Real driving emission test limits set for EU adoption

European Council gives green light to NOx emissions limits and application dates under planned new RDE vehicle test procedure

Controversial car emission limits and the dates from which they would apply in the EU under planned real world driving (RDE) tests look now set to become reality after the European Council gave its approval last week (February 12).

European Council building in Brussels

European Council building in Brussels

With the Council having given its blessing, the way is now paved for full ratification of the limits by the European Commission after MEPs decided against vetoing the plans in a crucial Parliament vote earlier this month (see story).

The aim of the new RDE test procedure aims is to better reflect the actual air pollution emitted by cars driving on the road than the exiting lab-based test have previously done, but a number of MEPs and campaign groups have criticised the proposed RDE test limits for being too lenient on the car industry.

Nevertheless, the Council — which is made up of the leaders of EU Member States — has now the green light to the RDE test limits and rules, which will be introduced in two steps to allow car manufacturers “time to gradually adapt to the new RDE rules”.

RDE application

The first step will allow a conformity factor of up to 2.1 (110%) for road vehicles to exceed the stated nitrogen oxide (NOx) limit of 80 mg/km and will apply from September 2017 for new models and September 2019 for new vehicles.

In a second stage — from January 2020 for new models and from January 2021 for new vehicles —there will still be the possibility to apply a conformity factor. However this second conformity factor will be only 1 plus the error margin, which is currently set at 0.5.

The Council explained that a conformity factor of 1.5 would mean the limit could be exceeded by 50%, but explained that the error margin “reflects statistical and technical uncertainties of the tests”.

This second conformity factor will be annually reviewed to take into consideration technical improvements to the test equipment, the Council said.

In addition, rules are being introduced to “improve the supervision of the emission control strategy of vehicles” in order to avoid the use of banned defeat devices, as Volkswagen admitted to doing last year.

Under these rules, carmakers would be required to provide more information on their strategy to the authorities.

Next steps

The Commission may now fully adopt the regulation, as the RDE procedure — initially agreed by the EU’s Technical Committee for Motor Vehicles (TCMV) body in October 2015 — has now been backed by both the EU’s Parliament and Council.

This is the second RDE test package agreed, which establishes the not-to-exceed limits applicable and the dates for their application. Another two packages expected to complete the legal framework for real world driving emission tests.

The first package, agreed by the Council in November 2015, introduced the concept of RDE procedures with a portable emissions measurement system (PEMS) that will be connected to the vehicles tested.

This first package applied from January 1 this year, but at this initial stage the system is being used for monitoring purposes and does not yet have any implications on the approval of new car models.


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