Message from the Secretary General - December 2015

Coinciding with the COP21 climate talks in Paris, ACEA’s Board of Directors met last week to reiterate the industry’s long-term commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of its vehicles and production processes. Addressing climate change and air quality concerns tops the agenda of Europe’s automobile manufactures. Thanks to their efforts, CO2 emissions from new cars have been reduced by about 34% in less than two decades.

I believe that it is important to understand that these CO2 reductions have been combined with significant decreases in pollutant emissions, even though reducing both simultaneously requires conflicting measures. Besides developing ever more fuel-efficient vehicles and investing in alternative powertrains, manufacturers have also cut CO2 emissions from car production by a staggering 27.4% over the last 10 years.

During the recent debate on emissions testing, we have seen a lot of confusion surrounding the topic. Many people have been mixing up separate issues and reporting factual errors. Given the complexity of the topic, this does not come as a surprise. ACEA therefore wants to set the record straight on a number of emissions-related issues.

The fact is that as an industry, we fully agree with the need for improved emissions testing. It is for this reason that, for many years now, we have been actively contributing to the development of an updated laboratory test for measuring pollutant and CO2 emissions (WLTP). In addition, we have been calling for a new test to measure pollutant emissions under real driving conditions, known as RDE. In order to distinguish the myths from the facts, ACEA has compiled a useful overview of the most frequent misconceptions under the title ‘Emissions Testing: Some Common Misconceptions’. The document can be downloaded by clicking here.

It is argued by some that industry is trying to delay the introduction of RDE, but ACEA has always been committed to introducing RDE for new vehicle types from September 2017. We need RDE as a tool to demonstrate that Euro 6 diesel vehicles deliver low NOx emissions, not only in the laboratory but also under normal driving conditions.

And contrary to frequent reports, the current RDE proposal will be challenging for industry to achieve. In fact, it will require manufacturers to redesign engines, develop new exhaust after-treatment systems, adapt vehicle platforms to accommodate new equipment, and modify vehicle assembly lines. As a direct consequence, some existing diesel models may have to be phased out earlier than expected.

This phase-out will affect Euro 6 diesel models that are already being sold in the market and whose production lifecycle would have been expected to go beyond the proposed introduction date for RDE. Manufacturers will have to reconsider whether it is feasible, and worthwhile from an economic point of view, to adapt these vehicles to meet the new requirements, or rather simply end production much earlier than anticipated.

In addition, this could also affect vehicles that are still on the drawing board. Plans for these vehicles will have to be revisited, contracts with suppliers may have to be renegotiated, or the vehicles could be withdrawn completely. As well as having serious economic implications, the phase-out will make it more challenging for manufacturers to meet the 2021 targets for CO2 emission reductions, since diesel engines emit 15-20% less CO2 than comparable petrol engines.

Despite these concerns, we urgently need clarity so that manufacturers can plan for the development and design of vehicles in line with the new RDE requirements. ACEA will continue to contribute constructively to the ongoing process to update and strengthen testing requirements. As an industry, we do not only need a clearly defined RDE test as soon as possible to make extensive changes to our assembly lines and cars, but also to give consumers and legislators confidence in the environmental performance of all new vehicles.

Erik Jonnaert

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