Skopje, 24 November 2018 (MIA) – To reduce harmful vehicle emissions, Skopje will be introducing color-coded windscreen stickers based on each car’s Euro emissions standard. This environmental rating system is one of the first specific long-term measures the Government has proposed as part of its draft amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act, currently in parliamentary procedure.
The red, yellow, and green labels will indicate the level of particulate emissions from vehicles, restricting their use during high pollution days.
Considering the predominance of old cars in Macedonia, however, over 80 percent of passenger cars will get yellow or red stickers.
Transportation not the only culprit for pollution
Dame Dimitrovski, who teaches at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and heads the Laboratory for Engines and Fuels, believes the proposed environmental rating labels, coupled with additional measures for the city’s other main polluters, would contribute towards improving air quality.
“We need a transportation system suitable for a modern city,” Dimitrovski says.
”The emission stickers can contribute towards reducing pollution from motor vehicles. But transportation is not the only source of particulate matter emissions in Skopje or other cities. Especially not when it comes to vehicles that meet EURO 4, 5, or 6 standards, which have extremely low particulate emissions and which have active filters and tailpipes that cost almost as much as the car itself.
“Cars produced before the Euro standards were introduced are much bigger offenders than any car meeting Euro standards 4 and up.
“The particulate matter levels in the city will change only when we deal with the main culprits for the pollution first.”
Dimitrovski explains that road transport emissions are measured by levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) near the traffic area. According to him, since Skopje’s NOx levels are not critical, transportation is not the main offender concerning harmful emissions.
Diesel vehicles main source of soot, i.e., particulate matter emissions
According to Dimitrovski, those to blame for particulate matter emissions in traffic are diesel engine vehicles. Petrol engines, he says, produce much less of these emissions, and natural gas engines, according to him, produce almost none.
“Tailpipe emissions from methane engines are considered to include zero particulate matter. There are other [harmful] components, but they’re not critical at the moment regarding the air in Skopje. Of the diesel vehicles, the most critical are the high-mileage, large-engine busses and trucks, such as those used by various commercial transporters, as well as vans and taxi cabs. It makes sense to pay more attention to these,” Dimitrovski says.
He also mentions challenges in assessing the actual emission levels of passenger car engines.
“We measure a vehicle’s emission of pollutants by using a European driving cycle, which requires a simulation that is not always possible to perform with our current testing equipment.
“New lab tests need to be designed so we can check if our measurements confirm the car manufacturer’s label.
“Some cars, when they were bought 10-15 years ago, did meet Euro 2, 3 or 4 standards, but now, due to poor maintenance, they have dropped several levels. We are yet to face this problem if we’re going to rate the cars according to their emission levels,” Dimitrovski says.
Europe bans diesel, Macedonia allows Euro 4 imports
The European Commission voiced its fears recently that German carmakers would seek to export old diesel cars banned from German roads into Eastern European countries.
According to European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the “exports would mean pushing the air quality problem from the west to the east.”
Last year, Bulgaria imported more than 100,000 second-hand cars from EU countries, more than a third of which were grossly polluting diesels, Bieńkowska noted.
Existing legislation in Macedonia allows the import of all passenger vehicles meeting the Euro 4 standard, regardless of the types of fuel they use and their real emission levels.
According to MAKStat database statistics for 2010, when, beginning in March, second-hand car imports were allowed, the total number of cars reached 310,000, with an average age of 16.3 years, and 71.6 percent of cars were more than ten years old.
These figures only increased over the following years, to reach 347,000 cars of an average age of 17.2 years in 2013.
Latest figures released by Macedonia’s Customs Administration show that a total of 27,821 vehicles were imported in the first nine months of 2018, i.e., through Oct. 1. Out of them, 21,069 were used cars, 183 used trucks, and 13 buses or minibuses.
Environmentalists disappointed by new measures
Natasha Amdiu, head of the Green Institute NGO, believes that introducing a system of air pollution fines aimed at major offenders would be more efficient than the environmental vehicle rating system.
“I don’t think these stickers will really reduce pollution,” Amdiu says. “Maybe they will only prove an obstacle for more vulnerable citizens in doing their everyday errands. In any case, I think that carpooling between neighbors or people that commute in the same direction would be just as effective.”
Amdiu also recommends that citizens opt for alternative and public transportation instead of cars.
Tr. by Magdalena Reed