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The EU Commission tightens rules on vehicle-type approval


For over a year now the European Commission has been planning to revise the Directive on  vehicle-type approval for motor vehicles; the outbreak of the "Dieselgate" forced Brussels to speed up the pace, and even the European Parliament made its move creating a specific parliamentary committee to investigate possible violations of EU rules on car emissions. Several months will be needed to reach the conclusion of the legislative process, but in the meantime, the EC has published the official draft of the new European regulation for vehicle-type approval.

According to the Vice President and Commissioner Jyrki Katainen: "in order to regain the trust of citizens in this important area, we need to strengthen the rules and ensure that they are actually complied with. It is essential to restore a level playing field and fair competition in the market. " The EC is moving in this direction, focusing on compliance to the rules rather than reforming the approval system. Current standards in fact are based on checks carried out “ex-ante”, while in the future these will be performed on circulating vehicles. No news, then, on technical standards: if a vehicle complies with today's EU legislation there will be no changes resulting from new regulations. However, emissions tests will be performed more accurately through more reliable testing procedures.

The proposal retains the current ban on the use of any manipulation device, which national authorities have the obligation to keep enforcing, but it also goes a step further: the draft regulation states that the manufacturer must provide access to the vehicle’s software. This comprehensive measure completes the  "Real Driving Emissions" package, which makes it harder to get around the rules and forces manufacturers to declare their emissions reduction techniques, as it already happens in the United States. Moreover, the validity of the approval certificates issued will be limited to five years with no possibility of extension.

Additionally, in order to improve the quality of controls carried out on vehicles, laboratories performing the tests must be independent of the manufacturing companies. This may seems obvious, but it is good to remember that currently the manufacturers pay the approval fee directly to whoever makes the tests, who will thus become economically dependent on the success of the test. The proposed regulation also provides for more stringent performance criteria and the laboratories involved must be regularly checked by a third party to maintain their accreditation.

Once a vehicle is approved it is up to each Member State to perform more rigorous checks than was expected so far. This will make it possible to detect any non-compliance and ensure that immediate corrective action is taken.

As a further crackdown on ex-post controls, the proposed regulation appoints the Commission to fulfill a new inspection role, giving it the mandate to punish, suspend or revoke the accreditation to any laboratory found to be inefficient or lax in applying the rules. The same applies also to state authorities. Furthermore, an Executive Forum will be set up, in order to develop testing strategies for common compliance between  all Member States and will organize joint checks on laboratories and approval authorities.

The draft regulation will be submitted to the Parliament and the Council and, once adopted, will have to be applied in all Member States in place of the Directive 2007/46/EC. The hope is that the new regulation will ensure that cases such as Volkswagen’s will not be repeated.

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