Author: Tang Ming Chung, Kelvin, LLB IV; HKU
Many steps have been taken in respect of motor vehicle emissions because of the extremely high density of motor vehicles in Hong Kong and the high diesel mileage.
In 1991, unleaded petrol was introduced. In 1992, a requirement of 3-way catalytic convertor for new petrol vehicles aiming at reducing the emission of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from individual cars by up to 90% was introduced. In 1995, there was an introduction of clean diesel with 0.2% sulphur content plus requiring new diesel vehicles to comply with emission standards equivalent to the Euro I and Euro Phase I standards for heavy duty and light duty vehicles respectively. In 1997, the sulphur content in motor diesel fuel was further reduced to 0.05% and the new heavy duty diesel vehicles were required to comply with the emission standards equivalent to the new European Euro II standards. (1)
In 2000, other initiatives were introduced, including the adoption of tighter fuel and vehicle emission standards, the adoption of cleaner alternatives to diesel vehicles where it is practicable, the strengthening of vehicle emission inspections and enforcement against smoky vehicles and the promotion of better vehicle maintenance and eco-driving habits. (2)
The Environmental Protection Department is also building 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, the Department is able to estimate with greater precision motor vehicle emissions and better understand how different emission control measures will affect local emissions. (2)
Measures aimed at alleviating air pollution by road vehicles includes public education, controls on the quality of maintenance of all vehicles, assurance to the community about the gains and the intended benefits from the most recent vehicle technologies, controls of diesel vehicles that they can only use high quality ultra law diesel fuel readily available in Hong Kong, encouragement of use of hybrid and electric vehicles. (3)
The Air Pollution Control (Emission Reduction Devices for Vehicles) Regulation requires that these devices must be kept in good working condition for reducing particulate emissions. Owners of vehicles failing to comply with the requirements will have their vehicle licences cancelled or refused for renewal upon expiry.
The programme for subsidizing owners to replace diesel taxis with LPG taxis was completed in 2003. (4) The ultra low sulphur diesel was introduced to Hong Kong and the duty was kept down to ensure widespread usage, as well as tightening petrol standards with effect from 2005. (4) Since 2003, the pre-Euro diesel vehicles were required to install catalytic converters and particulate traps. (4) From 2001, new vehicles were required to meet Euro III emission standards and from 2006, they were required to meet Euro IV emission standards. (4)
The Environmental Protection Department has also introduced Euro V diesel in Hong Kong. On 1 December 2007, the Government offered a concessionary duty rate of $0.56 per litre for Euro V diesel, which has 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. (5)
On 1 April 2007, the Environmental Protection Department launched a new programme to provide one-off grants totaling HK$3.2 billion to encourage owners of 74,000 old diesel commercial vehicles to replace their old vehicles. If all the owners take up the offer, the emissions of RSP and NOx in Hong Kong will be reduced by 18% and 10% respectively. (6)
Starting from 1 April 2007, the Environmental Protection Department offered a 30% reduction in first registration tax to encourage the use of environment-friendly petrol private cars, subject to a ceiling of HK$50,000 per car. From 1 April 2008, the Environmental Protection Department offered reduction in first registration tax to encourage the use of environment-friendly commercial vehicles. (6) However, around 45% of the public have not heard of a government subsidy for environmentally friendly vehicles. For those who do know about the subsidy, they reject it as too small to consider in their purchase plans. (7) Although there has been a rise in concern with air pollution and increased familiarity with the issues, respondents to a survey in 2008 were much less likely to consider seriously buying a hybrid, electric or other form of environmentally friendly vehicle than respondents in 2001. (7)