Beijing pins hopes for lower emissions on diesel engines
Kandy Wong in Tianjin
Beijing plans to encourage the use of diesel engines to help vehicles meet Euro IV emission standards by early next year, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
'Diesel engines should be widely used in passenger vehicles as quickly as possible,' NDRC vice-minister Zhang Guobao said at a vehicle industry conference.
Industry players said the central government is shifting to new policy initiatives as the use of small-engine petrol-driven cars has not been welcomed by consumers.
The government encouraged consumers to buy small-engine cars by retaining a low consumption tax for one-litre to 2.4-litre petrol-engine vehicles of 1 per cent to 3 per cent in April.
However, figures from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed that only 134,300 small-engine cars were sold in the first half, a year on year decrease of 28.9 per cent. Small-engine cars had a market share of 0.9 per cent.
It is estimated that use of diesel engines could reduce sulfur emissions by up to 97 per cent, but few mainland carmakers produce such vehicles.
The timetable is particularly tight for Beijing, which is determined to ensure that the city is able to meet Euro IV emission standards before the start of the Olympic Games in summer next year. Pressure is also building on carmakers to make environmental protection a priority.
The implementation of the Euro III emissions standard, which was launched two years ago, does not appear to have been a success.
The mainland, which had aimed to fully comply with Euro III emission standards by the beginning of July, is still trying to put the plan into action as its fuel does not fit in the higher emission standard petrol engines.
The country began implementing the Euro I standard in 1999. The standard was raised to Euro III in 2005, at the same time that European countries implemented Euro IV.
Society of Automotive Engineers of China president Zhang Xiaoyu said if 20 per cent of passenger cars used diesel engines by 2020, it would save 18.8 million tonnes of fuel, including petroleum use.
Mainland vehicles used 46.6 million tonnes of fuel last year, up about 10 per cent from 2005, according to NDRC figures.
In the first half of this year, 2.3 million passenger cars were sold in the mainland, up 25.9 per cent from a year earlier.
Mr Zhang estimated total sales this year could reach nine million units, up from a previous estimate of 8.5 million units.
He also warned that the problem of overcapacity has been increasing.
Meanwhile, the mainland car parts industry was lagging behind and unable to compete in the global supply chain due to its small scale, Xinhua said.
Mainland car sales this year are expected to reach, in units: 9m