Working Paper

Soot-free road transport in South Africa: A cost-benefit analysis of Euro VI heavy-duty vehicle standards

This study estimates the costs and benefits of adopting Euro VI standards in diesel HDVs in South Africa under different timelines of fuel quality and emission standard advancements. Based on the results, we also make policy recommendations that would reduce HDV emissions and improve air quality and public health in South Africa.

Transportation was responsible for 7% of deaths caused by exposure to PM2.5 and ozone in 2015 in South Africa, and of these deaths, 48% are attributed to on-road diesel vehicles. Severely outdated vehicle emission standards have contributed to this deadly air pollution: the current HDV emission standards in South Africa are Euro II, first introduced in Europe more than 20 years ago and phased-out long ago there and in other major economies. South Africa has not updated its official emission standard regulations since adopting Euro II standards in 2006. Diesel engines that lack modern emission control devices produce PM2.5, soot, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other pollutants in large quantities.

Our analysis finds that South Africa would enjoy substantial benefits in adopting Euro VI standards for its diesel HDV fleet. The announcement of a 10 ppm sulfur diesel requirement by 2023 provides a great window of opportunity for modern emission standards to sync with fuel quality improvements.

With a timeline of implementing Euro VI standards in 2024, the societal benefits associated with reduced HDV tailpipe emissions can outweigh the costs of technology advancements and operating expenses by a ratio of 8.2:1 (5% discounted) between 2021 and 2050. By contrast, delaying the implementation of 10 ppm sulfur diesel requirements or Euro VI standards will diminish the health benefits and lead to a net welfare loss for South Africa.

Future analyses could expand on this study and examine the potential air quality impacts and the costs and benefits of electrification in combination with an improved understanding of reduced non-fatal NOx emissions under Euro VII aftertreatment technologies, potential HDV fuel economy or CO2 regulations, and fleet renewal.