What the Real Driving Emissions test means for Euro 6 regulations

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Mary Tinsley • Jun 26, 2017 • Emissions standards

From September 2017, changes to European regulations will mean that new vehicles will begin to face stringent ‘Real Driving Emissions’ (RDE) tests to determine the level of pollutants they generate while on the road.

It’s a departure from the current system, which sees all new vehicles tested under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) procedure. This tests vehicle emissions on a rolling road using consistent temperatures, fluid levels and tyre pressures. The cars are selected at random from production lines, making it difficult for manufacturers to supply ‘tweaked’ models that make fewer emissions.

Emissions levels for any given model of new vehicle are of huge importance to manufacturers and buyers. New vehicles that exceed stringent Euro 6 emissions levels cannot be sold within the European Union – and although the UK is heading for Brexit, there is no indication that the government will adopt a looser standard when this has happened.

When the Real Driving Emissions tests are introduced, it is going to be much tougher for new vehicles to be given Euro 6 accreditation. From September 2017, manufacturers of new models will have to bring down the discrepancy between NEDC and RDE emissions results to a conformity factor of a maximum of 2.1 (110%). This will apply to all new vehicles from September 2019.

In a second step, the discrepancy between laboratory and real world emissions will have to be brought down to a factor of 1.5 (50%) by January 2020. In January 2021 this will apply to all new vehicles.

So why is complying with RDE going to be so tough? We take a look at how it works and find out what implications it has for your fleet.

RDE will test vehicles under a range of conditions

When a vehicle is tested, it will be driven on public roads and subjected to many different conditions. Portable Emission Measuring Systems (PEMS) will generate real-time data about the pollutant emitted by the vehicle as it is tested while being driven:

  • At different altitudes
  • Under additional payload
  • Up and down hills
  • On urban and rural roads and motorways
  • At different year-round temperatures.

Clearly, given that testing authorities are now alert to ‘defeat devices’, it is going to be much tougher for manufacturers to close the gap between emissions generated under laboratory conditions and under real driving conditions.

You might also ask why the rule changes allow discrepancy of 100% between the two results, falling to 50% by the 2020s. This is because Portable Emissions Measuring Systems are not as accurate as full laboratory systems. This means they don’t offer the same levels of repeatable accuracy – to expect that of them would be about as easy as nailing spaghetti to a wall.

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Implications for manufacturers and fleets

While Euro 6 emissions standards aren’t changing, it is going to be much harder for manufacturers to meet them. This means that new vehicles will have to be designed to produce emissions well below the legal limit if they are to have a hope of complying.

The net effect is that RDE is bringing in still lower emissions standards by making it harder to get a vehicle approved. For fleets this is likely to result in:

  • Higher vehicle purchase costs – to cover manufacturers’ costs of meeting the standard
  • More efficient engines – and therefore lower fuel costs
  • The likelihood that low emissions zones and clean air schemes will demand RDE tested vehicles over the next few years.

So, for fleets, the main take-away is the likelihood of having to upgrade vehicles once again over the coming years. This can have major cost implications if you own your fleet, which is why many firms are turning to flexible hire as a way of maintaining cost-effective access to vehicles that comply with all clean air schemes and offer better efficiency and safety features.

If you haven’t already, it might be time to revisit this option for your own fleet. Get in touch with one flexible hire experts by clicking the button below.

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