18 May 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

A lesson in particulates

By Neil Pattemore

Our entire industry sector is based on suck, squeeze, bang and blow – no, not some sexual fetish, but the internal combustion engine cycle and hence the need to service and repair the vehicles they propel.

In modern engines (both petrol and diesel) efficiencies have been achieved by ever-increasing sophistication of the electronic control of the fuel system across the myriad of different temperatures, engine speeds and engine loads. However, in parallel, the legislator has continued to tighten the exhaust emission levels, which over time have evolved from reducing the easiest elements of the emissions to now focusing on reductions in the more harmful and difficult elements.

This has resulted in significant challenges for the vehicle manufacturers who have strived to maintain powerful and refined engines, whilst being sufficiently frugal and ‘clean’ to meet the emissions limits imposed by legislation. Much of this legislation has been driven by the political pressure to reduce various pollutants that were often in conflict. More recently, these included reductions in CO2 (hence the incentives to buy diesel vehicles), but which have now changed to focus on the opposing NOx and particulates levels – particularly a problem of diesel engine, but also an increasing issue for the new petrol engines that are small capacity, high power output engines that can also produce high levels of NOx and particulates. To overcome this challenge some ingenious solutions were developed – unfortunately these were sometimes considered a little devious (e.g. Volkswagen’s defeat device).

In the meantime, the aftermarket will have less vehicles coming into their workshops. This will be exacerbated by many new vehicles being ‘connected cars’, which will help the main dealer network retain these vehicles for longer – a double whammy.

Wouldn’t it be better to ensure that the vehicle manufacturers comply with the latest emission levels by rigorously implementing the ‘real driving emissions’ test that is part of the new type approval legislation that will test vehicles in everyday driving conditions? If a vehicle is not compliant, then there should be punitive sanctions. This concept should also be applied to existing vehicles, rather than implement unfair taxation on all diesels and ill-conceived incentives.

All vehicles that should have a DPF fitted should be tested to ensure that it is still fitted and working correctly. Any vehicles which are non-compliant should also have suitable penalties imposed on the vehicle owner. This would not only reduce the levels of pollution, but would incentivise the owner to keep the vehicle correctly serviced and maintained.