China’s vehicle emission standard compliance and enforcement program currently consists of three main elements:
- New vehicle type approvals;
- Conformity of Production (COP) testing; and,
- I/M (Inspection/Maintenance) programs.
The national-level environmental protection authority, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), focuses its compliance efforts on new vehicle type approval and COP testing. The institution implementing the programs is the Vehicle Emission Control Center under MEP. Local I/M programs are implemented by provincial and municipal environmental protection bureaus (EPBs).
The legal foundations for China’s vehicle emission control regulations and programs, including compliance programs, are in China’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law. The law requires that emissions from all motor vehicles and vessels must not exceed the regulated limits, prohibits any entity from producing, selling or importing vehicles that do not comply with emissions standards, and prohibits vehicles that fail to meet in-use emission standards from operating on the road. The law also includes provisions for regulatory agencies to stop entities from producing, selling or importing vehicles that do not conform to standards. If non-conforming vehicles are discovered, those vehicles can be confiscated, and fines may be levied up to the value of the confiscated products. All confiscated, non-conforming vehicles and vessels can be destroyed. However, the law does not clearly specify which government agencies are responsible for enforcing these provisions. In practice, no vehicles in China have been confiscated due to non-compliance to date, nor have any fines been issued.
Strengthening vehicle emission standards’ enforcement and compliance programs is a key priority for China’s environmental protection authorities at national and subnational levels in the coming years. China is engaged in improving its compliance strategies, with Chinese authorities expressing particular interest in emulating the federal and state compliance experience in the US. Vehicle compliance training and education for regulators has been an important area of cooperation between Chinese environmental protection authorities and the United States’ EPA over the past few years.
New Vehicle Type Approval
According to China’s emissions standards for highway vehicles, motorcycles, and non-road and agricultural vehicles, engine and/or vehicle manufacturers must submit vehicle prototypes to accredited testing laboratories for type approval testing prior to production (comparable to the certification testing in the US). The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has entrusted 24 laboratories nationwide to conduct emissions testing, 19 of which conduct tests on light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles and engines, agricultural vehicles and non-road engines, and five of which conduct motorcycle emissions testing. These labs are mainly used for type approval testing, but some also conduct Conformity of Production testing. The most recently opened and certified lab, the Vehicle Emission Control Technology Center located in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen, is China’s most advanced national-level emissions testing lab, and in the coming years it will undertake responsibility for an increasingly large share of compliance related testing.
Labs are certified by MEP’s Department of Science, Technology and Standards, which inspects the labs once a year to assess testing capabilities and to decide if certification should be renewed. The labs are given one to two days of advance notice before each inspection, which is conducted by MEP’s Vehicle Emission Control Center (VECC-MEP), and a team of experts recruited from other accredited labs.
Vehicle environmental type approval reports are submitted to VECC-MEP for review. In general, for conventional engine and emission control technologies, all reports submitted pass, and labs are not required to provide any data on vehicles or engines that do not pass. However, for non-traditional or new emission control technologies, VECC-MEP may require additional, more comprehensive application materials, and may also require repeat testing under the supervision of VECC-MEP staff.
Type approval reports which pass VECC-MEP’s technical review are subsequently formally approved by MEP. According to MEP’s 2011 China Vehicle Emission Control Annual Report, a total of 20,920 vehicle and engine models that were tested passed type approval testing in 2010. Over half (12,228 models) were heavy-duty vehicle and engine models, and just under one-fourth (4,709 models) were light-duty vehicle models, while the remaining were motorcycle, moped, or off-road engines.1
Conformity of Production
Each year, MEP commissions VECC-MEP to conduct a number of random conformity of production (COP) tests. For some COP tests, vehicles are selected directly off the assembly line, while for others vehicles are purchased. COP tests results are summarized in a report submitted to MEP.
MEP reviews the COP reports, and if a vehicle is found to be out of compliance, MEP issues a deadline to the manufacturer to bring the production line into compliance. MEP also suspends any type approval applications from that manufacturer. If an engine class/test group still cannot meet the standards after remedial actions are taken, MEP may revoke the type approval certificate. Fines are not usually issued because it is unclear from the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law which ministry has the authority to impose fines.
In addition to COP tests conducted by MEP, vehicle and engine manufacturers are required to submit COP assurance reports to VECC-MEP on a quarterly basis. These manufacturer-run COP requirements are specified in the emission standard regulations. To demonstrate COP compliance, LDV and HDV manufacturers are required to randomly select and test at least three vehicles from each engine family or test group. Manufacturers of non-road engines and agricultural vehicles must randomly select and test at least one engine or vehicle. For LDVs and HDVs, an engine family or test group is deemed COP-compliant if emissions of all regulated pollutants are lower than the standard limit values, or if the average emissions of all tests for each pollutant are lower than standard limit values. For non-road and rural vehicles, if emissions of the first sample tested are lower than the limit values for all pollutants, the engine model or test group is deemed COP-compliant. Otherwise, the manufacturer can choose to test more samples, allowing for the engine model or test group to pass the COP test if the average emission levels are lower than the limit values for all the pollutants. In 2010, nearly 500 vehicle and engine manufacturers submitted COP plans and reports to MEP.
In-use Compliance Testing and Recall
Since the partial introduction of the China IV LDV emission standards (equivalent to Euro 4), MEP has required vehicle manufacturers to submit in-use compliance testing plans and annual reports. However, due to a lack of resources, MEP has not yet conducted its own national level testing program to verify these reports.
However, at the local level, the city of Beijing conducts its own in-use testing program for LDVs. In March 2009, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (Beijing EPB) launched a randomized in-use testing program for all China III and IV (Euro 3 and 4) LDVs with less than 100,000 km of use. The following year, 60 vehicles were tested. The in-use testing program conducted by the Beijing EPB identified various problems with many in-use vehicles. For example, some vehicles had only one catalyst instead of the two catalysts specified in their type approval. Detailed results were not made public, however, and it is unclear what follow-up actions Beijing EPB took against manufacturers making non-compliant vehicles. Furthermore, Beijing has also issued local-level regulations requiring manufacturers to conduct in-use testing of any engine or vehicle model that sells more than 500 units per year in the city.
Inspection and Maintenance
According to China’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law, inspection and maintenance (I/M) programs are to be managed by provincial- and municipality-level Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPBs). The EPBs entrust vehicle test centers that have been accredited by the Public Security Bureau to conduct I/M testing. Maintenance and repair centers are managed by the provincial transportation management authorities. If I/M tests are found to be conducted at unauthorized facilities, or if I/M facilities are found to be conducting fraudulent testing, the regulatory agency shall stop those illegal activities, demand remediation, and levy a fine no more than 50,000 RMB. In the case of serious violation, a manufacturer’s certificate for conducting I/M tests can be revoked.
China’s MEP establishes overall I/M guidance, including the establishment of emission limits and test procedures for loaded and unloaded I/M tests. Local governments must adopt the MEP I/M test procedures, although local EPBs may set stricter emissions limits according to local needs. A MEP notice released in December 2010 mandates that each I/M testing facility submit an annual work report with a description of the test facility and any emission problems identified to the municipal EPB. Municipal EPBs will then prepare and submit an I/M inspection and management report to provincial EPBs for transmission to MEP.
The Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law bans the operation of vehicles whose emissions exceed the emission standards. For regulatory simplicity, many local governments combine their I/M program with a yellow/green sticker program. Vehicles can only be registered if they have a yellow/green emission sticker. MEP announced a nationwide labeling program in July 2009, requiring all provincial and municipal EPBs with established emission sticker programs to verify and issue vehicle emissions stickers (including rural vehicles and motorcycles) according to a unified format and categorization specified by MEP starting from October 2009.
As of 2012, 349 local EPBs have established I/M programs, about 50 of which conduct loaded tests (ASM or IM240). In total there are over 1200 I/M stations throughout the country. VECC-MEP estimates that nationwide, about 10-20% of vehicles do not pass their first I/M inspection, but there is no data on how many vehicles are being tested every year.
I/M test centers submit summaries of their I/M test data to their local EPBs, which summarize them into a report for the MEP. VECC-MEP is engaged in a major program to establish a centralized I/M database, to which all 1200+ I/M facilities will eventually be networked, allowing for much more comprehensive management and quality assurance.
Content of this page modified from ICCT publications Overview of China’s vehicle emission control program and Retrospective on Indian Vehicular Emissions Control Program.
- China Vehicle Emission Control Annual Report, 2011, Ministry of Environmental Protection. Press Release in English; Chinese version ↩