12 post-Covid-19 recovery measures – Egea proposals for a sustainable European mobility
As the coronavirus manifested all its devastating power on the social fabric as a whole, the auto-repair sector captures the attention of both the public and the authorities with proposals and initiatives aimed at spearheading the post-pandemic recovery, not only for the sector, but for the entire economy so interconnected. In Brussels, following an initial list of requirements (see Pneurama n.4) and following the interest aroused, six trade associations, including Egea, published a 12-point proposal to European and national authorities with concrete measures for a post-Covid-19 recovery. "This vital sector has been severely affected by the pandemic with all of its economic and social consequences, jeopardizing jobs and the development of businesses”.
Putting SMEs in the middle of the picture would help the entire European economy. Likewise, in line with recent EU's objectives, helping the sector to become more digitised and circular will produce a more sustainable and resilient continental economy suitable for new mobility trends, greater employment opportunities and current and future environmental challenges," says Egea in its presentation paper.
The 12 measures, designed to assist EU institutions in identifying ways to rapidly relaunch the automotive aftermarket, cover several aspects of the problem: from financial and employment support, to defending free movement between member states, promoting a circular economy and, finally, a series of technical measures geared towards sustainability and the "European Green Deal". Among these, two proposals stand out: one to update roadworthiness procedures in order to eliminate harmful pollutants, and the other to encourage motorists to perform periodic "Eco-Checks. Proposals to update vehicle inspection tests in line with the recent technological progress have been discussed for some time but without results; several studies as well as single initiatives by individual member states go in the right direction, such as the forthcoming adoption of particulate matter checks in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium; but, beyond this, the vast majority of the EU keeps clinging to inspection models that were defined well over twenty years ago. On the other hand, Eco-Checks represent, in some ways, a new and courageous proposal, a regular control of polluting emissions, which has the declared aim of inducing motorists to take care of the maintenance of their vehicles by offering incentives and advantages in return, such as, for example, permission to drive in areas where polluting vehicles would be banned. This control, which should be carried out by garages, would certainly stimulate demand for additional services as vehicle owners become more aware of environmental issues.
Eco-Checks have been designed as a test model to check vehicles, quickly and easily, identifying any maintenance needed to reduce the overall level of harmful emissions in the EU. Tests would take place mainly on exhaust emissions, on-board anti-emission devices tested via Obd, air conditioning system and tires. These would be quick and inexpensive tests that could easily be performed in any qualified workshop. It goes without saying that, such an initiative will only have positive effects if it is widely adopted, and to achieve this citizens are offered "a good reason" to have their vehicles tested. Some countries, in fact, such as France and Belgium, are already independently studying similar initiatives; this means that, to a certain extent, EU citizens are already displaying an encouraging awareness to the problem. "We can promote economic activities along the entire aftermarket supply chain keeping in line with the broader objectives the EU has given itself," says Egea Secretary General Jordi Brunet, further confirming the central role played by auto-repair enterprises as a strategic component of the European economy, ready to make a real contribution towards the EU's strategic objectives.
Euro 7 emission and consumption checks in real driving conditions.
The proposal by Egea and Cita
The European Commission, after an initial survey, in March, which involved several companies and trade associations, launched a public consultation with a view to introducing the Euro 7/VII emission standard on cars, vans, trucks and buses. This consultation, which will end on 20 November, is open to all stakeholders, including national and local authorities, vehicle manufacturers, consumer associations and private citizens. To date, no deadline has been set for the entry into force of this Euro 7 standards, however, according to the EU Roadmap, the regulation introducing the new standard could be approved by the end of 2021.
According to official documents, through this new Euro 7 standard, the Commission aims, among other things, to "update emission limits and ensure that these limits are respected throughout the life of a vehicle". According to Brussels, Euro 6 regulations are no longer sufficient to achieve the 2050 objectives set by the "Green Deal".
The Commission also notes that, as things stand, monitoring activities are incapable of assessing the real environmental impact of a vehicle throughout its entire life cycle. And this is precisely the sore point: according to Egea (European Garage Equipment Association) and Cita (International Motor Vehicle Inspection Committee) the real fuel consumption of modern vehicles under real driving conditions is still significantly different from the lab values obtained during type-approval tests. This is caused, on the one hand, by driving behaviour and, on the other, by different requirements of the test cycle; these differences may well be the result of vehicle manufacturers using software and hardware at specific points on the engine in order to artificially improve CO2 results: i.e. the Dieselgate! For this reason, Egea and Cita welcome the introduction of an independent and regular monitoring system on the difference of CO2 emission and fuel consumption values between lab data and real driving conditions. This is the only way, according to both associations, to avoid further discrepancies and ensure transparency for the consumers.
EU Regulations 2018/1832 and 2019/1242 already provide the tools to exercise this control through mandatory "on-board fuel consumption monitoring devices" (Obfcm) on passenger cars and light vans from 1 January 2021 and on heavy commercial vehicles from 1 January 2022. These Obfcm (On-Board Fuel Consumption Monitor) will collect energy consumption and mileage data so that the necessary comparison can be processed. But the question is: who and how will this data be collected and passed on to the Commission? This is precisely the subject of the work being carried out by the "Obm Task Force", which the Commission has mandated to develop a technical solution by the end of 2020.
However, according to Cita and Egea, the solution is already available; there is no need to "re-invent the wheel", just use the technologies and structures already available. Assuming that the solution must in any case meet all the necessary criteria of digital security and privacy protection, there are additional aspects that must not be overlooked for an effective, transparent, capillary and secure data collection: uniform data reading standards and independent data collection from the digital equipment as well as the platforms used.
Let us see how all of this is already possible. Regulation (EU) 2018/1832 annex XXII, prescribes that the Obfcm device should guarantee a standardised and unlimited access to data; well, Unece regulation n. 83 already identifies the Iso 15031-5 standard as adequate to satisfy this request and therefore ready to be used as a standard data format. As far as transmission is concerned, every vehicle must already be equipped with an Obd interface; it is therefore sufficient to read the Obfcm device through this interface to obtain both consumption and emission data; the Obd interface, among other things, is a widely consolidated technology and used throughout the vehicle's life cycle, from type-approval to inspection tests and maintenance, and uses economical though decidedly advanced equipment. As for the last step, data interpretation, the solution lies in the Sae J1979 industrial standard, also widely accepted by the industry as a whole. In conclusion, the required information on emissions and fuel consumption could already be collected using modern technology and well-tested equipment, designed to guarantee data protection and security. Finally, talking about premises and business structures, it is obviously a question of identifying qualified structures and personnel involved, precisely what has already been done with roadworthiness inspection centres, which could already constitute a suitable data collection network by virtue of their qualification and capillarity. The suggestion by Cita and Egea to use the standard Obd interface, along with other technologies, may well prove the fastest and cheapest solution, if not the only one, to start data registration and evaluation already in 2021; the Commission's intention, in fact, is to use such data to issue, by 2027, an assessment of how much the Wltp is representative of the real values collected under real driving conditions. In order to be able to do this, it is necessary to have a database, that is indisputably representative of all the vehicles currently circulating on our roads, collected over a wide time period, which provides the basis for further changes to the regulations.