Global harmonization of emissions procedures and protocols

Opinion

17

March 2016

Daniel Nicholson
FISITA President


While I was in London for the FISITA World Automotive Summit last year, I held a number of discussions with journalists regarding my technical perspective on the emissions debate. I was pleased to be able to do so as I am convinced, now more than ever, that there is a real and compelling need for global harmonization of emissions procedures and protocols, particularly between the U.S and Europe.

I’m quoted as saying that I’m not sure any of the European regulators are happy with the status quo. I believe this statement now to be true of regulators around the world and is being upheld more visibly and vocally by pretty much our entire our industry.

Consider this thought process for yourself; differences between upcoming European Union tailpipe emissions standards and those set by the EPA may be small in terms of actual emissions. However engineering the same cars to pass them both is costing literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year across the industry.

Obviously, we want all our engineering resources to always focus on continually improving air quality and reducing CO2, but with different sets of rules, we have to dedicate engineering resources for nuanced regulatory differences rather than working on the root problem.

I understand that agreeing to harmonized procedures and protocols is and will be difficult, but surely the collective benefits would outweigh the difficulties; there is more overlap in the areas of interest than people think.

One argument often cited in this debate is the split in the U.S between the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, which sets its own air quality standards. However the two agencies are now showing “unprecedented cooperation” and I remain hopeful that they will agree to some form of emissions harmonization in the same way that a safety framework around autonomous driving has been agreed upon globally.

The timing is also critical as China establishes its own China 6 emissions standards. My concern being that if we miss our opportunities now, they might not come again for a long time.

To summarize, complying with auto emissions regulators is a tricky job, and the differing procedures and protocols in various countries only make that challenge more difficult. If we can find a route to unify emissions procedures and protocols between the US, Europe, China, Japan and the other key geographic areas we will directly reduce air pollution and lower development costs.

The idea to coordinate emissions procedures and protocols internationally isn't new, but getting governments to cooperate poses challenges but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a serious and coordinated attempt to do so. I look forward to any thoughts you might have on this important topic.