Current Fuels Might Damage Euro 6 Engines, Study Says

Biofuel 1 photo
Photo: pixabay/edited by autoevolution
As you may already know, starting next year, automakers will build Euro 6 compliant vehicles to sell throughout Europe, while the non-compliant vehicles on stock will be allowed to find an owner until the end of August 2015. Sounds good for the environment but this could turn out wrong according to some beliefs that current fuels are not suited for such efficiency levels.
A study conducted by the Technic University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and cited by Economica, tells a rather intriguing story about the new generation engines not being able to work properly using the fuels currently sold throughout Europe.

The new catalytic convertors’ ability to regenerate is said to be affected by using current fuels, especially during city use when the temperatures needed for such a process are not achieved.

What’s wrong

“Technical issues reveal a gap between the new engines’ specific needs for the burning process and the ability to achieve them using existing fuels, which results in the engines’ limited ability to provide the full thermal efficiency along their power bands,” science team chief Bodgan Varga explains in an interview.

All Euro 6 vehicles’ exhaust systems (including the convertor) should last at least 120,000 km (74,500 mi), but due to the fueling issue, they might clog up and need changing after 50,000 km (31,100 mi). Mind you, a replacement for such a system could cost between €2,000 - €8,000 ($2,500 - $10,100) depending on the model.

To prevent clogging up the filters, some Euro 6 vehicles are equipped with an automatic engine cut-off system, which basically won’t let you start the car up if high emission levels are achieved and that's something that could happen using the current fuels according to the study.

Even if a new vehicle won’t shut down to prevent further engine/exhaust wear due to low quality oil, it will surely “drink” more, offer lower performance than factory specs and emit more fumes.

What should be done

The scientists say that further studies should be conducted regarding a new composition for biofuels and additives that would be more compatible with the new engines generation.

Studies should include factors like the biofuels’ sourcing (soybean, grain, pulp, rapeseed), the process used to obtain biofuels, chemical additive classes that could cut down NOx and PM emissions by enhancing physicochemical properties and/or the burning process, as well as the amount of biofuel mix.

What are the officials’ reaction

Oil companies refused to comment on the situation, unofficially saying there are no rules to imply they should be making Euro 6 compliant fuels. The European Commission also denied answering questions regarding the engines’ functionality on current oils.

Their response may be based on the fact that Euro 6 regulations say that new cars have to get in line with the pollution limits during “normal use conditions”. Which basically means automakers should make sure the engines work properly using the fuels on sale, not vice-versa.

The Euro 6 regulations imply that vehicles under 2,610 kg (5,754 lb) have to emit a maximum of 60 mg/km of NOx using gasoline and 80 mg/km NOX for diesel, which is 50 percent less than what Euro 5 was requesting.

Combined emissions also need to go down 25% compared to previous regulations with a maximum of 170 mg/km being allowed. But more on that can be found in our Euro 6 explained article here.

Enjoy your diesel car while you can in Europe

The number of diesel-powered passenger cars in Europe is far bigger than in the US. Add all the heavy machinery in the industry and agriculture which use the same engines and you get a huge population of sooth-spitting machines there.

It’s true that modern diesel engines’ emissions are smaller than the gasoline counterparts, but it’s theirs which are the most health damaging. Reason why the EU is set to kill them slowly.

Add in the fact that Euro 6 and upcoming increasing standards are adding more costs to the already more-expensive-than-gasoline diesel engines and you can tell they don’t quite have a future anymore. Hybrid gasoline-electric powertrains will most probably replace them.

On the same note, you should also know that the European Commission plans to have 50% zero emissions vehicles out of the total on-road cars by 2030 and ban every internal-combustion-engined car from the cities by 2050.

What can you do

Should you save the money and buy a new Euro 6 car? Our take is to wait a while and see if what’s been said above is true and if further research will solve the alleged problem.

Still need a new car? Just wait a bit more until next summer because dealerships will have to get rid of the Euro 5 stock until the 31st of August, as mentioned above. And guess who’s going to benefit from massive discounts...

Oh, and don’t worry about your car being an Euro 5 in the era of Euro 6 if you’re not a fleet owner. For individual use, the only thing that changes a bit is tax. Large companies will feel the difference a lot more than you do as they have to cut the overall fleet emissions to meet the Euro 6 limit. Which can’t be done without buying a lot of new EU6 compliant vehicles.
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