The European Union is weighing up whether to monitor real-world emissions from cars for their lifetime on the road as part of forthcoming Euro 7 emission standards. The rules could also see hybrid cars forced to drive in electric-only mode in certain locations, while MoT test results could be affected by cars not meeting Euro 7 emission standards.
Euro 6 emission standards were only introduced in 2015, but EU regulators are already working the rules for Euro 7. It is expected that Euro 7 will be the final Euro emission standard prior to all cars becoming zero-emission in the future. Completed proposals for Euro 7 are due to be presented to the European parliament at the end of 2021, and would likely come into force around 2025.
The EU is assessing three potential options for Euro 7. The first, light-touch option would see “a narrow revision of Euro 6” and a streamlining of current rules. The second option would see “a wider revision of Euro 6”, comprising stricter CO2 and NOx limits, as well as new tests and limits for “non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions”.
Option 3 goes even further, and proposes that in addition to the changes in options 1 and 2, cars would automatically carry out “real-world emission monitoring over the entire lifetime of a vehicle.” This option would “ensure compliance, robustness against tampering, and enforcement over the entire lifetime of the vehicle.” The EU says “existing OBD [on-board diagnostics] could be replaced” in order to facilitate this surveillance. Auto Express understands such data would be collected anonymously and used in an aggregate manner.
Under option 3, data from emissions would be “collected through on-board monitoring” and would “support market surveillance and in-service conformity testing.” The proposal also says this data “may also be used for roadworthiness tests”, indicating cars could fail their MoTs (or similar checks in other countries) if they do not meet Euro 7 emission targets, even after several years on the road. The emission section of MoT tests could even be carried out automatically Euro 7 cars themselves.
Furthermore, option 3 could allow “automatically enabling a zero-emission mode depending on the location of a vehicle” - a car could theoretically force itself it into electric-only mode with no input from the driver. Auto Express understands this operation would occur based on GPS data, without direct communication from the European Union to the vehicle.
The UK’s exit from the European Union means the EU would have no power to enforce the uptake of Euro 7 regulations here once finalised rules arrive, but policymakers on the Continent are clear that “imported vehicles would not be treated differently to domestic ones”, meaning any cars built in the UK and exported to European Union countries would have to meet the rules. European car makers could also theoretically decide not to produce cars meeting bespoke UK standards - though this eventuality is not considered in the EU’s proposals.
Something that is considered is the financial cost implicit in Euro 7 options. The EU says option 1 would “have a positive economic impact” due to the streamlining of administrative costs and simplified testing procedures. Option 2 “is expected to entail costs in the short run” and this “might translate into higher prices for consumers.” The EU says, however, that option 2 “would most likely reduce health and environmental costs” in the longer term.
Option 3 - real-world lifetime surveillance of a car’s emissions - will also bring higher costs to car buyers, the EU estimates. Policymakers predict, however, that “the relative costs of continuously monitoring real-world emissions are not expected to be great” as there are likely to be “synergies from simplifying or replacing the existing on-board diagnostics (OBD) and introducing on-board fuel consumption meters as set out in the CO2 emission performance standard.”
The EU also says option 3 would “significantly reduce air pollutant emissions by detecting non-compliance and malfunctions early” and even considers these changes would “significantly increase consumer trust in the Euro standards.”
Confidence may or may not be bolstered in Euro standards by the potential lifetime surveillance of vehicles, but European car makers are warning some rules being proposed for Euro 7 may effectively signal the death of new internal-combustion-engined cars in the European Union.
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has seen early Euro 7 proposals from European academics and researchers who provide expertise to the European Commission (but are not EU policymakers or staff). The ACEA says these proposals “are, to the greatest extent, technically infeasible for vehicles with combustion engines.”
The ACEA, which counts Ford, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and Volkswagen among its members, warns the proposals as they currently stand “would in practice result in a situation very similar to a ban of vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine, including hybrid electric vehicles.”
This has led the ACEA to warn that Euro 7 has the potential to “risk industry competitiveness”, because if “drastic disproportionate changes” are enacted, “contracting parties…would simply stop following EU legislations.”
This means that if EU rules effectively make new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars impossible to produce, certify or sell, other markets - such as Asia, Africa and the Americas - could step in, producing and selling the petrol and diesel vehicles that are in-demand across the globe, but would be potentially impossible to build or sell in the European Union, should these proposals be brought into law.
A European Commission official told Auto Express that the EC is aiming to create "a predictable and realistic trajectory to zero pollution vehicles to protect our citizens’ health and our environment, and maintain the competitiveness of the automotive industry."
The EC added that by 2050 transport "should be (near) zero-emissions", but it recognises that the automotive sector is concerned that "a strict Euro 7" proposal could "bring the end of the internal combustion engine". As such, the EC says it is "acting to make sure that combustion engine continues to operate in the time needed for the mass deployment of alternative technologies but with the best possible performance."
The Commission says it is "carefully evaluating various emissions stringency scenarios and will balance the emissions saved against the extra costs required to achieve them" and that it has "neither concluded its evaluation nor finalised its assessment of possible solutions."
Proposals detailed by Auto Express were, the EC says, "prepared by contractors, presented late last year, [and] were based on initial data." The European Commission's Joint Research Centre will now perform extended tests."
The EC official concluded: "It is more probable that the internal combustion-engines will cease to exist if no harmonised action if taken to render them less polluting. An example is the measures taken by various cities and Member States, which intend to ban vehicles with combustion-engines from their territories to protect the air quality and the health of their citizens."