There has been increasing concern recently about the number of premature deaths that are caused by emissions from vehicles and the resultant air pollution. This has led to a focus on emissions testing and, in particular, the need to ensure that when fuels are tested, the test regime reflects the real life use of a vehicle.
The EU has been trying to reduce pollution levels across Europe, initially by focusing on nitrogen oxide (NOX) produced by diesel cars. The limits for emissions from these vehicles have been reduced from 500 mg / km to 80 mg / km.
Lab tests alone don’t give the true picture
Until 2017, air pollution from a car’s fuel use was measured by laboratory tests. However, various high-profile controversies have shown that these tests do not reflect the amount of pollution being produced in real life driving situations. Therefore in Europe, the tests have been made more robust. The changes have been twofold. Firstly, we now have testing in real life driving situations. Secondly, although we still have lab tests, these have been improved and made more stringent.
For example, the NOX test has been joined by a test for ultrafine particles. And in the real driving emissions (RDE) test, a portable measuring system is carried on the car whilst the vehicle is driven on actual roads. This test much more accurately reflects fuel emissions and pollution during typical driving activities such as accelerating, braking, carrying different types of load and driving the car in different air temperatures.
More rigorous CO2 emissions testing
There is also a much more rigorous and realistic test now for CO2 emissions. It’s called the world harmonised light vehicle test procedure (WLTP). This measures both the amount of CO2 put out and the amount of fuel used. The test can be used on both cars and vans and was developed jointly by the United Nations and the EU. All new cars are subject to this test from September 2018.
Encouraging more efficient and low carbon fuels
The intention is that these new tests will boost the development of more efficient fuels and low carbon technologies. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are very closely related and from 2021, new cars in the EU will have to have a fuel consumption monitoring device. This will allow comparisons between the lab tests for CO2 emissions and the actual results as recorded during real driving experience.
Part of the work in reducing air pollution is to use fuel blending to develop new types of fuel that have low emission properties. A good fuel company should collaborate with the vehicle manufacturers, engine designers and fuel specialists to work on this. Reference fuel manufacturers should also investigate more about CO2 emissions from fuels and put forward innovative fuel designs to change the picture.
Motorsport racing and the aviation industry have also shown interest in reducing the pollution associated with their activities. So there’s an increasing focus on fuel blending to deliver smarter, cleaner fuels.