Environmentally friendly — the future trend cars

“Jakarta is the third most polluted city in the world, after Mexico City and Panama. And vehicle emissions account for 80 percent of the pollution,” Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso said last year.

People living and working in Jakarta have to pay dearly for this pollution. Research indicates that the health cost of Jakarta’s air pollution was estimated at US$220 million in 1999, and the amount has been increasing in line with the increase in the number of vehicles traversing the capital every day.

Ari Muhammad of Swisscontact, an agency concerned with air pollution, said that air pollutants contained in the exhaust gases from motorized vehicles include carbon monoxide (CO), various hydrocarbon compounds, various nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur (SOx) and lead (Pb).

“Carbon monoxide can block the supply of oxygen to body tissues. Besides, it can affect the work of the heart, the central nervous system and all other body organs sensitive to oxygen deficiency,” he said.

Both public transportation vehicles and private cars are to be blamed for the air pollution.

“We usually assume that it is the pitch black smoke emitted by the exhaust pipes of city buses that is hazardous, but in fact the great danger comes from the white smoke emitted by our own private cars,” he added.

The Jakarta administration has made several efforts to improve the cleanliness of the capital’s air.

Last year, the administration issued Bylaw No. 2/2005 on air pollution control, which among other things obliges all private car owners to carry out emissions tests on their vehicles twice a year and public transportation vehicles to use natural gas. Yet, the administration is still facing several obstacles to fully implement the regulation, including the lack of equipment for public transportation vehicles to switch from oil-based fuel to natural gas.

The government has also tried to push the local automotive industry to apply environmentally friendly technology in their products.

In 2003, the state minister for the environment issued Decree No. 41/2003 on the emission threshold for exhaust gases of new motorized vehicles and motorized vehicles under production. The decree requires car manufacturers to apply technology based on the Euro-2 standard in the case of exhaust emissions.

“Under the ministerial decree, new-type cars produced since early 2005 must have all passed an emission test based on the Euro-2 standard. Meanwhile, old-type automobiles that are reproduced will be given a chance to conform to this standard up to January 2007,” Didin Khaeruddin, an official at the State Ministry for the Environment, said.

A motorized vehicle fulfills the Euro-2 standard if the exhaust gases contain a maximum of 4.0 grams of CO per kilometer (g/km) and a maximum of 0.6 g/km of HC + NOx.

Indeed, Europe is the pioneer in pushing the automotive industry to apply environmentally friendly technology.

It started introducing exhaust emission standards in the late 1980s. In 1992, it introduced the Euro-1 standard that limited the amount of CO content in the exhaust of motorized vehicles to 4.9 g/km and HC content to 1,23 g/km, NOx content to 9 g/km and particles to 0.4 g/km.

The standard was effective for three years and was later replaced with the Euro-2 standard, which further cut down the CO, HC, NOx and particle contents. Now, Europe is applying the Euro-4 standard that limits emissions to 1.5 g/km CO, 0.46 g/km HC, 3.5 g/km NOx and 0.02 g/km particles

Many countries have followed in the footsteps of Europe and have applied similar emission standards.

The tighter emission standards have encouraged the world’s automotive industry to produce cars with more environmentally friendly technology. One such product is the hybrid cars. A hybrid car features a small fuel-efficient gas engine combined with an electric motor that assists the engine when accelerating. The electric motor is powered by batteries that recharge automatically while people drive. Hybrid cars are better for the environment as they can reduce smog by 90 percent and they use far less gasoline than conventional cars.

Automobiles of this type have been mass-produced by nearly all carmakers, particularly those from Japan. The Toyota Prius, Camry and Land Cruiser of the FCHC type are some examples.

Chairman of the Indonesian Association of Indonesian Automotive Manufacturers (Gaikindo), Bambang Trisulo, said that the environment and energy were hot topics of discussion in the international automotive industry.

“In Asia, an awareness has also developed about the use of clean energy, although there are still some constraints in respect of regulations and implementation,” he noted.

According to Bambang, Indonesia’s automakers are now ready to produce motorized vehicles that meet the Euro-2 standard. Yet, they face an obstacle in the fact the type of fuel suitable for such vehicles is not yet widely available on the domestic market.

“We hope that unleaded fuel can be supplied to all regions so that it will always be easily available to users of these motorized vehicles,” Bambang said.

As the unleaded gasoline that is suitable for vehicles using the Euro-2 standard is still in short supply, the ministerial decree on emission thresholds for new-type motorized vehicles and motorized vehicles under production cannot be properly enforced.

Late last year, PT General Motors Indonesia launched New Aveo. Company sales and marketing director Antonio Zara said the car was yet to meet the Euro-2 standard. One of the considerations for the firm in deciding to launch the car was the availability of the right fuel for the car.

“The Euro-2 standard requires a car to use a catalytic converter. This instrument necessitates the use of unleaded fuel,” he said during the launch of New Aveo in Jakarta.

He said unleaded gasoline was yet to be evenly distributed throughout Indonesia.

Zara maintained that the car does not violate the regulation that requires that the Euro-2 standard be applied to new cars. “The New Aveo is not an entirely new car. It is an old type that has undergone some minor changes. So it is not compulsory for the car to meet the Euro-2 standard,” he said.

While the production of vehicles that meet the Euro-2 standard still faces problems, Jakarta’s 2005 bylaw on air pollution control has apparently improved public awareness about the emission of exhaust gases from private cars. Carmakers now run their own emission test facilities.

Sutrisno Lesmono, general manager of after-sales service and spare parts at PT Nissan Motor Indonesia, said that as of November 2005, Nissan workshops had officially provided an emission test service for owners of Nissan cars and other makes. “We are applying a tighter standard than what the regional administration has set. For example, our CO content standard is 1-2 percent, far below the regional administration’s standard of 4 percent,” he said, adding that a car was no longer environmentally friendly with a CO content of 4 percent in its emissions.

Didin is pleased with carmakers’ efforts to help keep the environment clean.

“Now that an emission test is compulsory, the public, hopefully, can become more aware of the danger posed by exhaust gas emissions,” he said.

To ensure that the regulation that uses the Euro-2 standard as its reference will not simply collect dust, Didin hopes that relevant government agencies will encourage greater distribution of unleaded fuel. “January 2007 is close at hand. Make sure that the effort to reduce air pollution is not constrained by the availability of the right fuel,” he said. [Asep Saefullah]

The Jakarta Post – June 16, 2006

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