Global Observer

Remote sensors to catch high polluters on Hong Kong's roads

Remote sensors to catch high polluters on Hong Kong's roads

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HONG KONG -- Think speed-enforcement cameras, but for emissions.

HONG KONG — There’s a new kind of roadside camera in Hong Kong whose job isn’t to catch speeders, but heavy emitters.

The detectors, which look similar to speed-enforcement cameras, will be able to catch moving vehicles with abnormally high emissions that often result from old or defective catalytic converters.

Hong Kong already uses trained personnel to watch for and report vehicles that give off excessive black clouds of smoke that come from diesel engines. But these newly introduced remote-sensing devices will be able to measure invisible gases with the help of infrared and ultraviolet technology.

As catalytic converters age, engines start to emit a larger amount of exhaust gases, including nitrogen oxide. “Because of their high mileage, about 80%of taxis and about 45% of light buses emit excessively and require repair,” the government said in a statement.

The device will take a picture of the offending vehicle. Once caught, the owner will have to pay to have the vehicle tested. And if the vehicle fails the emissions test, the problem will have to be fixed within 12 days or its registration might be revoked.

Incentives have been in place for a decade to encourage vehicle owners to replace diesel cars with ones that run on petrol. Now that the roads are freer of black smoke, the government also plans to control the less obvious emissions from engines that run on petrol and liquefied petrol gas (LPG).

Remote-sensing equipment is in use in the U.S., but mostly for gathering emissions data in general.

The program in Hong Kong is still in its testing phase, but authorities plan to start using the devices to report emissions violators in 2013.

Photo: WiNG/Wikimedia Commons

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Vanessa Ko

Correspondent (Hong Kong)

Vanessa Ko has written for TIME, South China Morning Post and Phnom Penh Post. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Hong Kong. She is based in Hong Kong, China. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure