Business & Economy Science & Technology Education & Society Sports & Fashion Arts & Entertainment
Top Picks Back Numbers Search

Stricter Emission Rules for New Cars

September 19, 2000
A number of new and amended rules aimed at reducing the nitrous-oxide and particulate-matter content of emissions are expected to take effect in 2002. The Environment Agency has finalized a policy that will result in law changes designed to tighten regulations governing vehicle exhaust emissions. The Transport and Construction Ministries also plan to introduce restrictions on special-purpose vehicles, such as cranes, which are exempted under the present regulations. Japan is making rapid progress toward the reduction of NOx pollution.

Companies Must Draw Up Action Plans
Diesels vehicles have become a major source of atmospheric pollutants. The Environment Agency estimates that diesel vehicles are responsible for about one-third of nitrous-oxide (NOx) and particulate-matter (PM) emissions in Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities. PM includes diesel exhaust particles (DEP), which are increasingly seen as a key factor in health problems and have been cited in numerous reports as possible carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

In 1992 these issues prompted the government to pass a law requiring the reduction of vehicle NOx emissions as a way of reducing NOx pollution in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kinki region. These restrictions applied mainly to small diesel trucks weighing less than 2.5 tons. Because of subsequent growth in the numbers of medium- and large-sized diesel vehicles, however, the law failed to curb pollution, and the Environment Agency began to evaluate possible amendments.

The new amendments will have several effects. First, diesel vehicles will be required to meet the same standards as gasoline vehicles. In practical terms this will be impossible for diesel trucks under 3.5 tons or diesel passengers cars, so it effectively amounts to a ban on sales of new diesel vehicles. Second, owners of large diesel trucks will be required to replace them, after a grace period, with vehicles that comply with the new regulations. Third, companies operating fleets of 30 vehicles or more will be required to draw up plans to reduce NOx and PM emissions by reducing vehicle use or switching to low-emission vehicles, and to submit those plans to central and local government agencies. These measures had been rejected when the present law was passed because of opposition from industry and other government departments.

The Environment Agency will draft the amendment bill by the end of 2000 after studying a report from the Central Environment Council, which has been deliberating on the changes. The bill will be submitted to the next ordinary session of the Diet, to be convened in January 2001, for passage into law.

Suit Prompted New Legislation
Cranes, bulldozers, and other construction machinery, industrial machinery, such as forklifts, and other types of special-purpose vehicles are not classed as automobiles under the law. As a result, they have remained outside of the scope of the NOx emission standards. There are around three million special-purpose vehicles, which is equivalent to approximately 4% of all motor vehicles. Most of these are diesel vehicles, and they account for 30% of total vehicle-related NOx emissions and 10% of PM emissions in urban areas. The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Construction have been studying this problem with a view to bringing special-purpose vehicles within the scope of the regulations.

One reason for these rapid moves to tighten NOx emission standards was the government's defeat in January 2000 in the Amagasaki pollution suit, in which the court issued an injunction against the emission of NOx. Other factors include the Tokyo metropolitan government's campaign against diesel vehicles and hardening public attitudes toward pollution caused by vehicle emissions.

Faced with these aggressive moves against NOx pollution by central and local governments, manufacturers are working through research and development to discover ways to cut NOx emissions through means other than the elimination of diesel vehicles. Examples include improved exhaust-gas cleaning technologies, and the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas alternative to gasoline, which has higher NOx emission levels. These efforts are likely to intensify. Vehicle operators, which have hitherto resisted the switch to low-pollution vehicles for cost reasons, will now be required to meet numerical NOx reduction targets and are therefore likely to take a more positive stance toward the introduction of cleaner vehicles.

Back to Main Index

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.