesel particulate filter

 

The Government has allocated $33 million to fully subsidise the FBCs to purchase 6 double-deck hybrid buses to conduct 2-year trial on different routes to assess their operational performance under local conditions.  The trial of hybrid buses were fully commenced by the end of 2014 and completed by the end of 2016.  In terms of driving performance, the hybrid buses are comparable with conventional diesel buses.  However, the emission performance of hybrid buses over Euro VI conventional buses is not substantial and their fuel economy performance in the local operation environment fell far short of expectation.

Photo of double-deck hybrid bus

Double-deck hybrid bus                                                                       

 

Initiatives in 2015

The Government has allocated $180 million to fully subsidise the FBCs to purchase 36 single-deck electric buses (including 8 supercapacitor buses and 28 battery-electric buses and related charging facilities) for 2-year trials. The trial of electric buses was commenced progressively by the end of 2015. If the trial results are satisfactory, the Government will promote wider use of single-deck electric buses by the franchised bus companies, taking into account affordability of the companies and passengers.

Battery-electric Bus Supercapacitor Bus

 

The Government has set up franchised bus low emission zones (FBLEZs) in three busy corridors in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok on 31 December 2015.  In order to improve roadside air quality, the FBCs are required to deploy low emission buses (i.e. buses meeting Euro IV or higher emission standards or Euro II and III buses retrofitted with selective catalytic reduction devices and diesel particulate filters) to routes running through the FBLEZs.

 

Initiatives in 2017

The vehicle emission standards for first registered motor vehicles (except for diesel private cars, buses with a design weight of not more than 9 tonnes, light buses with a design weight of more than 3.5 tonnes, motorcycles and tricycles) were tightened to Euro VI in phases from July 2017. For first registered diesel private cars, the standards were tightened to California LEV III from October 2017.

 

New Initiatives

The Government is preparing the following new initiatives to further reduce air pollutant emissions from vehicles:

  • To adopt an incentive-cum-regulatory approach to progressively phase out about 40 000 Euro IV diesel CVs;
  • To tighten the emission standards of first registered motorcycles to Euro 4, and the emission standards of first registered light buses with a design weight of more than 3.5 tonnes and buses with a design weight of not more than 9 tonnes to Euro VI;
  • To conduct a trial of retrofitting of Euro IV and V diesel double-deck franchised buses with enhanced SCR systems to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides; and
  • To review the current scope of the Pilot Green Transport Fund to further promote the transport sectors’wider use of green innovative transport technologies.

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Tightening Fuel and Vehicle Emission Standards

Vehicle emission standards

Emission standards for first-registered vehicles have been progressively tightened since 1995. The most recent change is in 2017, when we implemented Euro VI emission standards. A Euro VI heavy duty diesel vehicle emits about 99% less particulates and 96% less NOx than a pre-Euro vehicle manufactured before 1995.

 

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

Chart of comparison of vehicle exhaust emission standards for heavy duty 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.

 

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. The programme was completed at the end of 2005. Right now, about 77% 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- In 2010, the FBCs completed retrofitting their Euro II and III buses with diesel particulate filters (DPF), where technically feasible. A DPF can reduce particulate emissions from diesel vehicles by over 80%. Currently all pre-Euro and Euro I franchised buses have already been phased out.  In order to improve roadside air quality, we have fully subsidized the FBCs to retrofit 1 030 eligible Euro II and III franchised buses with SCRs, by the end of 2017, to upgrade their emissions performance to Euro IV or above level.

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Strengthening Emission Inspection and Enforcement

Controlling smoky vehicles

 Photo of dynamometer smoke test

The Smoky Vehicle Control Programme (SVCP) has been in operation since 1988. This programme mainly targets diesel vehicles that emit excessive smoke due to poor maintenance. Smoky vehicle spotters who are trained and accredited by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) will report diesel vehicles that emit excessive smoke on the road to EPD. EPD will issue Emission Testing Notices (ETNs) to the owners of the spotted vehicles, requiring them to fix the smoke problem and pass a chassis dynamometer smoke test within 12 working days. Vehicles failing the smoke test would have their licences cancelled by the Transport Department.

 Photo of joint operation with the Police

 

Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) in collaboration with EPD have, from time to time, supported the programme by mounting roadside smoke-testing operations. Police officers will stop vehicles having excessive smoke 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. EPD will separately issue an ETN to the owner requiring them to fix the smoke problem and pass the smoke test at a DVETC within 12 working days.

A majority of vehicles emitting excessive smoke are aged and poorly maintained DCVs. To improve roadside air quality and better protect public health, EPD launched an incentive-cum-regulatory scheme in March 2014 to phase out progressively some 82 000 pre-Euro IV DCVs. The number of smoky vehicles on the road has been reduced in turn, resulting in a significant drop in the number of smoky vehicle reports made by the accredited spotters. The number of smoky vehicles spotted on road was reduced from 7 020 in 2014 to 3 122 in 2017.

 

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 identify vehicles with excessive emission which will be required to pass a chassis dynamometer emission test after repair. Failure to comply with the requirement will lead to cancellation of the licence of the vehicle 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 the 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 chassis 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 the Vocational Training Council to deliver free short courses to the trade teaching the technique of maintaining the LPG and petrol vehicles to pass the chassis 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 improvement of roadside air quality. Compared with 1999, the roadside concentrations of some of the major air pollutants have dropped in 2018: respirable suspended particulates (RSP), fine suspended particulates (FSP), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and NO2, have been down by 57%, 54%, 74% and 17% respectively, and the number of smoky vehicles spotted has also been reduced by nearly 90%. Although NO2 concentration at the roadside has dropped from its peak in 2011, it is still at a high level, which is about double of the respective annual Air Quality Objectives. This remains a key challenge we need to face.

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. PEMS are considered an effective means of in-use compliance checking. So far, we have conducted vehicle emission measurements for about 380 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.

Training/practice and examinations for the operation of PEMS are being conducted by EPD from time to time.

Certificate for the Operation of PEMS

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: 
Tuesday, 22 October, 2019