Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/12

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on type-approval of motor vehicles and engines with respect to emissions from heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information’

COM(2007) 851 final — 2007/0295 (COD)

(2008/C 211/03)

On 30 January 2008 the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 95 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on type-approval of motor vehicles and engines with respect to emissions from heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information.

The Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 3 April 2008. The rapporteur was Mr Ranocchiari.

At its 444th plenary session, held on 22 and 23 April 2008 (meeting of 22 April), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 142 votes nem. con., with 3 abstentions.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations


The rise in demand for mobility, the proportion of private vehicles and the problems created by traffic congestion above all — but not only — in urban areas have helped to make road transport an area of human activity where particular attention is being paid to environmental impact assessment. The Commission's proposal to reduce the emission of atmospheric pollutants from heavy duty vehicles can also be seen in this context.


The EESC supports the proposal, which it considers appropriate both in terms of its effectiveness and of time frames for application of environmental requirements and industry lead times.


The EESC shares the Commission's view that the regulation under consideration constitutes a step towards gradual global harmonisation of emission levels.


The EESC considers the choice of a regulation as the legal instrument to be reasonable and particularly appropriate, as this ensures deadlines and specific implementation methods in all the Member States — a particularly important aspect for such highly technical legislation.


The EESC fully supports the right of independent operators to have guaranteed access to vehicle repair information. It has misgivings, however, about opting to extend to heavy-duty commercial vehicles the standardised OASIS format, designed for passenger cars, for the reasons outlined below.


In order to dispel these misgivings, the EESC hopes that the Commission will continue to seek alternative solutions which could have the same presumed advantages as the OASIS system but would be simpler and cheaper for users to apply.


The EESC would again stress the need for Commission policies on reducing pollutant emissions to encourage the introduction of alternative fuel vehicles with lower nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions, and to ensure that the future regulation also mentions the concept of fuel quality.


The EESC believes that the reference to compulsory measurement of CO2 emissions is inappropriate for an instrument that should cover only pollutant emissions. The EESC fears that the complexity and specific nature of this issue, which have considerable implications for competitiveness, could give rise to a debate that could slow down the legislative process and delay the regulation's expected results. The EESC therefore suggests that the issue of CO2 be the subject of a separate regulation whenever more reliable data is available.

2.   Introduction


Although air quality has improved over the past decade, there remain significant air quality problems throughout the European Union, especially in urban areas and densely populated regions.


By 2020 the EU will still be a long way from achieving the objectives of the 6th Environment action programme. Among the various forms of pollution, particulate matter is of increasing scientific concern. The proposed Regulation covered in this opinion is aimed at improving air quality, without impairing industrial competitiveness and the free movement of goods.


The new Euro VI standard, as pointed out by vice-president Verheugen, will also be a step towards global harmonisation in that it sets emission limit values similar to those of the United States of America.


Both occurring naturally and from human activities — particularly combustion processes — the particles that make up particulate matter (PM) have a complex, varying structure both chemically and in terms of size.


It should be borne in mind that although it is often associated with the effects of human activities, acute cases of fine particulate pollution can also occur far from densely urbanised areas as a result of natural phenomena, specific weather conditions and local topography. Furthermore, the proportion of the various emission sources can vary significantly from area to area: the European Environment Agency (EEA) reckons that in the EU-15, 26 % of total emissions linked to human activity are attributable to road transport.


This confirms, once again, that the problem of emissions and pollutants must always be assessed from all angles and as part of an integrated approach.


From this perspective, the EESC welcomes the fact that the Commission has drawn up its proposal in the context of the Clean air for Europe programme (CAFE (1)), which provided the technical basis for preparing the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution.


The EESC also welcomes the split-level approach taken by the Commission on this issue. The proposed Regulation will lay down the fundamental provisions, for adoption through the co-decision procedure. The technical specifications implementing the main provisions will be laid down in a second Regulation to be adopted by the Commission with the assistance of the regulatory committee for adaptation to technical progress, under the comitology procedure.

3.   The Commission proposal


The Commission set out to identify measures necessary to attaining the desired air quality levels. Euro VI is one important measure for reducing gaseous emissions (such as nitrogen oxides — NOX and hydrocarbons — HC) and particulate matter.


The Regulation applies to vehicles of categories M1, M2, N1 and N2, as defined in Annex II of Directive 2007/46/EC, with a reference mass exceeding 2 610 kg and all motor vehicles of categories M3 and N3, as defined in that Annex. It shall not apply, however, if a manufacturer so requests, to vehicles of categories M1, M2, N1 and N2 with a reference mass not exceeding 2 840 kg that are type-approved under Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 (2).


The new proposed exhaust emission limit values (Euro VI) will see a reduction of 80 % in NOx and 66 % in PM on Euro V levels (required for new type-approvals from 1 October 2008). Authorised emission levels will then be in line with those planned for the same period in the USA. The Regulation also provides for the introduction — once the relevant measuring system has been developed — of a limit on the number of particles that can be emitted.


The proposed Regulation lays down limits based on current test cycles, but provides for the introduction of world-wide harmonised cycles (WHDC) once it is possible to correlate the emissions measured from current cycles with those measured from harmonised cycles.


In relation to the current legislation in force, the Regulation prolongs the useful life of the vehicle in accordance with the durability of pollution control devices and in-service conformity.


To this end, the definitions of useful life for the various categories of vehicle will be extended as follows:


160 000 km or five years, whichever is the sooner, in the case of engines fitted to vehicles of category M1, N1 and M2;


300 000 km or six years, whichever is the sooner, in the case of engines fitted to vehicles of category N2, N3 with a maximum technically permissible mass not exceeding 16 tonnes and M3 Class I, Class II and Class A, and Class B with a maximum technically permissible mass not exceeding 7,5 tonnes;


700 000 km or seven years, whichever is the sooner, in the case of engines fitted to vehicles of category N3 with a maximum technically permissible mass exceeding 16 tonnes and M3, Class III and Class B with a maximum technically permissible mass exceeding 7,5 tonnes.


The proposed Regulation provides for a further implementing Regulation to be issued by the Commission, whose provisions would cover:

exhaust emissions, including test cycles, off cycle emissions, particle number, emissions at idling speed, smoke opacity and correct functioning and regeneration of pollution control devices;

crankcase emissions;

OBD systems and in-service performance of pollution control devices;

durability of pollution control devices, replacement pollution control devices, conformity of in-service engines and vehicles, conformity of production and roadworthiness;

carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption;

granting extension of type-approvals;

test equipment;

reference fuels;

measurement of engine power;

specific measures to ensure the correct operation of NOx control measures; such measures must ensure that vehicles, which need a reagent in order to respect the limit values for NOx emissions, cannot be operated without such reagent.


The Regulation also stipulates that independent operators shall have unrestricted and standardised access to on-board diagnostic (OBD) information and vehicle repair and maintenance information (3). Referring to the other more detailed Regulation, it also provides for vehicle on-board diagnostic (OBD) information and vehicle repair and maintenance information to be made available through websites in the standardised format developed by a technical committee of stakeholders (the so-called ‘OASIS format’ (4)).


Under the Regulation, the Euro VI standard is to apply from:

1 April 2013 for new type approvals; and

1 October 2014 for new registrations.

4.   General comments


Over the last decade, despite a considerable increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, air quality has improved. However, the EU as a whole is still some way off solving the problem of air pollution, especially in urban areas and densely populated regions. The EESC therefore welcomes the Commission's proposal to lay down harmonised rules on the construction of motor vehicles with a view to ensuring the functioning of the internal market while at the same time providing for a high level of environmental protection.


Euro IV emission limits for trucks and buses are applicable as from 9 November 2006 and Euro V emission limits will apply from 1 October 2008 for new type-approvals. The EESC thus endorses the proposed dates for the application of the new Regulation.


As the proposal does not fall under the exclusive competence of the Community, the EESC supports the application of the subsidiarity principle. However, it shares the Commission's view that, rightly mindful of both the need to avoid the emergence of barriers to the single market and of the trans-boundary implications of air pollution, the objectives of the proposal cannot be sufficiently achieved by actions of Member States, but require binding measures agreed at EU level.


The EESC also endorses the choice of a regulation as the legal instrument, as this ensures specific implementation methods and deadlines in all the Member States — a particularly important aspect for such highly technical legislation.


The Committee agrees with the points made in paragraphs 5 and 6 of the introduction to the proposed Regulation, that ‘achieving EU air quality objectives requires a continuing effort to reduce vehicle emissions. For that reason, industry should be provided with clear information on future emission limit values’ and that ‘setting limit values for nitrogen oxide emissions at an early stage should provide long-term, Europe-wide planning security for vehicle manufacturers’.


The EESC also concurs with the Commission that in setting emissions standards it is important to take into account the implications for competitiveness of markets and manufacturers, the direct and indirect costs imposed on business and the benefits that accrue in terms of stimulating innovation, improving air quality, reducing health costs and increasing life expectancy.


The EESC fully supports the right of independent operators to have guaranteed access to vehicle repair information. It has considerable misgivings, however, about opting to extend to heavy-duty commercial vehicles the standardised OASIS format, designed for passenger cars.


Vehicles from very large-scale series production are not covered by the regulation, which applies to commercial vehicles with a reference mass exceeding 2 610 kg. As commercial vehicles are produced in many different versions and varieties, the difficulty and cost of trying to standardise information would outweigh the practical benefits, also bearing in mind the fact that repair firms for heavy-duty commercial vehicles are few in number and specialise to a very high degree in specific makes. Applying the OASIS system to repair firms for heavy-duty commercial vehicles, which are almost all SMEs, would mean imposing on them the considerable financial and organisational burdens of installing and administering the new system. Such burdens would outweigh the benefits envisaged for the user.


In the light of the foregoing, the EESC would therefore propose that the Commission undertake an impact assessment focused on a cost/benefit analysis of the use of OASIS over other possible simpler and cheaper solutions.


The EESC would again stress the need, previously highlighted in relation to other Commission proposals, to encourage the introduction of alternative fuel vehicles, which can have low nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions. It thus concurs on the need for limit values for hydrocarbons, non-methane hydrocarbons and methane.


In terms of the test procedure that provides the basis of EC type-approval emissions regulations, the EESC hopes that the Commission adopts world-wide harmonised driving cycles as soon as possible.


The Regulation also provides for the measurement of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and therefore deviates somewhat from its stated objective, which is to reduce atmospheric pollutants.


The data used for such measurements would be that obtained from engine tests on dynamometers, which, in reality is not representative of the vehicle as a whole. A vehicle's energy efficiency, as is well known, depends on various aspects, of which the engine is but one important element among others (the transmission, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, auxiliary parts, etc.). The same type of engine can be used in vehicles with very different characteristics and purposes (heavy goods vehicles, construction vehicles, local buses, etc.).


In this context, the Committee would recall that the Commission's intention to include N1 commercial vehicles, set out in its communication on the strategy to reduce CO2 emissions [COM(2007) 19 final], was then abandoned when it came to the proposed Regulation itself [COM(2007) 856 final] — quite rightly, given the specificity of the subject and the inadequacy of the available data.


The EESC also points out that, as regards commercial vehicles, there is strong market demand for reduced fuel consumption (with similarly reduced CO2 emissions), given that fuel represents the highest operating cost in the transport sector. It is therefore competition that drives vehicle manufacturers to provide the most advanced solutions in terms of fuel consumption and, therefore, CO2 emissions.


As regards measuring CO2 emissions, the EESC would make the important point that if the data on fuel consumption and CO2, measured solely via engine tests, were to be used to determine possible incentives or taxes, this could irrationally distort the market.


In the light of the foregoing, the EESC agrees that there is also a need to legislate on CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, as soon as possible, but would prefer that this subject be tackled separately, through the drafting of a specific proposal, partly to avoid the risk that an intense debate could delay passing of the Regulation.


Given market reluctance to purchase cleaner vehicles because of their invariably higher price, the Committee would favour the possibility of introducing financial incentives to their purchase and feels that Member States should accelerate, through various incentive schemes, the placing on the market of vehicles that satisfy the requirements adopted at EU level.


The EESC would certainly support the proposal that Member States should lay down rules on penalties applicable to infringements of the provisions of this Regulation and that those penalties should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.


The Committee believes that the dates of implementation proposed by the Commission (1 April 2013 for new type-approvals and 1 October 2014 for new registrations) are appropriate. Indeed, five years of stability between one emissions level and the next is sufficient to allow the industry to obtain the economic return on the investment made to bring to market the new solutions.


The EESC endorses the Commission's proposal not to apply the new Regulation, if a manufacturer so requests, to vehicles of categories M1, M2, N1 and N2 with a reference mass not exceeding 2 840 kg that are type-approved under Regulation (EC) No 715/2007. In other words, the EESC supports the fact that for borderline vehicles in terms of tonnage, a certain degree of type-approval flexibility is allowed to enable a more efficient response to the various requests of customers, inter alia in relation to the trade off between fuel consumption, mileage and pollutant emissions.

5.   Specific comments


The EESC agrees with the proposed emission limits, which are those of scenario A (5) considered by the Commission and favoured by the majority of stakeholders involved in the consultation process.


However, the Committee feels it must once again raise the issue of the inverse relation between NOx and CO2 emissions. Since reducing emissions of both is an important environmental objective, it is vital to counterbalance NOx limits in such as way as to prevent any knock-on rise in CO2 emissions. In effect, the expected reduction in NOx will result in a 2-3 % increase in CO2.emissions. The Commission, referring to a study carried out in the USA in 2001, maintains that by the time the regulation is implemented the currently anticipated increase will rather have been offset by advances in engine technology. The EESC nevertheless suggests updating this study in order to obtain more reliable data on the effects of the proposed NOx limit on fuel consumption and on consequent CO2 emissions.


As already stated, the EESC welcomes the parallel split-level approach, which limits the co-decision procedure to the elements of greater political relevance and delegates to comitology the implementing measures and technical details.


However, it should be noted that many of the measures entrusted to the regulatory committee (OBD, particle numbers, schemes to persuade drivers where a reagent is required, etc.) are highly complex and have huge implications for vehicle technology. The Committee therefore recommends that all these aspects be implemented in a single phase together with the Euro VI limits, and that, just as pertains to this Regulation under review, an adequate lead time is ensured between its entry into force and implementation in order to allow the industry sufficient time to carry out the necessary development.

Brussels, 22 April 2008.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee


(1)  CAFÉ: Clean air for Europe. This programme was launched by communication COM(2001) 245. Its aims are to develop a strategy for assessing directives on air quality and the effectiveness of programmes running in the Member States; ensure ongoing monitoring of air quality; promote the dissemination of public information; and contribute to the revision and updating of emission limits and the development of new monitoring and modelling systems.

(2)  Category N vehicles are goods vehicles with at least four wheels. They are divided into three classes: N1, N2 and N3, on the basis of maximum weight: N1 <3 500 kg; N2 <12 000 kg; N3 >12 000 kg. The N1 class is also subdivided into 3 subclasses: NI, NII and NIII, also on the basis of weight. Category M covers passenger vehicles with at least four wheels. They are divided into three classes (M1, M2, M3) based on the number of seats and their maximum weight: M1 < 9 seats; M2 > 9 seats and < 5 000 kg; M3 > 9 seats and > 5 000 kg.

(3)  ‘Vehicle repair and maintenance information’ means all information required for diagnosis, servicing, inspection, periodic monitoring, repair, re-programming or re-initialising of the vehicle and which the manufacturers provide for their authorised dealers and repairers, including all subsequent amendments and supplements to such information. This information includes all information required for fitting parts or equipment on to vehicles.

(4)  OASIS — Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

(5)  Impact assessment, point 6.2.2: Euro VI emission limit value sub-options.