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Jargon Busting: A Guide to the Latest

By / 9 months ago / Features / No Comments

From WLTP to CAFE, there are a wealth of automotive-related terms that fleets need to be aware of. By Alex Grant.

The Real Driving Emissions test measures the pollutants, such as NOx, emitted by cars while driven on the road.

CAFE

What does it mean?

Corporate Average Fuel Economy; an American term now adopted in Europe to describe progressively tighter CO2 targets for new cars and vans.

How does it work?

OEMs faced their CO2 targets in 2015; 130g/km for cars sold in the EU, and 175g/km for vans in 2017. Averages are tailored to each manufacturer, depending on the weight of the vehicles they sell. The next target is 95g/km for cars and 147g/km for vans, phased in during 2020 and applying to all registrations from 2021.

Non-compliance is costly; fines of €95 per gram over target, per car sold in Europe. But manufacturers can earn ‘Super Credits’ for vehicles under 50g/km CO2. These are counted twice when calculating average CO2 in 2020 and 1.67 times in 2021. Manufacturers with fewer than 300,000 car or 22,000 van registrations can apply for exemptions.

Why is it important?

A lot has changed since 2015; diesel demand is in freefall, SUVs’ popularity is rising, and the transition to WLTP is pushing CO2 upwards too. Analysis from Jato Dynamics showed the 11 manufacturers with registrations over 300,000 units averaged 119.7g/km in 2018; a 2.45g/km year-on-year rise.

Compliance could cause some models to be dropped, and an influx of sub-50g/km vehicles from 2020, but the biggest problem from CAFE targets is complications with the transition to WLTP, discussed later.

What’s next?

The UK will cease to be part of this legislation following a no-deal Brexit, but the Government has indicated it will at least match its closest neighbours’ standards. In the EU, this sets a 15% CO2 reduction for cars and vans by 2025, versus their own 2021 baseline, tightened to 37.5% for cars and 31% for vans in 2030. Consensus suggests this won’t be possible without widespread electrification.

NEDC

What does it mean?

The New European Drive Cycle, a laboratory test for new vehicle fuel (or electrical) economy, CO2 and pollutant emissions which was replaced on 1 September 2017.

How does it work?

Arguably it didn’t. Introduced in 1992, the NEDC featured urban and extra-urban cycles totalling 11km, producing the familiar combined economy figure. By 2017 it had become outmoded; independent testing by Emissions Analytics found a 40% gap between NEDC brochure figures and real-world economy.

Why is it important?

The NEDC has been superseded but lives on as the basis for CAFE targets until 2021. So new cars are tested under the WLTP cycle, but also have NEDC Correlated CO2 figures. These still underpin VED and Company Car Tax bands.

They’re also not strictly comparable. Manufacturers can perform physical NEDC testing or use a digital tool to convert WLTP figures to NEDC Correlated for CAFE targets. Most have done the latter, but this often results in higher CO2 figures, and a tax burden for fleets.

What’s next?

Clarity. The NEDC ceases to be customer-facing once WLTP-based vehicle tax comes into force in April 2020.

WLTP

What does it mean?

The Worldwide harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure. It’s the replacement for the NEDC, phased in since September 2017.

How does it work?

WLTP is aimed at producing more realistic fuel economy and CO2 figures than NEDC. It’s still laboratory based, but twice as long (23.5km), with higher speeds, more aggressive acceleration and individual results for every possible variant of a vehicle, recognising the effects of optional equipment. The deadline for re-testing was 1 September 2018 (excluding a limited volume of run-out models), with vans following a year later.

Why is it important?

Accurate fuel economy figures are useful, but the transition has disrupted supply and resulted in some vehicles becoming unavailable. Particularly hybrids, which cease to count for CAFE Super Credits if they go over 50g/km.

In the long term, WLTP is likely to result in fewer variants but could also affect powertrain strategies. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre predicts hybrids and downsized engines will see the biggest CO2 increases.

What’s next?

HM Treasury has announced a 2%-point Company Car Tax relief to accommodate WLTP CO2 increases, being introduced from 6 April 2020. However, operators are finding it hard to obtain WLTP CO2 figures, and early data suggests tax reforms won’t protect them from extra costs.

RDE

What does it mean?

Real Driving Emissions; on-road testing to ensure vehicles’ emission control systems are as effective in the real world as they are in the laboratory.

How does it work?

RDE puts pressure on manufacturers to not only comply with the limits under a controlled environment, but to avoid excessive emissions in real-world use. It’s an additional test, fitting vehicles with portable equipment that analyses exhaust output.

This is being introduced in phases, with a tightening ‘conformity factor’. RDE1-compliant vehicles can emit up to 2.1 times the Euro 6 laboratory limit on the road (168mg/km for diesels, 126mg/km for petrols). For RDE2, this tightens to 1.43 times the laboratory limit.

Why is it important?

RDE2 compliance is incentivised by a 4%-point Company Car Tax reduction and lower VED for diesels and, according to Emissions Analytics, it’s delivering cleaner diesel engines – sometimes 75% under the 120mg/km limit. However, the cost of compliance is likely to make diesel engines more expensive, less viable in small vehicles, and will make long-distance drivers familiar with AdBlue refills. It’s also requiring particulate filters on petrol engines for the first time.

What’s next?

All new car registrations must be RDE2-compliant by January 2021, and the conformity factors will be removed by 2023 – the likely launch date for RDE3.

Euro 6

What does it mean?

The sixth phase of the European emissions standards, and likely to be remembered as the most notorious by manufacturers.

How does it work?

With difficulty. The first phase of Euro 6 more than halved the NOx limit for diesel engines and, while pollutant limits haven’t changed, WLTP and RDE have effectively made them harder to comply with. Timetables are outlined below, with commercial vehicle deadlines 12 months later.

Why is it important?

Euro 6 is a benchmark for Clean Air Zones, but vehicles’ real-world performance varies. Knowing the different phases can help fleets to choose the cleanest vehicles.

What’s next?

Euro 7 is the next step change when it comes to vehicle emissions, but the benchmarks are unknown.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.