China Imposes Much Tougher Fuel-Efficiency Standards On New Cars

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Audi Q3 Trans China Tour 2011

Audi Q3 Trans China Tour 2011

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China's ongoing and recent air pollution issues are leading to swift rethinking of the country's transport policy.

After several months of choking smog engulfing its major cities, the country has finally imposed strict fuel economy standards in a bid to cut fuel use--and pollution.

Reuters reports the new standards were introduced Wednesday, and require automakers to boost fuel efficiency to an average of 34 mpg by 2015, and 47 mpg by 2020.

No fuel efficiency data from the last few years is available, but in 2009 the average stood at 30.2 mpg, an improvement over 2008 at 28.7 mpg.

For comparison, average fuel efficiency in the U.S. stood at 23.8 mpg in 2012.

China's new fuel-efficiency rules bring the country roughly into line with similar regulations in Europe and the United States. That gives global automakers a further incentive to develop even more efficient cars, since they'll be required by the world's single largest auto market.

Pollution problems

Recently, record-breaking smog levels in some Chinese cities have posed a major hazard to health. People are frequently advised to stay indoors and avoid anything that may cause heavy breathing. High pollution levels have caused unrest and even sparked riots in certain parts of the country.

Much of the blame is laid on the country's reliance on coal power and coal-fired heaters, use of which rises over winter and traditionally leads to greater pollution.

China's coal habit is also one of the reasons electric cars are of debatable benefit there, despite their zero local emissions. However, poor electric car sales have seen the country shift its focus to hybrid vehicles instead.

The imposition of stricter standards will make life harder for some of the country's struggling domestic automakers.

Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based industry consultancy Automotive Foresight, says the new efficiency rules will be "tough for everyone, especially those small players as they will have to use more fuel-efficient engines and invest in hybrid technologies."

As well as cleaning up the country's vehicles, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says the country will do more to curb China's increasing pollution problems.


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Comments (4)
  1. Well, while it is generally true that higher efficiency (higher MPG) leads to lower pollution, we should think MPG differently from total air pollution generated at tailpipe.

    A 25MPG car can emit far less smog generating emisssion than a 35mpg car if its exhaust system is properly designed.

    CO2 emission will be higher in the lower MPG vehicle. However, CO2 is NOT considered as a "pollutant" or a smog generating emission.

    While China's new standard will improve efficiency, I think it needs to tighten the standard of its fuel sources and all the tailpipe emission standard.

  2. Good point Xialolong but you are not including the extra emissions for the transportation of the extra fuel to market nor the refining of that extra fuel for the less efficient vehicle. Both higher fuel efficiency n lower emissions from the exhaust should be done.

    Do we even know if China requires catalyic converters in their vehicles? I think many people assume other parts of the world require these technologies as we do here in the US but many do not. Hopefully China will require a California-like low emission exhaust system be on all new vehicles by 2015 as well.

    I'd bet my left pinky that there is no smog check system for vehicles in China to date either....

  3. I hope you don't lose your pinky. :)

    Actually from what I know, they do have catalytic converters and they have emission standard. However, those standards are only enforced for major cities and they are many exceptions. Many farm vehicles or country side don't require them. Also, the fuel is extremely dirty or less refine which results in higher emission as well.

    I also heard stories that many of the privatedly imported vehicles have to have their emission system modified so it will work with the dirty fuel in China without being clogged up over time.

    I think China is adopting the current EU standard soon in its major cities...

  4. The best answer is natural gas vehicles. China mandates that cabs, in many cities, use natuural gas (CNG). Many of their buses run on natural gas,and some are hybrid with natural gas.

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