Analysis: New rules could make ICE engines unviable by 2026

European Union proposals for new Euro 7 emissions legislation could kill off internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by 2026 – four years before sales of new ones will be banned in the UK – according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

The first concrete proposals for the Euro 7 laws, which are due to come into force in 2025, were made in October last year by the European Commission’s Consortium for Ultra Low Vehicle Emissions (Clove) of engineering consultants.

“The ACEA believes that the emission limit scenarios presented by Clove, coupled with the suggested new testing conditions, would in practice result in a situation very similar to a ban of vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine, including hybrid electric vehicles,” the trade body said in December.

Even with modifications, Clove’s stringent proposals for Euro 7 have the potential to make many smaller, affordable ICE cars economically unviable for continued production.

They could also put high-performance cars under serious threat, because of the need for engines to emit as little pollution as possible, even under hard acceleration.

As a result, all strenuous driving scenarios, including towing a caravan, could be difficult with a Euro 7 car.

According to Clove’s published proposals, future ICE vehicles could be fitted with a multi-stage ‘supercatalyst’. For petrol engines, this would comprise a heated electric catalyst, a pair of 1.0-litre conventional three-way catalysts, a 2.0-litre particulate filter and an ammonia slip catalyst.

Clove claimed this huge technical leap represents “moving towards zero-impact after-treatment”. However, the ACEA argues that the installation of such a large and expensive device would be close to impossible in a small car and very difficult to integrate into many existing vehicle architectures, while driving up showroom prices.

Another significant and costly proposal is for Euro 7 cars to be fitted with a sophisticated on-board diagnostics system that would monitor the engine to ensure that it remains emissions-compliant for 150,000 miles.

Some car industry insiders believe the proposals also have an underlying aim in pushing more EU motorists into electric cars by making ICE cars either much more expensive or unable to meet the pollution requirements, as well as driving the heavy goods vehicle market towards electric propulsion.

Clove’s paper suggests two possible new emission scenarios, the more extreme of which is below even the real-world emissions of the latest Euro 6d and RDE (Real Driving Emissions) compliant engines. And according to Clove’s own calculations, today’s Euro 6d vehicles are well under the current RDE pollution limits in normal driving conditions.

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“To drive the technology requirements to this point will severely limit the possibilities for CO2 and fuel consumption reduction and have significant uncertainties on durability and operating costs over the vehicle lifetime.”

The European Commission has already received feedback and criticism on the Clove proposals from a wide range of bodies, including the City of Amsterdam, the European Caravan Federation, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment and components giant Bosch.

Much of the feedback suggests that far tighter particulate rules are a moot point because, already with the Euro 6d engine rules, the majority of particle emissions come from brakes and tyres.