Put simply, European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA) is the process used to ensure that motor vehicles intended to be placed on the market for consumers meet relevant environmental, safety and security standards.
Type approval is imperative, given the large body of requirements that motor vehicles are subject to. During the process sample motor vehicles, which are taken to be representative of a ‘type’, are physically tested to check their conformity with these standards, hence the name.
These vehicle regulations are set by European Union law, and in many cases refer to Regulations developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) Working Party 29, under the ‘1958 Agreement’. These regulations and directives cover virtually all aspects of vehicle design for most types of self-propelled road-based vehicles, as well as trailers. This includes requirements for vehicle systems such as braking, lighting, crash performance, and of tail/non tail-pipe and noise emissions. Type approval tests are carried out under the control of the type approval authority or an authorised technical service.
To ensure a consistent approach, the methodology is outlined in EU Directive 2007/46/EC, also known as the ‘Framework Directive on the type-approval of motor vehicles’. The Directive outlines and classifies the various applicable vehicle types and defines the relationship between EU Directives and UN-ECE Regulations.
Component and System Type Approvals
A ‘whole vehicle’ is made up of large numbers of components and systems, each of which must conform to corresponding requirements. Vehicle manufacturers and suppliers of relevant parts to automobile manufacturers must ensure that their products meet those requirements.
Type approval makes a distinction between ‘components’ for vehicles - such as lighting components, glazing, rear view mirrors, etc - and ‘systems’ for vehicles, which determine compliance of many components together, such as for braking, steering, crash performance and emissions.
Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA)
Once all components and systems have been approved, a manufacturer can request approval of the Whole Vehicle Type. Upon submission of the relevant manufacturer’s information document, including reference to the separate type approvals of all systems and components, a European WVTA Certificate will be issued by a type approval authority. The manufacturer shall produce a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) for each vehicle manufactured in conformity with an approved type. A ‘type’ can best be described as a ‘range’ of vehicle models that share fundamental characteristics.
The type approval system also allows for a multi-stage approval procedure that applies when the vehicle is built up in more than one step (eg by a chassis manufacturer and a body builder).
The European WVTA certificate of a vehicle type issued by the approval authority of one member state has to be accepted by all other European member states and allows for the registration of a new vehicle all over the EU.
Conformity of Production
Conformity of Production (CoP) is a vital part of the approval process. The manufacturer must bring evidence of its capacity to maintain compliance with the approved type for each and every new vehicle manufactured during serial production. This ensures that quality standards are upheld when the vehicle is actually being produced in large numbers.
A type approval authority or an authorised technical service conducts the necessary tests and authors a test report. It can use the manufacturer´s test facilities if it is satisfied that the equipment and processes applied meet the necessary quality standards. Finally, the approval authority issues a European WVTA approval certificate. The manufacturer is then responsible for ensuring ongoing Conformity of Production (CoP). By issuing and signing the Certificate of Conformity (CoC) the manufacturer takes full responsibility that all separate regulatory acts are met.