Official Journal of the European Union

C 318/62

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 with respect to emissions and on access to vehicle repair information, amending Directive 72/306/EEC and Directive …/…/EC

[COM(2005) 683 final — 2005/0282 (COD)]

(2006/C 318/11)

On 31 January 2006 the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 95 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the abovementioned proposal.

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 12 July 2006. The rapporteur was Mr Ranocchiari.

At its 429th plenary session, held on 13 and 14 September 2006 (meeting of 13 September), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 180 votes to three, with 11 abstentions.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations


The EESC agrees that it was necessary to promote the continued improvement of car emission levels by means of legislation, gradually introducing increasingly ambitious objectives. It therefore welcomes the Commission's proposal, which marks a further step in this direction.


The EESC also endorses the Commission's decision to opt for a regulation rather than a directive and its choice of legislative procedure, which provides for a co-decision-based regulation, supplemented by a comitology-procedure regulation for the more technical aspects, drawn up with the assistance of a regulatory committee.


The Committee must nevertheless point out that the draft regulation in its current form poses considerable problems for the industry and for the Member State government departments responsible for vehicle type approval and registration.


In particular the EESC recommends changing the dates of entry into force of the new rules contained in the proposed regulation to 1 January 2010 (for the type approval of new types of car) and 1 January 2011 (for new registrations) or, alternatively, 36 months and 48 months after the publication of the new regulations in the EU Official Journal. The EESC also recommends maintaining a further period of one year for class II and III N1 vehicles (1).


The EESC agrees with the limits proposed for vehicles with diesel engines. It has doubts, however, as to the need to further tighten the limits for vehicles with engines running on petrol or gaseous fuels.


The EESC believes that the exemption enabling certain M1 passenger vehicles (2) that perform specific functions or are used for work (e.g. minibuses) to be approved in accordance with the limits laid down for light commercial vehicles (N1) should be preserved. It therefore asks the Commission to provide a more precise and restricted definition for such vehicles than that given in the current directive.


The EESC recommends that the proposed regulation not contain rules that would be better covered by other regulations or directives already in force.


Lastly, the EESC asks the Commission to revise those points in the proposed text that could give rise to administrative uncertainties, by making full use of the support of national experts who deal with problems relating to the type approval and registration of motor vehicles on a day to day basis.

2.   Reasons and legislative context


Until now, emissions from cars (M1 vehicles) and light commercial vehicles (N1 vehicles) have been regulated by Directive 70/220/EEC and subsequent amendments. The most recent updates, commonly referred to as Euro 4 (3), came into force on 1 January 2005 (new vehicle types) and 1 January 2006 (new registrations) respectively.


The present proposal provides for a tightening of the rules on motor vehicle emissions, by adopting a regulation to replace the current directive. The reason for this choice of legal instrument is that the regulation and thus its objectives will be directly applicable in the Member States without having to be transposed into national law as would have been the case for a directive. The existing directives are repealed.


The Commission proposes a two-pronged legislative approach:


a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council, defining general principles, will be approved by means of the co-decision procedure (‘co-decision proposal’);


a regulation defining technical specifications will be adopted by the Commission with the assistance of the Committee on adaptation to technical progress (‘comitology proposal’).


In addition, an economic impact assessment of the proposed regulation has been published, including estimates of the costs of the measures to be taken to bring vehicles into conformity with the reduced emission levels planned.

3.   Content of the proposal


The draft regulation, referred to in Community jargon as ‘Euro 5’, applies to cars and light commercial vehicles fuelled by petrol, natural gas, LPG and diesel. It establishes limit values for emissions of pollutants originally considered by the Commission to be a priority, such as particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC).


More specifically, the proposal imposes the following restrictions on the tailpipe emissions of positive ignition (petrol and gaseous fuels) and diesel vehicles:

A 25 % reduction in NOx and HC is proposed for engines fuelled by petrol and gaseous fuels.

An 80 % reduction in particulate emissions is proposed for engines fuelled by diesel, requiring the installation of diesel particulate filters (DPF). A 20 % reduction in NOx emissions is also planned.

The Commission supplements its proposals on tailpipe emission limits with rules on the durability of emission testing systems, in-use compliance checks, on-board diagnostics (OBD), evaporative emissions, idling speed emissions, crankcase emissions, smoke opacity, and fuel consumption measurement.


Lastly, the Commission provides for measures relating to access to vehicle repair information for operators working outside the network of authorised dealers. It is proposed that this information should be more accessible via web sites, in a standardised format developed by an international technical committee (OASIS standard (4)).


The Commission proposes that the regulation should take effect:

as of 18 months and 36 months after publication in the EU Official Journal for new models and for all newly registered vehicles (class I passenger cars and light commercial vehicles) respectively,

as of 30 months and 48 months for new models and for all newly registered vehicles (class II and III light commercial vehicles) respectively,

this would mean the possible introduction of the proposed new standards for passenger vehicles as of the first half of 2008.

4.   General comments


The EESC welcomes the Commission's decision to opt for a regulation rather than a directive. As a result, as it is not necessary to transpose the regulation into national law, it will become immediately and simultaneously applicable in all the Member States.


The EESC endorses the new two-stream legislative procedure, while stressing the need for the two regulations — one the product of co-decision, the other of comitology — to be published in the Official Journal simultaneously. The industry needs both pieces of legislation in order to complete the engineering of technical devices to meet the new standards.


The EESC welcomes the plan to introduce tighter limits on diesel emissions.


The EESC recognises that technology to reduce the particulate (PM) emissions of vehicles with diesel engines is now available and that the proposed limit values will require its generalised use.


The Committee does, however, have considerable concerns regarding the proposed regulation's economic impact assessment:

first, in striking contrast to the working methods of the CAFE programme (5) (Clean Air for Europe), none of the results obtained by the models used for assessing the cost-benefit ratios of the measures to be taken in the various sectors causing air pollution have been made available in the way suggested by CARS 21 (6);

the economic impact assessment refers only to the additional costs generated by the entry into force of the new limits on car emissions and the corresponding reduction in pollutants emitted in tonnes/year. It does not therefore allow for any comparative assessment of the cost-benefit of measures that could be implemented in other sectors, using the CAFE models;

the figures for the ‘Euro 5’ scenario proposed by the Regulation, which were estimated by the group of independent experts (7) chosen by DG Enterprise for that purpose, have been cut by 33 % to take into account the economies of scale arising from the increased volume of production, without any explanation for the choice of percentage (8);

more specifically, the group of independent experts' estimates of the cost of measures to be taken on vehicles to bring them into line with the various emission-reducing scenarios already include a 30 % reduction in the price of precious metals. Precious metals are one of the key elements in post-processing systems for exhaust gases and their market value has a major influence on the cost of such systems. The above hypothesis is not justified by the fact that over the last five years the price of platinum has risen steadily.


The EESC also has concerns regarding the dates of implementation of the regulation:

the 18-month period following the entry into force of the new regulation is not sufficient, as it takes at least three years to bring into production a known technology that has not yet been applied to specific models,

the draft regulation should either confirm 1 January 2010 as the date of entry into force of the new requirements for the approval of new types of vehicle or impose a 36-month period from the date the regulation is published, subject to clarification of the limit values and testing protocols,

the industry has planned, in agreement with its suppliers, to introduce the Euro 5 standards by 2010/2011, as was clearly indicated in the Commission's communication on fiscal incentives in January 2005 (9). Changes to the various models and related production processes have already been planned, the deadline for introducing Euro 5 is already very tight and the timetable cannot therefore be made any tighter.


Lastly, in Article 5(4) the Commission sets specific requirements for type approval, without providing any further guidelines or instructions. The EESC is concerned that the absence of such instructions makes it impossible to assess the real impact of the proposal on vehicle engineering and the environment.

5.   Specific comments


In Annex 1, Table 1 of the draft regulation, Euro 5 limit values are given for HC and NOx emissions from positive ignition petrol-fuelled vehicles. There is a 25 % reduction, taking HCs to 75mg/km and NOx to 60mg/km. However, there is no justification for this reduction of the Euro 4 limit values in the results obtained by the Auto Oil II programme on air quality, and neither the CAFE analysis nor the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution document (10) envisages an NOx or HC level reduction scenario for these vehicles.


As far as the CAFE results are concerned, the EESC concludes that in terms of benefits to air quality there is no clear justification for the measures set out in the draft regulation as regards:

NOx limit values: the proposed reduction would place an additional obstacle in the way of cutting fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions from petrol-fuelled cars, which is the greatest challenge facing industry today. Meanwhile, the environmental benefits would be completely negligible given that, according to CAFE data, petrol-fuelled vehicles account for only 4 % of total NOx emissions from vehicle transport (11);

HC limit values: the new limit proposed would prove an insurmountable obstacle to vehicles that run on natural gas, which offer considerable environmental benefits. 90 % of these vehicles' HC emissions consist of methane, a gas that is well-known for being stable and non-pollutive and is also void of aromatic hydrocarbons; the CO2 emissions of these vehicles are 20-25 % lower than those of petrol fuelled vehicles. If the 25 % reduction in HC fuels introduced by the regulation were to be confirmed, it would no longer be possible to produce and market natural gas-run vehicles, which would have a negative impact on CO2 emissions. This would also run counter to the substitution objectives set by the Commission in its communication on alternative fuels (12).


The Commission proposal does away with the exemption enabling M1 passenger vehicles with a weight of over 2.5 tonnes (but under 3.5 tonnes) to be type approved in line with the limits for light commercial vehicles (N1).


The EESC believes that a distinction should be drawn between heavy vehicles designed to perform specific tasks and those often bought as a fashion statement and for mounting kerbstones in big cities. Examples of the former include:

vehicles designed to carry seven or more passengers: these vehicles perform a local transport function (e.g. minibuses, shuttles, campervans and vehicles designed for specific purposes, such as ambulances). The ability to seat a large number of passengers and the greater load-carrying capacity imply the design of a heavier, taller and wider vehicle with a specific gear box and thus slightly higher emissions;

off-road vehicles, with a maximum weight of over 2.5 tonnes: these vehicles are essential work tools for rural communities, as well as for the emergency services and public utility organisations, and have many other important functions, including military purposes. For this reason, their specific needs are taken into consideration by various legislative systems and they should continue to benefit from special treatment;

production volumes in these two market segments are extremely small and their emissions account for a negligible share of total motor-vehicle emissions. Their impact on air quality is therefore negligible providing the rules for light commercial vehicles are applied.


The EESC does not agree with the Commission that the conditions no longer apply to justify M1 category vehicles weighing over 2.5 tonnes being type approved within the limits intended for light commercial vehicles. The Committee does however accept the need to define more clearly which vehicles can benefit from the exemption.


The indiscriminate removal of the exemption for all heavy M1 vehicles would lead to a switch to petrol engines, with a corresponding increase in fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions.


The EESC agrees with the Commission that access to vehicle repair information and effective competition in the market for vehicle repair and information services are necessary to facilitate the free movement of vehicles in the internal market. This has been confirmed in Regulation 1400/2002/EC on the application of Article 81(3) of the Treaty to categories of vertical agreements and concerted practices in the motor vehicle sector as well as in Directives 98/69/EC and 2002/80/EC and elsewhere.


Nevertheless, the EESC would point out that it is necessary to provide unrestricted and standardised access to vehicle repair information, since, in practice, vehicle manufacturers tend to spread this information across different media and documentation structures. It causes considerable barriers to independent multi-brand aftermarket operators, especially small enterprises that predominate on the independent repair market in the EU. Therefore, the EESC supports the Commission proposal to include in the regulation a requirement that vehicle repair information also be available through websites in a standardised format.

6.   Comments and specific recommendations


The draft regulation makes a number of references to future Directive XXX/XX/EC. As this directive will modify the Framework Directive on type approval, it would be preferable to indicate clearly that the reference is to the ‘Framework Directive on type approval 70/156/EEC, as modified by Directive XXXX/XX/CE’.


The 13th recital introduces the requirements for a standardised method of measuring fuel consumption and for customers and users to have access to objective and precise information. However, these are already binding requirements under Directive 1999/94/EC and it is therefore quite unnecessary to mention them again.


The EESC would point out that the text of Article 2(1), Article 4(1) and Article 5 of the draft regulation is unclear. More specifically:


Article 2(1) lists the motor vehicles concerned by the regulation. Article 4(1) and Article 5 then appear to require that all vehicle models covered by the regulation (i.e. those listed in Article 2) comply with the following long list of requirements: tailpipe emissions; low ambient temperature emissions; evaporative emissions; on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems; durability and anti-pollution devices; emissions at idling speed; crankcase emissions; CO2 emissions and fuel consumption; smoke opacity.


The above would however involve an unjustified increase in the number of tests to be conducted at the type approval stage. For instance, measuring emissions at idling speed or evaporative emissions for a diesel vehicle is totally unnecessary. It would be less ambiguous and more appropriate to use the table proposed in Directive 70/220/EEC (13), Annex I, Figure 1.5.2.


The EESC would point out lastly that the scope of the regulation is not clear in the case of category M vehicles (passenger vehicles) with positive ignition engines, with the exception of those running on NG and LPG. Articles 4 and 5 of the regulation seem to extend the entire set of requirements to M2 and M3 category vehicles, whereas, in the past, M vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes (which are extremely rare in Europe) had only to comply with requirements on idling speed and crankcase emissions.


Article 4(3) underlines the manufacturer's obligation to provide the buyer with technical information on vehicle emissions and consumption. As this obligation is already laid down in Directive 1999/94/EC, as modified by Directive 2003/77/EC, this paragraph is redundant.


Article 10 deals with the type approval of non-original replacement components. It bans the sale and installation of replacement catalytic converters unless they are of a type that has been approved within the meaning of the regulation. It is not clear whether the Commission intends to limit the use of such converters to vehicles registered before 1992 (and thus to pre-OBD vehicles), ruling them out for more recent vehicles. Furthermore, the need for type approval should be extended to any other non-original components of emission control systems, such as particulate filters.


Article 11(2) authorises Member States to introduce financial incentives for the installation of retrofit systems (14) that bring the tailpipe emissions of in-use vehicles into line with the limits set by the regulation. The Commission does not however state which procedures should be used to demonstrate that these systems conform with requirements, nor does it state whether such procedures are already available.


Article 17 gives a list of Directives (15) that will be repealed 18 months after the date of entry into force of the regulation. This gives rise to the following comments:

if the Commission intended to include all the Directives that amend Directive 70/220/EEC on vehicle emissions and Directive 80/1268/EEC on fuel consumption, the list is incomplete (e.g. Directive 70/220/EEC has undergone 18 modifications, but only six of those are mentioned). A simpler approach might be to use the following wording: ‘Directive 70/220/EEC, as most recently modified by Directive 2003/76/EC, and Directive 80/1268/EEC, as most recently modified by Directive 2004/3/EC, are repealed with effect from …’.


The proposed repeal of the above-mentioned directives on vehicle emissions and fuel consumption 18 months after the entry into force of the regulation raises some serious problems.


This date would in fact coincide with the date for the entry into force of type approval standards, albeit only for new M1 vehicles introduced by the manufacturer. M1 models already type approved before that date may still be registered for a further 18 months, without a further type approval being required. Similar conditions apply for class II and III N1 vehicles: new models have a further 12 months to be type approved, whereas those that have already been type approved and have still to be registered are granted a further 30 months.


The problem lies in understanding how the certificate of conformity required at registration can be issued if it necessarily refers to a repealed directive.

Brussels, 13 September 2006.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Anne-Marie SIGMUND

(1)  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 500kg; N2< 12 000kg; N3>12 000kg. The N1 class is also subdivided into 3 subclasses: NI, NII and NIII, also on the basis of weight.

(2)  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 000kg; M2> 9 seats and < 5 000kg.

(3)  OJ L 350 of 28.12.1998, Directive 1998/69/EC.

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

(5)  CAFE — Clean Air for Europe. This programme was launched by Communication COM(2001)245. It is designed to develop an analytical strategy for assessing directives on air quality, the effectiveness of programmes running in the Member States, ongoing monitoring of air quality and the dissemination of information to the public, the revision and updating of emissions limits and the development of new monitoring and modelling systems.

(6)  CARS 21 — Competitive Automotive Regulatory System for the 21st Century. This is a group of experts made up of representatives of the Commission, the European Parliament, the Member States, industry, trade unions, NGOs and consumers. Its task is to make recommendations for improving the competitiveness of the European automobile industry, while giving consideration to the relevant socio-environmental aspects.

(7)  At the meeting of the Motor Vehicle Emissions Group (December 2005), DG Enterprise handed out the document produced by the group of independent experts, which set out the results of the analysis carried out on the technology/cost ratio for vehicles falling within Euro 5.

(8)  SEC(2005) 1745, Impact Assessment for the present draft regulation, §6.2. Scenarios of the Regulatory Approach, Table 1 — Scenario G, p. 13.

(9)  SEC(2005) 43, Commission Staff Working Paper, Fiscal incentives for motor vehicles in advance of Euro 5.

(10)  COM(2005) 446 final.

(11)  Information available on the IISA, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, website.

(12)  COM(2001) 547 final, whose objective for replacing traditional fuels with natural gas was set at 5 % by 2015 and 10 % by 2020.

(13)  This table identifies the tests to be carried out by vehicle type.

(14)  The term retrofit means the installation of a mechanism on a vehicle that is already in use in order to further restrict emissions.

(15)  Directive 70/220/EEC, Directive 80/1268/EEC, Directive 89/458/EEC, Directive 91/441/EEC, Directive 93/59/EEC, Directive 94/12/EC, Directive 96/69/EC and Directive 2004/3/EC.