A HK$3.2 billion subsidy scheme to encourage owners of trucks and buses to replace them with eco-friendly equivalents has attracted just 9 per cent of eligible vehicles. The scheme, launched in April last year, had received 5,681 applications by the end of last month, the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday. Some 5,355 of these were approved, involving HK$216 million in subsidies. A total of 74,000 are eligible under the scheme, and owners can claim a grant of between HK$17,000 and HK$173,000 if they get rid of vehicles built before the European Union introduced limits on vehicle emissions in 1992 (Euro I standard) and replace them with cleaner Euro IV models. Leung Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories Public and Maxicab Light Bus Merchants United Association, said the government had not carried out enough consultation. He claimed Euro IV vehicles were not suitable for places with heavy traffic congestion, such as Hong Kong. 'Many of the users of Euro IV models told us they have to spend at least an extra HK$1,000 on petrol,' Mr Leung said. 'These models are supposed to drive smoothly at high speed ... but in Hong Kong it is not possible. So the vehicles end up consuming more petrol than they should because they never achieve optimum [operating] level. 'The government was too hasty in launching the scheme ... it should have studied more about the Euro IV models of vehicles and the needs of the end users.' His view was shared by Lai Ming-hung, spokesman for the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group. Mr Lai said the subsidy was too meagre, as it covered less than half the replacement cost. Lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, chairwoman of the Legislative Council's environmental affairs panel, said the scheme was doomed to fail because it was 'made behind closed doors'. She urged the government to launch more drastic measures to improve vehicle pollution, such as electronic road pricing. A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said the government planned to give the scheme more publicity to encourage more people to apply.