EU type approval
There are clear legal rules not only for emissions, fuel consumption and the measurement methods to be used, but also for what is known as type testing of new vehicle models. Every new vehicle model must go through this process before it goes on the market. In Europe, the automobile manufacturer uses the current test cycle – still the NEDC today, and WLTP starting in September 2017 – to measure exhaust gases and consumption on a test vehicle. These data are checked by technical services monitored by the national approval agency – in Germany, the Federal Office for Motor Vehicles.
The type test is thus not only about the exhaust gas and consumption measurements, but, above all, the regulations on vehicle safety. In the entire process, therefore, the vehicle is checked to makes sure it complies with all applicable EU requirements. The national agency issues an approval only on the basis of this test, that is, the type approval, which is valid throughout the EU. Individual vehicles are then pulled from the assembly line during production and tested for compliance with the requirements. EU law also provides for tests on vehicles that are currently in use. Vehicles in the field must comply with the established limits for a period of 160,000 km or five years. If the type approval agency determines that a vehicle type no longer meets the requirements, the vehicle manufacturer must develop steps for correcting the defects. A recall action may be required.
A continuous check of the exhaust system also takes place in the vehicle itself. The engine electronics use an onboard diagnostic system (OBD) to continuously monitor functionality – regardless of kilometers traveled or age of the vehicle. If a defect occurs in the exhaust system, then this is detected by the sensor analysis and complex error-detection algorithms. The error is saved, and the vehicle instructs the driver to visit a service station. The OBD is therefore much more powerful than regular exhaust inspections, which are done only every two years and only allow no-load measurements.
The European Union is now planning an extensive reform of the EU type approval system, which is currently regulated in the EU framework directive for type approvals (2007/46/EC). The entire process will be reviewed and expanded. After the RDE emissions test is introduced, the results of mobile PEMS measurements will also be incorporated in the type test. In addition, the EU wants to further harmonize the execution of the type test across Europe and strengthen its monitoring of the market. Type approval agencies and technical services will meet stricter requirements and must be subjected to inspections or audits. At the European level, the EU Commission itself wants to establish market monitoring. At the same time, national approval agencies will gain the ability to call for retesting if there is suspicion of false test results from a manufacturer. The type approval for the entire vehicle, and for systems and components, will also be limited to five years. Finally, it is planned that software used in electronic systems be disclosed to the approval agencies and technical services. This is particularly intended to prevent manipulation. Because such software is extremely relevant to competition, however, strictly confidential handling of the data must be ensured. The use of individual approvals, stepwise production of commercial vehicles, and expiring series will be improved greatly. Up to now, national approvals were required, but in the future they will apply Europe-wide.
In addition to planned European reforms, there are also efforts to establish an international type approval system. Work is currently underway on a draft version, known as the International Whole Vehicle Type Approval, IWVTA, by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Experts from Europe, Japan, Russia and South Africa are involved. They are to develop a type approval system that is attractive to all 51 UNECE member states, if possible, in order to reach a large number of users. The UNECE type approval can later supplant the EU type approval. Over the long term, emerging countries such as China or India should also join in the use of the international type approval.