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EU to mandate gas engine particulate filters

Diesel engines already use filter for tiniest of pollution particles

Published: December 27, 2016, 9:30 PM
Updated: January 2, 2017, 1:53 AM

Diesel particulate filter cutaway

The European Union (EU) is moving toward testing emissions in the real world, and is requiring gasoline engines on new models produced after September 2017 be equipped with new particulate filters, and spreading to all gasoline engines the following year.

The new filter will provide gasoline engines with the same level of emissions cleansing as those of diesel engines, which are already required to use the particulate filters that eliminate the smallest emissions particles.

Manufacturers had hoped to have the new regulation put off until 2019, stating they needed that lead-up to change exhaust components on direct-injected engines and maybe even some of the surrounding bodywork, which could turn out to be a costly initiative on existing models (though EU regulators say the cost is offset by the improvement in public health)

Although Volkswagen, which was at the centre of an emissions tests cheating scandal a year ago, is ahead of the curve on this one, announcing that its new models with direct injected turbocharged engines will have the particulate filters starting in June 2017.

The new package of regulations was approved 20-3 by the EU’s Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania voted against the regulations, and Slovakia abstained from the vote. Another regulation requires manufacturers to clearly state each vehicle’s real world emissions performance on the conformity certificate.

The decision is welcomed by environmentalist groups, which say laboratory testing doesn’t adequately reflect tailpipe emissions in the real world. And it would also throw a wrench into the defeat devices used by some manufacturers to pass laboratory tests before bypassing them in the real world to improve performance.

However, regulators warn the new on-road testing devices will not completely eliminate “defeat” software, just make them more difficult to employ. And, the regulations allow manufacturers to exceed emissions limits by a 50% margin of error, though that will be phased out by the mid 2020s. The reasoning is that the portable devices have a bigger error margin than the corresponding devices used in the lab.

The proposals will be voted on by the European Commission at the end of February and by the full parliament in April. It is expected to pass without much discussion or any changes.