As reported in Transport Engineer March and May this year, it is now clear that the primary focus of the European Commission’s next heavy-duty vehicle (HDV) emissions strategy – Euro 7 – will be CO2 reduction. Legislating to make that happen, though, presents challenges, in terms of measurement and standardisation. So it is perhaps no surprise that for the last two years the EU’s Directorate General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) has been leading a project to develop VECTO (Vehicle energy consumption calculation tool), designed to certify real-world HDV CO2 emissions and offer operators a guide to their fuel performance.
Put the two together and we will have yet more emissions regulations and the means to assess compliance. However, operators are likely to have to pick up the tab.
Why the fuss? The EU says HDVs account for 6% of total EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 25% of all road transport emissions, with freight trucks being the main source. The EU wants a 20% reduction in transport related GHG emissions by 2030. So something has to give.
Looking first at VECTO, ACEA – the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association – has been providing the major input into developing what is turning out to be a complex computer simulation. Complex because measuring and certifying CO2 emissions from HDVs is not the same as that for cars. It’s not simple for vans either, but that’s another story.
At the recent IAA commercial vehicle show in Hanover, Volvo chief executive and ACEA president Martin Lundstedt set out the industry’s concerns. “We must keep the EU focused on the fact that trucks are not big cars… They have different missions, and come in thousands of different sizes and shapes. Add to this the need to change combinations on a regular basis and it is clear that the prime mover engine is only part of the story.”
To this end, in addition to driveline influences, the VECTO simulation is now taking into account truck and trailer combinations, as well as applications and payloads. And it’s looking good, said Lundstedt. “Based on our global experience, we can say that the EU’s VECTO is the most advanced, reliable approach – and the closest to real-world customer experience. That’s why we believe EU policy-makers should continue on this track.”
Given that such a focus in favour of CO2 is equivalent to cutting fuel consumption, operators stand to win with reduced operating costs. It’s also the case that certified parameters under VECTO will deliver a level playing field for cross-manufacturer comparisons. That’s another potential game changer.
As ever, however, the devil will be in the detail. In order to score well in terms of energy (directly equivalent to CO2 emissions) certification, truck OEMs will need to re-optimise their vehicles, addressing all aspects that influence GHG emissions. These include: engine performance, including friction losses, but also driveline efficiency, rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag.
And there’s more. Returning to Euro 7, there will almost certainly also be a requirement to further bear down on NOx and particulate (PM/N) emissions below Euro 6. That’s another tough one, but the US is leading the way so it will happen over here.
But, as with all previous emissions standards that have addressed NOx and PM/N, there has been a significant R&D cost. And that has largely been passed on to vehicle operators. It is likely this will be the case again – and well before Euro 7 – as the OEMs start vying with one other to certify their most fuel-efficient prime movers and combinations under VECTO.
Of course, transparent and reliable fuel consumption information that translates into real world financial savings for operators means potentially happy conversations with the accountant. Upfront purchased costs may be recovered – which has not automatically been the case with Euro 3—6. But potentially there is far more serious impact of what has been called the Euro 7 emissions standards: operator compliance.
A car or van currently carries a type approved duty cycle CO2 rating. But that only translates on the road if the driver does his bit. With an HDV, the driver’s and operator’s influences are far greater. This has not escaped ACEA’s attention and it has commissioned European transportation specialist ERTICO ITS to conduct a study into the scope of intelligent transport systems for reducing CO2 emissions while also increasing safety of heavy commercial vehicles.
This, too, is important. If the EU wants the work it has done with VECTO and eventual vehicle certification to translate into real-world CO2 reductions from road freight transport – so it meets its target of 20% GHG reduction by 2030 – it will need measures in place to compel HDV drivers and operators to do their bit.
The executive summary of the ERTICO report lists eco-driving, eco-routing, truck platooning, lane departure warning, and in-vehicle hazard warning as systems that either reduce CO2 emissions or improve road safety. It also lists a series of infrastructure and back office-based applications that can have an impact. And for truck and bus operators, delivery space booking, intelligent truck parking, driver behaviour monitoring and CO2 footprint monitoring are also all featured. All represent means of reducing fuel consumption.
Most of these are currently available. However, they’re largely optional, taken up by larger operators and the very responsible. So it is probable that the EU will need to further legislate to ensure HDV operators are doing all they can by adopting such systems. The upfront cost associated with this would be significant.
When it comes to society at large, bringing the most fuel efficient commercial vehicles to market, and managing and operating them in the most fuel-efficient way, cannot be criticised. It helps the environment and ultimately makes road transport cost effective and safer. But, given the tight margins operators have to endure, the financial impact of VECTO, Euro 7 and the ERTICO outputs looks likely to be a serious problem.
The VECTO timeline
In order to create the parameters to issue HDV CO2 certification, VECTO must pass a series of mileposts. While the EU is looking for certification to start from 2018, MAN’s executive responsible for foresight and environment Ben Kraaijenhagen has a more pragmatic view. Representing MAN on the VECTO project, he believes the basic architecture of the computer simulation tool is now in place.
“The tool is there and encompasses seven classes of trucks and four classes of buses,” he explains. “But, given the multitude of applications and whole vehicle combinations, the next step is to build the simulation models to predict fuel consumption around all possible scenarios. This should be complete by 2018. By the end of 2019 real-world field monitoring will be complete. By 2020 the full picture will be assembled. Once all the data is there the EU will be in a position to formalise the parameters so certification can commence.”
Kraaijenhagen says that, so far, VECTO only has a simulation ready for a 40-tonne box trailer combination on a variety of operating cycles. So there is a long way to go.