Fuel for Thought
Will New EU Vehicle Emissions Regulations End Petrol and Diesel?
Nov 25 2022
The United Kingdom may have already left the single market behind but Westminster remains wedded to certain articles of the market’s regulation. In particular, all commercial vehicles sold in Britain must adhere to European standards, which are periodically updated. At the moment, we’re working with Euro 6 for cars and light commercials like pickup trucks, vans and three-wheelers, and Euro VI for larger trucks and public service vehicles like road sweepers, waste-collection lorries and car-rescue vehicles. These standards came into effect seven years ago, at a time when the electrification of road vehicles had far less research and capital behind it. Since then, we’ve seen the EVs industry spring into life. By the time that Euro 7’s drastic new pollution limits come into effect, however, we might have already witnessed the death of the combustion engine.
There are two headline changes. Firstly, under Euro 7, both petrol and diesel engines will be held to the same standard of 60mg/km for the emission of nitrous oxides (N2O), maintaining Euro 6’s limit for petrol but significantly lowering the previous limit for diesel of 80mg/km. Secondly, vehicles will have to remain below 60mg/km for up to 125,000 miles, a doubling of the current requirement.
So, those are the bumper reductions – but combustion hasn’t been completely singled out. There are changes to the regulation of ammonia emissions, evaporated hydrocarbons, cold-start emissions, and a new minimum life-span for batteries in electric vehicles. Plus, whatever your powertrain, there is a new limit on the microplastics that are shed from brakes and tyres, a development that is predicted to pose some trouble for EVs as their large battery-packs make them heavier than your average combustion-based vehicle, placing extra strain on tyres and causing more shedding.
By the regulators’ own estimation, these measures will be a sizeable improvement upon Euro 6, slashing total N2O emissions from cars, vans, trucks and buses by 35% of current concentrations. Further, the emission of particulates from the tailpipes of cars will fall by 13% and by 39% in the case of trucks and buses.
Bold predictions for bold measures, then. It’s reasonable to say, however, that industry can’t quite see the vision.
In the days following the announcement, almost all of the major firms’ CEOs made public statements against the proposals, with the consensus being that such measures will force manufacturers to divert considerable resources into upgrading their combustion engines and away from electric vehicles.
Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis, which owns Alfa Romeo, Citroën, Fiat, Jeep, Peugeot, and Chrysler (among others, if you can believe it), had this to say about Euro 7 to reporters at a motor show in Paris: “We don’t need Euro 7 because it will absorb resources and time which should be going to electric vehicles; it is counterproductive and we are reaching the limits in physics of what can be done.”
“This is going to cost me 80% of one year’s R&D for powertrains,” says CEO of Renault, Luca de Meo, “and it will have a marginal effect on emissions. Even from an ecological point of view, it’s pointless. But us car executives aren’t popular in Brussels right now.”
When it comes to bottom-lines, of course, you can trust CEOs to give you the truth, so there’s no doubt that Euro 7 will force some big spending on research and measurement to get Europe’s automotive industry up to snuff by 2025. Perhaps, though, this may simply force the industry to double-down on EVs by pricing combustion out of the picture. As always, only time will tell - but it’s fair to say that the next few years will be a highly volatile time for European vehicle manufacturers.
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