Tougher emissions standards for motorcycles

European motorcycles should come with advanced anti-lock braking systems, cleaner engines and daytime headlights in order to reduce road deaths and pollution, according to new emissions and safety requirements for motorcycles and all other L-category vehicles proposed on 4 October by the European Commission.

The L-category covers a wide range of vehicles such as two- or three-wheel powered cycles, mopeds, motorcycles, tricycles, on-road quads and mini-cars. The largest L-category comprises powered two-wheelers (PTW), with about 30 million vehicles currently in use in the EU.

Regarding air pollutants, the Commission concludes that the introduction of stricter emission standards for passenger cars and heavy duty vehicles means that the contribution of L-category vehicles will become increasingly important over the next decade. In the case of hydrocarbons, L-category vehicles' contribution to total road transport emissions is estimated at 38 per cent today, but is projected to rise to 62 per cent by 2020 if no action is taken. Mopeds alone are expected to account for 38 per cent of total road transport hydrocarbon emissions in 2020.

For carbon monoxide (CO), this share is 20 per cent today and is anticipated to rise to 38 per cent by 2020. The L-category vehicle fleet is also a high contributor to volatile particle (PM) emissions in urban areas, leading to smog and adverse effects on people's health.

As L-category vehicles are responsible for only three per cent of total road transport mileage, it is clear that their pollutant emissions are disproportionately high.

To improve air quality, the Commission therefore proposes three new emissions steps – Euro 3, 4 and 5 – for all L-category vehicles, plus a Euro 6 step for motorcycles (which are already at Euro 3). Compliance with these three new steps will be required in 2014, 2017 and 2020 respectively. This three-step staged approach will, according to the Commission, provide sufficient lead-time to vehicle manufacturers to introduce the necessary pollutant abatement technology.

Introduction of durability requirements, together with on-board diagnostics (OBD) requirements, will help to maintain low emission levels over vehicle life.

The Commission does not currently foresee a limit to emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). Instead, mandatory reporting of the actual CO2 emission measurements and fuel consumption determination carried out in the global test cycle by the manufacturer at type-approval will, according to the Commission, pave the way for an energy efficiency labelling system, which might be introduced at a later stage. Such a system will then assist the consumer in comparing vehicles while making a purchase decision based on additional important aspects like energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

Suggestions to cap the power of motorcycles were not taken up by the Commission, saying there was insufficient evidence that high powered motorbikes were more dangerous. For that reason and in order to remove internal barriers to trade, the option for member states to mandate a maximum power for motorcycles of 74 kW will no longer be available.

According to Article 21 of the draft directive, by 1 January 2016 at the latest, the Commission shall carry out a comprehensive environmental effect study. The study shall evaluate air quality and the share of pollutants contributed by L-category vehicles. It shall also collate and evaluate the latest scientific data, modelling and cost efficiency information with a view to establishing definitive policy measures by confirmation of the Euro 5 (Euro 6 for motorcycles) environmental requirements and enforcement dates laid down in the annexes.

The Commission proposes to simplify the current legislative set of 15 directives by replacing them with five regulations. This first draft regulation, spelling out the scope of the new legislation, categories of vehicles concerned and emission limit values, will be followed over the next two years by another four regulations laying down rules on test procedures.

In line with the EU's co-decision procedure, the proposal now goes to the European Parliament and the Council, and is expected to come into force on 1 January 2013.

Christer Ågren

For more information, see here.

Category and year     Euro level Carbon monoxide (CO) Total hydro-carbons (THC) Nitrogen oxides (NOx) Particulate matter (PM) Non-methane hydro-carbon (NMHC)
Motorcycle 2014 Euro 4 1970 250 170 - -
Motorcycle 2017   Euro 5 1140 170 90 - -
Motorcycle 2020 Euro 6 1000 100 60 4.51 68
Moped 2014  Euro 3 1000  12002 - -
Moped 2017 Euro 4 1000 630  170 - -
Moped 2020  Euro 5 1000 100 60 4.51 68

Table: Emission standards (milligrams per kilometre) for motorcycles with a design vehicle speed of more than 130 km/h. (1) Applicable only to gasoline direct injection engines. (2) Sum mass of total hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (THC + NOx).

In this issue