Leaders in vehicle emission standards

With regions across the globe experiencing drastic and often catastrophic climate related events, the earth appears to be firmly in the grips of global warming. To save the planet world leaders from 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate pact in December 2015. The Paris Accord, which came into force on 4 November 2016, sets out a comprehensive action plan to limit global warming to below 2°C, come 2050.

To meet these objectives, Green House Gas (GHG) emissions have to be cut by 85% within the next 33 years. This means reducing CO2 emissions by 2.6% per year on average, or 0.6 Gt per year in absolute terms. With the transportation sector accounting for fourteen percent of the total global GHG emissions, as reported by the Energy Protection Agency in their August 2016 update of the ‘Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data’, the motor industry, in particular, is under pressure to step-up emissions reductions.

So far, thanks to aggressive emissions targets being set by regulators in the major markets, the industry has managed to achieve significant cuts in emissions. Recognized as leaders in the regulation of GHG emissions, Europe is preparing for the next step in CO2 reduction – not only with the introduction of the new 95g/km targets in 2020/2021, but also in aligning the test procedures to better replicate real world driving conditions.

The EU takes the lead in regulation-driven emissions reduction

When setting emission limits in the EU the mass of the vehicle is taken into account, using a ‘limit value curve.’ The curve is set in such a way that the targets for fleet average emissions accommodate vehicles across all segments. The factor used for passenger cars is 0.0333; meaning that for every 100 kg additional vehicle weight, 3.33 g/km more of CO2 is allowed.

The limit value curve means that heavier cars are allowed higher emissions than lighter cars. However only the fleet average is regulated, so manufacturers are still able to make vehicles with emissions above the curve, as long as these are balanced by vehicles below the curve. In a clear demonstration of the efficacy of regulation-driven emissions reduction in the region, emissions have dropped by 16% or 22 gram of CO2 per kilometer (g CO2/km) since monitoring began under current legislation in 2010. The average emissions level of a new car sold in 2016 was 118.1 grams; comfortably below the 2015 target of 130g. The 2015 target corresponds to a fuel consumption of around 5.6 liters per 100 km (l/100 km) of petrol or 4.9 l/100 km of diesel.

Notwithstanding these impressive achievements manufacturers are faced with an even more demanding challenge in the form of further cuts in 2020/ 2021: By 2021, phased in from 2020, the fleet average to be achieved by all new cars will be 95 g CO2/km. 95% of each manufacturer’s new cars will have to comply with the limit value curve in 2020, increasing to 100% in 2021.

As with any effective regulation, the EU prescribes significant penalties for non-conformance: Introduced in 2012, manufacturers are liable for an excess emissions premium for each car registered if the average CO2 emissions of a manufacturer’s fleet exceed its limit value in any year. While the roadmap to a cleaner environment in Europe is quite clear, the American landscape is troubled by political uncertainty. The Trump administration has given notice to withdraw from the Paris Accord, while at the same time placing the country’s emissions targets under review.

America’s emissions standards come under fire

In America federal emission standards for engines and vehicles, including emission standards for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, are established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 1981 new emission standards, retroactively known as “Tier 0,” were announced to be rolled out in 1987. The Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990 subsequently defined two updated tiers of standards for light-duty vehicles:

  • Tier 1 standards, which were published as a final rule on June 5, 1991, were phased-in progressively between 1994 and 1997
  • Tier 2 standards, which were adopted on December 21, 1999, were phased-in from 2004 to 2009, and currently apply to vehicles up to 8,500 lbs GVWR and “medium-duty passenger vehicles” (MDPV), but also including medium-duty passenger vehicles, such as large sport-utility vehicles and passenger vans, with GVWR up to 10,000 pounds

New Tier 3 emission standards for light-duty vehicles were proposed in March 2013 and signed into law on March 3, 2014. The Tier 3 standards – closely aligned with California LEV III standards, will be phased-in from 2017 through 2025. The structure of Tier 3 standards is similar to the Tier 2 standards, whereby manufacturers must certify vehicles to one of seven available “certification bins” and must meet fleet-average emission standards for their vehicle fleet in a given model year. The standards are more stringent than Tier 2 standards and include a number of other important changes:

  • Both the certification limits (bins) and the fleet average standards are expressed using the sum of No methane Organic Gas (NMOG) +NOx emissions
  • The bins are named using their corresponding NMOG+NOx limit in mg/mi. The highest emission bin, Bin 160 (NMOG+NOx = 160 mg/mi), is equivalent to Tier 2 Bin 5
  • The fleet average NMOG+NOx emissions must reach 30 mg/mi (Bin 30 = Tier 2 Bin 2) by 2025
  • The required emission durability has been increased to 150,000 miles, up from 120,000 miles
  • Gasoline vehicles are tested for exhaust and evaporative emissions using gasoline containing 10% ethanol
  • The regulation also tightens sulfur limits for gasoline

On July 29, 2011, President Obama announced an agreement with thirteen large automakers to increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. He was joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo, which together account for over 90% of all vehicles sold in the United States, as well as the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the State of California, who were all participants in the deal. New CAFE regulations for model year 2017-2025 vehicles were finalized on August 28, 2012.

However as a check and balance, the 2011 agreement called for a mid-term review to look at how the industry was progressing with the new standards. On July 18, 2016, the EPA, NHTSA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a technical paper assessing whether or not the auto industry will be able to reach the 2022 to 2025 mpg standards. The Draft Technical Assessment Report, as the paper is called, is the first step in the mid-term evaluation process.

With recent powerful hurricanes having battered Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands and the West still coping with widely destructive wildfires, the need for action on climate change has never been more obvious. It’s going to take a strenuous, persistent effort at all levels, including international cooperation; federal, state and local action, and private-sector commitments and follow-through.

Leaders in the auto industry get this, if their public comments are any indication. This month, Mary Barra, the chief executive, of General Motors, announced her company’s plans to move toward a zero-emissions future with new electric vehicle options. In a letter accompanying the company’s 2016-17 sustainability report, Jim Hackett, the chief executive of Ford, and William Ford, the automaker’s executive chairman, declared their company was “absolutely committed” to reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency. In an increasingly climate-conscious global market, these industry leaders assure us they’re part of the solution. And they need to be: The transportation sector is now the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the United States.

But the efforts of the auto industry’s lobbyists in Washington tell a different story. They are trying to undermine one of the country’s most successful policies to fight global warming: the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards that are designed to roughly double the miles per gallon of our passenger car fleet by 2025.

G.M., Ford and other automakers agreed to these standards in 2010, but now industry allies in Congress have introduced legislation that would weaken them, and the Trump administration has “reopened” these standards for review, an ominous first step to potentially gutting them and stalling progress on cleaner cars and a healthier environment.

World Health Organization

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.7 million premature deaths resulted from outdoor air pollution in 2012. A major share of this air pollution comes from vehicle emissions in cities. In the Southeast Asia region, for example, traffic produces 36 percent of the city’s local air pollution. Under a business as usual scenario, this number is be projected to rise, as the number of vehicles is expected to significantly increase. Furthermore, transport sector emissions are growing faster than any other sector. In Asia, the challenge is particularly urgent, as it is projected that Asia’s share of global transport emissions will increase to percent by 2030. Recognizing the pressing need for action, many countries have realized that fuel quality and emission standards are key for improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To identify and opportunities and strategies for overcoming the barriers to vehicle emissions standards, the Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS) Transport Working Group, the United National Environmental Program (UNEP) and Clean Air Asia, in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines (DENR), conducted a regional workshop on February 23-24, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The workshop brought together more than 55 participants from cities around the world to support the implementation and advancement of vehicle emission policies in Southeast Asia. The workshop helped facilitate cooperation between Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries as they seek to align their standards across the region. The Philippines was the ideal location to host the workshop as the country recently made progress by implementing a Euro 4/IV vehicle emission standard in January 2016.

Learning from Regional and Global Experiences

The workshop consisted of a global and regional overview of vehicle emission standards, and country representatives from the ASEAN region briefly shared the status of vehicle emissions standards in their respective countries.

Country representatives outside the ASEAN region presented case studies of their experiences advancing vehicle emission standards and the lessons they learned from implementation challenges. Participants from government agencies, technical institutions, academia, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector also contributed to the discussions.

The majority of the discussions and presentations were centered on why improving fuel quality and vehicle emissions standards is important to improving air quality and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Participants discussed why these policies need to be embedded in a broader Avoid-Shift-Improve (A-S-I) framework, avoiding the need for motorized travel, shifting trips to the most sustainable mode and improving existing technologies and systems. Doing so is critical to expanding mobility for all and shifting toward low-carbon, efficient public transport and non-motorized transport.

Enabling Leaders for Local Action

The workshop laid a foundation for participants to make the case in their countries about why there is an urgent need to advance vehicle emission policies and how these policies can be implemented in Southeast Asia. The attendees left with a better understanding of how air quality, public health and greenhouse gas emissions can be addressed through policies and technologies related to emissions standards. The workshop also served to equip participants with a network of peers in the region who can support and share experiences and knowledge.

The LEDS Transport Working Group

The LEDS Transport Working Group is led by team of international transport experts from the World Resources Institute, the United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who are leading the activities in collaboration with the LEDS GP regional platforms. Activities include building a transport community, supporting champions and innovators, creating networks of experts on low-emission transport and exploring opportunities for collaboration at local and regional levels

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