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28/06/2021
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Massimo Brunamonti

Fine particulate matter testing adopted by the first European countries

A topic of discussion for some time due to the disappointing results in reducing fine particulate pollution despite strict emission limits and the introduction of the Particulate Filter (APF). Today finally, after more than three years of testing, the first four European countries have decided to adopt the fine particulate emission test. These are the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland where, between the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, particulate emission testing will become mandatory for diesel vehicles subject to MOT inspection.

From a technical point of view, it is quite clear that current opacity testing is proving inadequate to assess the emissions of the latest Diesel vehicles. Several studies, including the one developed by the Belgian Goca, show that 80% of the pollution is produced by just 20% of the diesel vehicles on the road, but of this 20% only 0.05% do make it passed the emissions test; obviously there is something wrong. Following the mass adoption of the FAP, emissions are on average well below the limits and this is because currently, the technology of the opacimeters used does not allow to measure the emissions of fine particulate matter, i.e. below 100nm; the conclusion is that opacity testing suitable for older diesel vehicles have little or no use for modern diesel engines, i.e. after Euro 4. The introduction of less polluting vehicles equipped with FAP made sense in terms of significant reduction, at least on paper, of fine particulate emissions. However, this was not the case: as air sampling across Europe shows, fine particulate pollution levels have not decreased by the desired amount. Why? The cause seems to be poor or inadequate maintenance; this is, more or less, the common conclusion of a series of studies conducted in various countries, which show that often, diesel powered vehicles are not properly maintained, with APF filters being removed in some cases. 

At this point, the competent authorities, following a riot of driving bans imposed in densely populated areas, were forced to take action. A few years ago a working group, called N-Pti, was set up in Switzerland with the aim of identifying and defining a suitable testing method for fine particulate emissions during MOT tests. The N-Pti group, initially made up of representatives from several European countries, was later joined by representatives of equipment manufacturers and brought the work to completion when, in 2020, emission limits under test were set and the first testing devices ware approved. Therefore, to date, despite the absence of a harmonized European standard, there is a common approach to which the countries mentioned above have adhered and are about to put into force. The European Commission for its part, following the initiative of some member states, has started the process of defining a possible standard or recommendation, entrusting the JRL (Joint Research Laboratory) to prepare a preliminary draft of such a measure.

Other countries, such as Spain, Sweden and Finland, are likewise considering the adoption of the particulate test, while in Italy, unfortunately, to date there is no mention of it. And yet, pollution in Italy is no better than elsewhere: traffic restrictions here and there (see the Po Valley), especially for diesel vehicles, are proving inconvenient for both motorists and transport companies when the pollution situation could be definitely improved simply by following the path chosen by these other countries. Fortunately, the new management at the Motorization General Directorate recently installed, has finally started, after about three years (see Pneurama 2/2021), a phase of assessments of current inspection tests in Italy, in an attempt to make up for lost time and to adapt these inspections to technological and regulatory changes. We sincerely hope that this new phase will introduce a new and effective method of testing and thus prevent further excessive levels of environmental pollution.

 

Egea, the first 2021 general meeting held last April

The first 2021 EGEA General Assembly held last April 20, once again on a web platform due to the persistent Covid restrictions, saw the debut of the new board of directors chaired by President Thierry Coton who, in welcoming everyone in attendance, described the new operational organization of the Association based on mandates issued to several members of the board of directors which include communication, relations with other stakeholders, political relations at EU level in Brussels and communication.

After the president's opening greetings, it was time for the sponsors to illustrate their activities planned for the immediate future. Equip'Auto presented its "Equip'Auto on Tour" program based on a series of traveling events programmed in the fall of 2021. Autopromotec confirmed the 2022 edition. Automechanika mentioned a possible revision of the format of the fair planned initially in Frankfurt 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic (later confirmed by the announcement of the return of Automechanika to the classic physical format in September 2022). Next, after the customary institutional approval of the association’s budget and statutory changes, which were unanimously approved, the program moved on to perhaps the most significant moment of this meeting. For some time now, member companies have been discussing the possibility of adopting a standard communication protocol designed to interconnect tools and equipment with each other and with the working environment; in past years, evaluations and studies have been carried out, which have not led to any practical conclusions. Now, it seems, things are changing: Asanetwork GmbH presented the "Workshop-Net" solution, an evolution of the previous version of its protocol, which represents an independent and autonomous solution for any user, be it an auto repair company, a motorization inspection centre or a supplier of equipment, parts or services. The proposal was accepted, and the Assembly approved the adoption of the Workshop-Net as a proposed standard protocol for the automotive aftermarket.

Communication becomes a priority for Egea and as previously announced by the president, it was decided to create a periodic bulletin "Egea-inside" which aims to inform the entire aftermarket about current activities, challenges and difficulties. Furthermore, potential new members especially in European countries that are not represented in Egea could be reached thanks to the association’s bulletin. The assembly continued with an overview of the challenging activities carried out by the various working groups. From new safety standard for garage lifts, to ADAS equipment user guides, new emissions tests, cybersecurity and free open access to vehicle Obd ports, to a new standard for headlight centering equipment. It is worth noting once again the quantity, variety and complexity of the issues being dealt with and appreciate the commitment of the working groups in the interest of all members. After the usual updates from member associations, the meeting closed with the definition of a date for the next meeting in October 2021, with the hope this time to meet physically at the end of the covid emergency.

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