As announced by the European Commission in the European Green Deal communication, a new legislative proposal for more stringent air pollutant emissions standards for cars, vans, buses and trucks will be presented in 2021. Therefore, the Commission’s process of designing the next stage of European vehicle emission regulations, Euro 7, is under way with the intention of creating a package which delivers the lowest possible emissions from any new vehicle.
Although there are many stakeholders involved in this process with different points of view, the will for clean air in cities unites them. This goal can only be achieved if a combination of performant emission control technologies is applied to vehicles over the next decades. The Association for Emissions Control by Catalyst (AECC aisbl) is well placed to contribute to the process with data resulting from its testing programmes, in line with its recently published Euro 7 position.
At the beginning of 2020, just 3.7% of all new cars sold in Europe were fully electric. The rest had conventional or electrified internal combustion engines (ICEs). Forecasts show that the ICE will continue to be included in the majority of light vehicles in the medium term, reaffirming the need for lower pollutant emissions from those ICEs, as well as those in heavy-duty vehicles.
Despite the significant improvements with the introduction of the Real-Driving Emissions (RDE) and the Portable Emissions Measurement Systems (PEMS) within the Euro 6 and VI legislations, emission standards can still be improved in the upcoming Euro 7 legislation.
Work is already under way to design and develop the engine and emission control systems of the future. Today, additional reductions of various pollutant emissions are technically feasible, which will provide further benefits to society, while staying economically viable for the automotive industry.
The Euro 7 regulation is a unique opportunity to implement a regulatory framework that could consider three overarching principles to improve European air quality and to ensure the health and well-being of everyone:
- further focus on real-world emissions;
- be fuel- and technology-neutral
- legislate according to a ‘total system approach’ using a ‘whole vehicle’ basis.
Firstly, since Euro 6 & VI standards do not yet take into account all emissions generated by the vehicle, emissions in real-world driving conditions need to be an area of increased focus in Euro 7. Measurement of pollutant emissions data during on-road testing currently goes through post-processing, as prescribed by the regulation. This procedure excludes some relatively high emissions, particularly those measured under the urban operation of heavy-duty vehicles and averages vehicle emissions during normal accelerations. The new Euro 7 standards should therefore legislate actual tailpipe emissions, using measurements of vehicles during their daily use. This will ensure that emission control systems continue to evolve to handle the variation in real-world emissions.
Secondly, under the Euro 6 & VI regime, emissions limits and test procedures can vary according to the type of vehicle. For instance, petrol cars are permitted to emit more carbon monoxide (CO) than diesel cars, whilst higher levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are allowed from diesel vehicles. There are also discrepancies between the limits from gas-powered and diesel-powered trucks. The future Euro 7 should ensure these criteria are equally important for all applications.
A better understanding of vehicle emissions has demonstrated that some currently unregulated pollutants and greenhouse gases should also be considered. Adding limits for harmful ultra-fine particles smaller than 23 nanometres (PN10), ammonia (NH3) and nitrous oxides (N2O) to the new Euro 7 regulation will provide reassurance that vehicles are as clean as possible.
Finally, Euro 6/VI limits are also only enforceable for a limited amount of time or distance driven. An update of these standards provides an opportunity to control emissions for the lifetime of the vehicle.
Sound scientific and technical data will be important to make informed decisions about the new Euro 7 legislation. In line with its published Euro 7 position, AECC will continue to contribute to this policy development towards the zero-emission mobility goal. With data resulting from its testing programmes, AECC will provide robust vehicle emissions assessments and facilitate informed discussions on how to improve local air quality in Europe.