The government plans to launch a public consultation this month on detecting vehicle pollution using a remote sensing device, the environment chief has said.
The device, which emits an infrared beam to measure pollutant levels, is a mobile unit and can be deployed like a speed-detection camera. Vehicles found exceeding emission standards may have to be inspected.
The consultation would be launched after the Lunar New Year, said Anissa Wong Sean-yee, director of environmental protection.
'Private cars require regular maintenance to keep their emissions up to standard,' she told a forum reviewing air-quality objectives yesterday. 'We plan to use infrared devices to monitor the emissions of those cars fuelled by petrol and liquefied petroleum gases.'
The new tailpipe-emission detection scheme for private petrol cars and LPG taxis is expected to be introduced by the end of this year at the earliest.
Unlike with diesel vehicles, it is almost impossible to detect 'black smoke' from petrol and LPG cars, which emit either gaseous pollutants or fine particles that are not easily visible. In trial runs of the device, it was estimated that about 5 per cent of petrol and LPG vehicles had above-average emissions, officials said.
Scientific studies have found that Hong Kong's roadside pollution level could be as much as 50 per cent higher than the ambient reading.
A government source said the device, which was being used in the US and Taiwan, was highly accurate.
It was unknown whether fines would be imposed for breaches.
Only police officers are now empowered to issue HK$1,000 fixed penalties to drivers of smoky vehicles.