The capital's government has been bombarded with complaints from the public over heavy smog due to severe air pollution this winter. The air pollution has been aggravated by a sandstorm originating in Inner Mongolia.
As a consequence it is launching the long-awaited China V emission standard on Friday, with high hopes of curbing the number of old vehicles on the road and enforcing higher emission levels for new vehicles in the city. The new standard calls for lower nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions.
From today, all vehicles that cannot meet the China V standard, which is based on the Euro V standard, will be banned from being sold in Beijing.
On Thursday, the concentration of PM 2.5, or airborne particles measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter that can deeply penetrate the lungs, reached 469 micrograms per cubic meter at 10 am near Tiananmen Square.
The concentration of tiny particulate matter in the air, considered especially dangerous due to its ability to get into the lungs and the bloodstream, exceeded 400 micrograms per cubic meter, according to measurements made by the Environmental Control Center in Beijing.
According to the World Health Organization 24-hour exposure to PM2.5 should be no higher than 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
However, analysts say that the new measures for vehicles, in addition to the temporary closure of heavy-polluting factories, are not sufficient to end the high levels of pollution, but will help improve the upgrading of China's automobile industry, especially by posing more challenges to automakers that have been losing local market share in recent years.
The number of vehicles causing pollution will not be reduced but the new regulation will only affect new, additional vehicles in Beijing.
Estimates show that Beijing has around 240,000 new cars on its roads annually on average, while there are 5 million vehicles in the city. The government will need to strictly curtail the use of old models across China, while enforcing higher-level emission regulations nationally.
China has set a target in its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) of selling 500,000 electric vehicles by 2015. However, only 12,791 electric and hybrid vehicles were sold in 2012, contributing 0.7 percent of the nation's total passenger car sales.