EU starts consultation on heavy vehicle emissions

Publish date: July 13, 2007

Written by: Niklas Kalvø Tessem

BRUSSELS – The European Commission (EC) issued a public consultation for emissions standards in the automotive industry as part of a policy framework called Euro VI, which follows up on a series of EU emissions standards from 1992 and will apply stricter legislation on air pollution to heavy-duty vehicles.

The consultation further expands the scope of EU environmental policy.

Euro I- VI

The Euro emissions standard system started in 1992, with a gradual tightening of emissions standards in a specific timeframe for each step. Euro V is effective from 2005, while Euro VI will be the next step, hopefully taking effect by 2013. The purpose of the newly issued consultation is to set the actual standards for The Euro VI framework, and a time schedule for its implementation. All stakeholders are welcomed to participate, with September 5th as the deadline.

The EU distinguishes between heavy and light vehicles in legislation. Heavy-duty vehicles are usually referred to with Roman numbers, Euro I- VI, while lighter vehicle emissions standards fall under the Euro 1- 6 framework. This way there are different policy negotiations, according to the size of vehicles. The Euro 6 framework for lighter vehicles was decided last year, taking effect early in the next decade. At the moment, Euro 4 standards apply to passenger cars.

Radical enough?
There have been many complaints about the emissions standards on Euro 6 for light cars. Some commentators say that the car industry presented too influential a lobby. California and 10 other US states have stricter requirements for car pollution, especially NOx emissions.

"An American consumer can buy a super-clean Mercedes diesel today in their local dealer, while a German will have to wait until 2015 to buy something even remotely similar. There is simply no excuse for allowing Europe to lose its leadership in this area," said Jos Dings, Director of the NGO European Federation for Transport and the Environment (T&E).

The car industry, on the other hand, fears the cost of new emissions standards. Furthermore, it claims that the extra cost will change consumption from diesel to more gasoline cars, with higher carbon dioxide emissions. Ivan Hodac, representing the European Automobiles Manufacturers Association, said the association was concerned about the new emissions standards.

"What concerns us, is that the proposed limit values will not only be extremely difficult to meet, but will have a significant counter-productive effect on reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars," Hodac said.

Heavy vehicles, heavy pollution
The next step in the emissions standards for heavy vehicles will take effect next year. The current negotiations will be for the period after, and the specific time schedule for implementation is not yet set. The recently issued EC consultation sets out four different scenarios for emissions standards.

The scenarios do not deal with carbon dioxide emissions, and there is, in fact, a trade off between lower NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions and CO2 emissions. The reason is that the technical systems required for reducing NOx and PM emissions leads to an increased fuel consumption. This is why the stakeholders are now asked to decide on an acceptable level of increase in carbon dioxide emissions.
The important task for the EU now is to significantly reduce emissions, while at the same time keep European competitiveness.

“The Euro 5 and 6 regulation are important for improving the environmental performance of vehicles. It will not hamper the competitiveness of the EU’s car industry,” EU Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said.

As NOx and PM emissions are very harmful to the environment and human health. This consultation process should therefore be followed carefully by environment NGOs to ensure that the Euro VI process accomplish significant reductions.