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Prime Mover Magazine

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Phil Taylor

Something in the air – urban air emissions

May 2017

Last month I explained that a move to Euro VI and equivalents will enable new truck safety technologies to be brought to Australia, technologies that rely on the advanced electrical architectures of Euro VI trucks to operate. I also detailed that both fuel- and CO2-saving technologies being developed in Europe, Japan and the USA for their Euro VI-and-equivalent engines would be bound for Australia once we too adopt these global-standard emission regulations. All good stuff for the environment, safety and health of all Australians.

This month I would like to contrast the level of government action and regulation in the on-road vehicle engine space, both cars and trucks, against that for off-highway engines. Let me start with a couple of definitions. An on-road engine is an engine used in a car, SUV, light commercial vehicle or a truck that is registered for use on our public roads. Off-highway engines are used in non-registered vehicles, or they could be used in stationary engine applications such as a generator set. Examples of off-highway engines include earth moving and construction machinery, rail locos, coastal boats and ships, building and portable generator sets, planes – small through to large, airport ground vehicles, power garden equipment, racing cars, tractors and ride-on mowers, motor and quad bikes, etc. You will find many of these off-highway engines in vehicles and equipment that you see every day working and operating in and around urban areas. The Australian Government requires these engines to meet no exhaust emission standards at all. This despite most other western countries, including most of Europe, Japan and the USA, requiring at least Euro IV, or equivalent, standards for their off-highway engines. That’s right, in Australia we have no regulated requirement for off-highway engines to meet even the most elementary emission standard, while the cars and trucks on our roads must meet Euro V and, within a few years, Euro VI standards.

You might think that our government is unaware of these other emission sources, however not so. The draft Euro VI Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), developed jointly by the Federal Departments of Environment and Infrastructure, details that on-road motor vehicle emissions (cars and trucks) are the source of only 30 per cent of particulate emissions in urban environments, while 70 per cent of emissions in our towns and cities come from off-highway engine emissions as well as other domestic sources such as gas heating and cooking appliances and wood fire smoke, the latter includes home heating, bush fires and hazard reduction burns.

That begs the obvious question, why is road transport the only target for urban engine emission regulations? And why is our government not addressing the ‘elephant in the room’, the 70 per cent of emissions in the urban air shed generated by sources such as off-highway engine emissions?

TIC has pointed out this obvious double standard (or in fact lack of standards!) to the Government on a number of occasions. Most recently in our submission to the draft Euro VI RIS, where we again called upon the Government to show the leadership that we would expect of a prominent western country whose leaders are entrusted with ensuring the health and wellbeing of its nation’s citizens.

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