Low in ambition, late in timing
Illustration: Lars-Erik Håkansson
The NRMM proposal presented by the EU Commission shows a lack of ambition in both levels and timing.
After a few years’ delay, and more than 15 years after the last significant directive, the European Commission finally released its proposal for a revision of the Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) Directive on 25 September 2014. As the proposed text enters the co-decision process in the European Parliament and in the European Council, many improvements will be sought to ensure more ambitious and consistent legislation. The text is set to enter into force on 1 January 2018.
With other emission sources getting tighter emission limits over the years, the emissions share of Non-Road Mobile Machineries has increased and is projected to grow further in the coming years as long as there is a discrepancy between the emission limits for NRMM and those for other vehicles. The proposal from the Commission focuses on particulate matter, expressed as mass (PM) and numbers of particles (PN), with most other pollutant emission levels remaining unchanged from stage IIIa, IIIb and IV. Given the fact that technology is ready and already deployed for similar engines in other applications for road vehicles, carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), PM and PN levels could have been further tightened to reduce the gap between road and non-road applications (see figure). Only NOx emissions are at a similar level for NRMM and road trucks, even though questions must be raised regarding the representativeness of the test cycle for both NRMM and trucks under steady state conditions. NOx emissions are relatively easy to control over a limited range of operating points – much less so over the whole engine map, as witnessed by Euro 6 light-duty vehicles, which exceed the regulatory limits by more than seven times the Euro 6 limit in real-life conditions .
The EU Commission proposal is making slow progress at reducing air pollution from non-road machinery. The proposed text is a regulation, which, once adopted at the European level, won’t require national law transposition. It also increases the type of applications that are included in the legislation. All diesel engines are covered, including the bigger engines above 560 kW that were not covered in the previous legislation. Smaller spark-ignition engines are also covered in a bid to tackle all kinds of applications.
Finally, the Commission proposal starts tackling the particulate number issue, although not uniformly across all categories. Setting a limit at or below 1012 particulates/kWh requires the installation of a particulate filter according to industry sources. Having no PN limits for certain engine types raises substantial concerns that some engines will be exempted from fitting a particulate filter, potentially distorting the market towards more polluting options.
Indeed, big engines above 560 kW do not have a PN limit in the proposal. Also inexplicably, railcars have a PN limit, while locomotives do not. Smaller engines for ships below 300 kW are also exempted from PN limits for now, while bigger engines for inland water vessels (IWV) above 300kW do have to limit their particulate number emissions, in a bid to trigger a technology switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel for IWV, according to informal discussions with a representative from the European Commission.
Leaving these loopholes is likely to provide an incentive for manufacturers and customers to shift their product offerings and demand towards cheaper and more polluting options that also require less maintenance. This is unacceptable, and the reasons given (diesel locomotives to be phased out by 2030, small ships not used intensively and technology not ready for big engines greater than 560kW) are not really up to the challenge of ever-deteriorating air quality across Europe.
Natural gas engines are also favoured to some extent in the proposal, with specific HC limits that can in some circumstances multiply the emission limit by more than 30 times the regulatory limits. Technology neutrality should still prevail, and allowing for higher levels of pollutants and greenhouse gases will be counterproductive in the long run.
The dates for entry into force are also conservative, staggered over three years, from 2019 to 2021. Industry has argued for long development cycles for certain types of engines, especially in the water vessel sector, which will not need to comply with the new legislation before 2020 for engines between 300 and 1000kW, and 2021 for engines larger than 1000kW. With the NEC directive (if maintained) setting an emissions target for the year 2020, this new piece of legislation will not be helpful with such a slow phase-in.
To achieve quicker and more effective emission reductions, the existing engines that are already on the market should also be covered. Most NRMM engines have a long life, usually staying on the market for more than 20 years. Many parts of such long-lasting engines are nevertheless replaced on a regular basis, depending on the frequency and severity of usage by the machine owner. The legislation should provide a framework to have exhaust post-treatment devices fitted to engines during those maintenance operations. The
Commission is only mandated to deal with pre-market entrance, and has no power to enforce post-market introduction regulation. Some progress is also being made towards in-service conformity that will be further discussed and adopted through delegated acts. The forthcoming co-decision process in the Parliament and Council could nevertheless tackle retrofitting to achieve more effective policy-making. The Norwegian NOx fund for domestic ships proved that exhaust devices can be retrofitted and there is enough space on board ships to place additional devices in the exhaust stream, contrary to the arguments often raised by ship manufacturers and operators.
Forthcoming delegated acts will also aim to provide more transparent carbon dioxide emission values for the machines sold, with the engine manufacturer being asked to report carbon dioxide emissions upon request from the customer. Looking ahead, this could be a sound basis for joint greenhouse gas and pollutant legislation for the next revisions, ending the disconnect between pollutant and climate policies in other sectors that have, until recently, very often been set and evaluated by different bodies at different times, with separate calendars.
The NRMM proposal presented by the Commission is making slow progress towards significantly reducing the pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions of the machines covered under the umbrella of the legislation. Transport & Environment and its allies will work to make sure the co-decision process amends the Commission proposal to remove the potential market distortions from lacking or lax emission limits for some engine types. Establishing a more robust and consistent regulation will also make the market more stable and predictable, and should be a win-win for manufacturers’ competiveness, the environment and health protection.
Policy Officer, Transport & Environment
Figure: Figure: Emission levels comparison between NRMM EU Stage IV, V, US Tier 4 (for engine power range 130-560 kW), and the Euro VI Truck steady state standard
Note: Steady state tests for trucks and engine tests for NRMM engines are different. PN standard only introduced for EU Stage V and Euro VI.