Automakers are worried that the next round of European Union emissions standards will increase compliance costs to the point where it is unprofitable to build cars that do not have a plug-in hybrid or full-electric drivetrain.
The standards, called Euro 7, will further reduce the maximum allowable emissions of air pollutants such as fine particulates, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. They are expected to go into effect no earlier than 2025.
The European Commission will propose legislation in the fourth quarter of next year, based on an impact assessment analysis to be completed in the first half.
In one example of proposed new limits, nitrogen oxides (NOx) would drop to 30 milligrams per kilometer, an amount that is below the margin of error in today’s portable emissions measuring systems.
Under the Euro 6d standards applicable starting in January, a vehicle has to emit no more than 80 mg/km both on the test bench and on the road, excluding the PEMS (portable emissions measuring systems) margin of error, currently estimated at as much as 34.4 mg/km.
EU experts are calling for sharply tightening the parameters of the Real Driving Emissions test, or RDE, which has thus far ignored statistically infrequent “edge case” situations such as extreme temperatures.
A senior engineer at Volkswagen said that if Euro 7 proposals from the EU’s Advisory Group on Vehicle Emission Standards go into effect, the automaker could no longer afford to sell a Polo small car for 15,000 euros.
“If they extend the boundary conditions of the test to include uphill driving while towing a trailer, then that will be the end of combustion engine cars -- not even a 48-volt mild hybrid could meet such low requirements in every situation,” said the engineer, who did not want to be quoted by name.
“We would have to get rid of manuals in order to be able to dictate the precise timing of the gear switch and accelerations would be far more gradual,” the person continued, “so, the car would behave like it was on sleeping tablets. Not only would costs soar, everything that is fun about driving would also disappear.”
The introduction of Euro 7 is seen as a key determinant behind the intersection of the cost curves for combustion engine and battery-electric vehicles. The regulation would incur compliance costs for new technology like cleaner exhaust gas after-treatment that would make it cheaper to build and sell zero-emissions vehicles once carbon footprints are also factored in, automakers say. Electric cars eliminate all tank-to-wheel emissions, both pollutants and CO2.
Automakers are already expected to meet a more stringent Euro 6d standard beginning next month that includes a de facto reduction in NOx emissions for diesel cars. The industry had unsuccessfully petitioned to have the introduction date delayed by six months.