Asian countries on the challenges of achieving cleaner and more efficient fuels and vehicles

It’s crucial to develop policies to stimulate the uptake of electric vehicles to further reduce transport emissions up to 2050

While there is now technology available to clean up vehicles throughout the Asia region, there remains a need to ensure there are low-sulfur fuels for advanced emissions control across the vehicle fleet.

Speaking at the “Cleaner Fuels and Vehicles in Asia: Implementing the Global Sulfur Strategy” – a side event organized by UN Environment in collaboration with the Climate and Clean Air Coalition at the 2018 Asia Pacific Clean Air Partnership in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 20 – UN Environment Programme Officer Bert Fabian said as an example, diesel particle filters required by Euro VI reduced diesel particulate matter (PM) levels to nearly zero, which was relevant given that diesel vehicles accounted substantially for PM and black carbon emissions.

“The supply side of the fuel market within a specific region also has to be studied,” Mr Fabian said. “For example, Mongolia doesn’t have a fuel quality roadmap; however, the fuel from Russia and China entering Mongolia contains 50-500ppm sulfur, which provides an opportunity for the adoption of at least Euro 2 vehicle emission standards and fuel specifications.

“Similarly, Nepal in South Asia currently follows Euro 3 vehicle emission and fuel quality standards, yet their vehicles are mostly imported from India, which has adopted Euro 4, rationalizing a move towards the adoption of Euro 4 emission standards. In Southeast Asia, fuels with 50 ppm sulfur are widely available and many oil firms also sell 10ppm sulfur in fuels.”

The event, together with the following session organized by UN Environment and Clean Air Asia entitled “Doubling Fuel Economy and Integrating Electric Mobility in Asia”, brought together more than 30 representatives from Mongolia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Maldives, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Afghanistan and China to share their experiences in the development and adoption of stricter vehicle emission standards and fuel quality, the development of national policies for more efficient vehicles, and the challenges and benefits of a regional approach to the promotion of policy development.

Dr Supat Wangwongwatana from the Asian Institute of Technology said while air quality in Bangkok was improving, PM2.5 had replaced total suspended particulates (TSP) as the major pollutant of concern, with concentrations higher near roads, and 50 of the more than 700 observations still exceeding the standard.

“The vehicle population is seeing an increasing trend in Thailand, and vehicle registrations reached 9.8 million at the end of 2016,” Dr Supat said. “Despite this, Bangkok has seen decreasing levels of carbon monoxide (CO), TSP, PM10, and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Since the city introduced Euro 4/IV fuel quality standards in 2012, declining levels of nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and benzene have been observed.

“However, once all vehicles are Euro 4/IV, emission levels could potentially rise given the continued increase in the vehicle population, which would support the need for the advancement of Euro 5 or Euro 6 emissions and fuel quality standards.”

A cost-benefit analysis of Euro 5/6 implementation found that additional reductions in PM and NOx levels, particularly in the short term, could be achieved by jumping to Euro 6, and that immediate emissions reductions would be achieved when lower sulfur fuel was used. The Thai government is currently expanding the railway network to meet growing commuter demand and reduce the use of personal vehicles.

Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director of Research and Advocacy at the Centre For Science and Environment in New Delhi, said India had experienced rapid motorization in the past decade. This was having a significant health impact, with more than 55 percent of Delhi’s population (17 million people) living within 500m of major roads.

Ms Roychowdhury said the risk of cancer from diesel cars was four times greater than that posed by petrol cars, prompting the Supreme Court from 2015-2016 to ban the sale of two-liter diesel cars and SUVs in Delhi and the National Capital Region, and impose an environmental pollution charge on diesel cars. The National Green Tribunal also imposed a ban on 10-year-old diesel cars in Delhi.

“Such pressure on diesel created uncertainty in the market for diesel cars, which really accelerated the transition to Euro IV,” she said. “India intended a stepped introduction of Euro IV, focused on only 13 cities. However, in March 2017 the Supreme Court directed an immediate full transition for all existing and new models from April 1, 2017, without any transition time. In 2016, the government also issued a notification for direct leapfrogging to Euro VI with in-compliance regulations in 2020, which also mandates Euro VI emission standards for two-wheelers and 10ppm sulfur fuels from April 2018.

Given the complexities of emission-control systems for internal combustion engines, electromobility opportunities were being explored. At present, up to 10 cities in India were procuring electric buses, with prices equal to the purchase of high-end diesel buses.

Zifei Yang, a researcher with the International Council for Clean Transportation, said China had adopted China 4/IV since 2012 and China 5/V since 2015, and 10ppm sulfur fuel had been available in Beijing, Shanghai and other polluted areas since 2017. China V standards were required of all light and heavy-duty vehicles beginning in 2017.

“Before China 6/VI, China had been following the European pathway of emissions standards,” Ms Yang said. “The proposed China 6/VI will have relatively similar parameters to Euro 6/VI emission standards, but they will be more stringent.”

She said China amended its Clean Air Law in 2016, with the number of sections stipulating the monitoring of vehicle emissions increasing from four to 18. As a result of this, manufacturers have a greater responsibility to report, and the government has more authority to check manufacturers’ compliance with emission standards.

Adiyasuren Tsokhio from Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism said most vehicles in Mongolia ran on gasoline (about 56 percent) and diesel (24 percent), with hybrid electric vehicles representing 17.3 percent. Mongolian standards requiring the use of Euro 5/V fuel took effect in May 2017 for gasoline and will come into effect for diesel on October 1, 2018.

“However, Mongolia is still using low-quality fuel that has sulfur content above 2000ppm,” Mr Tsokhio said. “Russia, Mongolia’s main supplier, offers Euro 2 fuel. However, Mongolia is still using low-quality fuel that has sulfur content above 2000ppm (Euro 1)). Of concern is the illegal production and trade of fake petroleum products and the price consideration of petroleum products. Euro 2 fuel is cheaper than Euro 5 fuel, and even a slight increase in fuel prices creates public frustration. Despite this, the government aims to update vehicle emissions standard and to establish laboratories to inspect fake and low-quality fuel from 2019-2023.”

Noor E-Alam from Bangladesh’s Roads and Highways Department said the emissions standard for new diesel light-duty vehicles was Euro I, with a proposed move to Euro II in 2018, and Euro III by 2020, with the same standards applying to all commercial diesel vehicles.

“While poor fuel quality is among the major sources of vehicle emissions in Bangladesh, the government now has a roadmap for reducing sulfur in diesel to 50ppm by 2023,” he said. “From 2016, Bangladesh stopped importing diesel that had more than 500ppm sulfur content. At present, 80 percent of diesel in Bangladesh is imported and 20 percent is locally produced.

“Some of the government’s initiatives to reduce automobile pollution include the introduction of 13,000 compressed natural gas-run three-wheelers or auto-rickshaws to replace the 60,000 two-stroke petrol-driven units in Dhaka and Chittagong. Outside Dhaka and Chittagong, they are all powered by electricity. Because of such shifts, there was a reduction of PM2.5 levels in Dhaka City from 2011 to 2015, and 6000 premature deaths were avoided annually, with annual savings of USD $1.15 billion.”

Ahmad Safrudin from Indonesia’s Committee for Leaded Gasoline Eradication (KPBB) said the national vehicle fleet was dominated by motorcycles and the emissions standard was Euro 2/II since 2005 and, for motorcycles, Euro 3/III since 2013. Euro 4/IV implementation for new vehicles came into force in 2017, with current production effective until October 10, 2018. Like Thailand, Euro 6/VI was being considered for 2023.

“Indonesia recognizes the need to adopt lower-emissions vehicle standards to address air pollution,” he said. “However, although Pertamina and Shell have begun to supply fuel that is compliant with Euro 4/IV requirements, quality fuel supply remains a big challenge. Another concern is the ambivalence of car manufacturers on the development of a global business strategy, selling both advanced and old technologies. The challenge is to ensure compliance with the vehicle emissions standards Euro 2 (2005), Euro 4 (2018) and Euro 6 (2023), as doing so would result in reduced PM, hydrocarbons, CO, NOx, and sulfur oxide emissions, and economic benefits of at least IDR 3,973 trillion through fuel efficiency, production savings and improvements to public health.”

During the “Doubling Fuel Economy and Integrating Electric Mobility in Asia” session, Mr Fabian said it was crucial to develop policies to stimulate the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) to further reduce transport emissions up to 2050.

Ms Yang said that while subsidies for EVs were important, particularly in the early stages of promotion, there should be complementary policies at the city level to encourage its uptake. Globally, about 40 percent of EV sales were concentrated in 20 countries. Of these, the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oslo accounted for 20 percent.

Gessarin Gunthawong, Country Coordinator of GIZ Thailand’s Transport and Climate Change Project, said Thailand’s new national CO2-based tax structure, which came into effect in 2016, introduced significantly lower tax rates for hybrids, eco-cars and vehicles with lower emissions levels. For example, passenger cars emitting less than 100gCO2/km were taxed 30 percent, but only 10 percent excise duty was imposed on electric, fuel cell and hybrid vehicles. This was further halved in mid-2017, and full battery-electric vehicles now enjoy a 2 percent excise tax compared with the 10 percent previously imposed on them. Conventional one-tonne pick-up trucks still paid a 30 percent excise duty provided they emitted no more than 200g/km; if emissions exceeded that level, and with engine size equal or more than3250cc, vehicles were generally taxed a 50 percent excise duty.

“As a result of Thailand’s CO2-based vehicle tax system, people purchased vehicles that have smaller engine sizes and better-than-average fuel economy.”

Lin Lin Tun from Myanmar’s Ministry of Industry said the government had this year placed restrictions on the age and type of used vehicles that could be imported. From January 1, only left-hand-drive passenger cars and commercial vehicles manufactured in 2016, and left-hand drive minibuses, city buses and express buses manufactured in 2014 were able to be imported. In addition, the Vehicle Taxation System for Import Vehicles, in which taxes are largely determined by engine size, encouraged a shift to smaller vehicles.

Thusitha Sugathapala from the University of Moratuwa said the Sri Lankan government pledged in 2017 that all vehicles nationally must be powered by renewable energy by 2040. Demonstrating that commitment, all government vehicles would be converted to either EVs or hybrid vehicles by 2025. The government was also looking into several initiatives to promote electromobility, such as a reduction in import taxes for EVs, a tax increase on conventional three-wheelers to promote the shift to electric three-wheelers, the allocation of funds to import 50 electric buses for the Sri Lanka Transport Board, and the promotion of solar-powered EV charging stations through the National Solar Program.

Rajan Thapa, Program Manager with Clean Energy Nepal, said that in relation to the adoption of EVs, Nepal would first have to develop subsidies for spare parts and batteries. At present there were a number of EVs in use throughout the country that ran on lithium-ion batteries, which was more expensive than lead acid batteries.

“Secondly, charging stations would have to be increased from the three existing ones in Kathmandu Valley. Many users cannot travel beyond Kathmandu Valley because of this, and because of the terrain and road conditions.”

The workshop was organized with support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, Environment Canada, Global Fuel Economy Initiative, European Commission, and the FIA Foundation.


Morning session:

Bert Fabian: Cleaning Fuels and Vehicles Worldwide – The PCFV Regulatory Toolkit and the Global Sulfur Strategy

Dr Supat Wangwongwatana: Implementing Vehicle Emission Standards and Equivalent Fuel Quality and the Case of Thailand’s Roadmap to Euro 6/VI

Anumita Roychowdhury: India’s leapfrog to Euro VI: Reducing Pollution Impacts Of Motorisation

Zifei Yang: Case of China in Implementing China 4/IV-5/IV and Designing China 6/VI Standards

Adiyasuren Tsokhio: Cleaner Fuel and Vehicles in Mongolia

Noor E-Alam: Challenges in implementing Stricter Vehicle Emission Standards in Bangladesh

Ahmad Safrudin: Vehicle Emission Standard in Indonesia

Shutong Liu: Providing Sustainable Solution to the Chinese Transportation Sector

Afternoon session:

Bert Fabian: Improving Fuel Economy and Integrating Electric Vehicles

Zifei Yang: Overview of Global Fuel Economy Policies

Gessarin Gunthawong: Developing a Fuel Economy Roadmap for the ASEAN and the Impact of Thailand’s Fuel Economy Policies

Lin Lin Tun: Current Situation on Myanmar Transport Sector and Policies

Thusitha Sugathapala: Developing Fuel Economy Policies in Sri Lanka: Status and Challenges

Rajan Thapa: Green Fuel Economy: Developing Fuel Policy for Nepal

Sasiranga De Silva: Electification of Tuk Tuks

Lathika Chandra Mouli: Blockchain-Based PV to EV Energy Trading