Extending the scope of the NRMM directive
In order to effectively reduce NRMM emissions, the Commission considered regulating several engine types not previously covered by the Directive.
For example, existing limits on compression engines (CI) with power between 19 kW and 560 kW could be extended to CI of both lower and larger power levels. Stationary engines—generators for example—as well as snowmobile engines could also come under the scope of EU law.
In some cases, the Commission believed it would be suitable to align EU emission limits with stricter US standards. Since several manufacturers already export to the US, it said compliance costs would be minimal.
Several industry groups pointed out that some of these options would be premature however. Because of the slow rate of replacement, old machinery largely outnumbers the new, cleaner fleet and is the main contributor to emissions. Extending or tightening limits would not solve that problem since they would only apply to new machinery.
Retrofitting old machinery so that it complies with new limits also met industry rejection.
In addition, R&D spending on emissions compliance could siphon funds away from industry efforts to improve fuel consumption of NRMM, some manufacturers warned.
Extending the law to emergency stationary engines—which only run a limited number of hours per year—was also controversial. Generators used for cooling nuclear reactor cores in case of an emergency should be exempt, argued Europe’s electricity industry association Eurelectric.
The group highlighted the risk of legislative duplication on grounds that stationary engines are already covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive.
A draft proposal seen by EURACTIV in the spring of 2014 eliminated some initial options. This was later confirmed in the Commission’s proposal. For example, large engines (above 560 kW) used in land NRMM would not have to meet any particulate number (PN—see below) standards.
Green campaigners underscored that such an omission could result in market distortions since slightly larger unregulated NRMM may be more attractive pricewise than the regulated, smaller ones.
Introduction of more stringent compliance stages
Over the years, the NRMM Directive and its subsequent amendments introduced increasingly stringent emission standards. Emission limits were lifted in stages—up to stages III and IV, depending on type.
Tightening limits further to stages IV or V, possibly in line with available US standards, was an additional option that was put on the table.
In 2011, both Council and Parliament had recommended that such an option be considered. Alignment with Euro VI on-road vehicle standards and the introduction of PN count (see below) in particular were to be explored under the review.
While industry supported in principle a US-aligned stage V, many groups, including transport refrigeration unit manufacturers, voiced their concern about costs and technological feasibility. Environmental NGOs mostly leaned in favour of Euro VI standards.
Eventually, the Commission proposed the introduction of a stage V for all NRMM types, with emission limits reflecting US controls.
Particulate mass or particulate number?
In its consultation pages, the Commission acknowledged that in light of the substantial health risks of diesel particle emissions, it would be necessary to replace existing particle measurement techniques based on mass, which “no longer appear to be appropriate”.
“New measurement protocols will be required to assess these ultrafine particles emissions by number counting, like those already in place for light-duty or heavy-duty vehicles.”
Until now, the European Union’s agreed policy, laid down in the 2008 Air Quality Directive, was to regulate emissions of ultrafine particulate matter (PM) known as PM10 and even smaller toxic exhaust from smelting, vehicle exhaust, power plants and refuse burning forming fine particles, called PM2.5.
By contrast to the PM approach, the new NRMM regulation proposes to regulate particle number (PN) limits – or the number of PM present, regardless of their size – which will be introduced as part of stage V for most land, rail and water machinery.
In its proposal, the Commission exempted several NRMM categories from PN limits. These include the engines of the largest land machines, those of the smallest inland water vessels, as well as engines installed in locomotives.
Environmental NGOs see these exemptions as loopholes and recommend that Euro VI standards for road vehicles be used as a model. These standards include PN limits and should be applied to all NRMM types.
Emission limits for new or old NRMM?
During consultation, some industry interests questioned the relevance of setting new limits in order to efficiently reduce air pollution. Within that context, a debate emerged on whether emission controls should be applied to new and/or old machinery.
“It is estimated that around 10 million tractors are currently used in EU27 … With annual sales in EU27 of around 200,000 units, it will take more than 15 years to achieve a significant overall reduction, if used to replace the most active machines (responsible for 70% of the total PM production). … (The) older machines will more and more become the primary source of PM in the agricultural machinery park. This begs the question where future action needs to focus on: on setting even more stringent emission limits for new machinery, or on new measures for existing machines,” asked CEMA.
Meanwhile, the European Barge Union stressed that the renewal or retrofitting of engines in its legacy fleet was “only acceptable on a voluntary basis. A mandatory renewal of this (small inland water vessels) fleet would lead to a distortion of competition with regard to non-EU fleet and most of all with regard to other modes of transport where emission standards are only applicable for new engines."
Real world or “in-service” testing methodology was also up for discussion because conventional testing of vehicles under “lab conditions” has delivered higher—misleading—figures on these vehicles’ environmental performance than what is observed in practice.
The Commission believed that the revision should “at least include the basic parameters of a process leading to the introduction of in-service conformity requirements”.
Industry argued that there is insufficient information at this time to formulate new testing methods, while green campaigners were disappointed by the Commission’s lack of concrete proposals on this matter.
In the end, the proposed regulation stipulates that pilot programmes about in-service testing methods will be launched and that the Commission will have to report on results by the end of 2025, an excessively long timeline, according to NGOs.
Lead-in times and transitional derogations
Industry requested maximum regulatory flexibility to facilitate transition to the new requirements.
Options proposed during consultation, some of which were already present in the old Directive, included the granting of temporary derogations—for example to avoid the risk of unsold stocks of old machinery—and of ample lead-in times before new limits come into force.
But the proposal eliminated most temporary derogations and lead-in times for compliance and placing on the market is now seen by industry as exceedingly short.
Meanwhile, environmental groups stressed that compliance lead-in times still stretching to 2021 for select NRMM are too long and therefore detrimental to air quality.
Regulation to replace the current Directive
The Commission asked stakeholders whether they would prefer to keep NRMM law as a directive or to turn it into a regulation.
According to the consultation pages, industry and green campaigners agreed that a regulation would be the best instrument to manage NRMM emissions since this would avoid the risk of lengthy and sometimes inadequate transposition into national laws.
The Commission heeded their comments since it eventually proposed a regulation.
Contrary to directives, which have to be transposed in national law – and therefore are often subject to different interpretation or gold-plating –, regulations are directly enforceable.