EMPA, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (an interdisciplinary Swiss research institute for applied materials sciences and technology), has been stringently testing exhaust gases of currently available cars in Europe and says the results are alarming. Using a new test that includes measuring emissions in actual traffic, EMPA has shown natural gas powered vehicles (NGV) stand out as a clean alternative.
EMPA measures about a dozen vehicles a year on behalf of the Swiss government, which are supplied by randomly selected individuals for a small fee. The data is fed into the European HBEFA database (Handbook Emission Factors for Road Transport) and is used, amongst other things, by international research institutes and authorities as a basis for expert reports. Air pollution control experts from the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) draw upon this kind of data if they want to estimate road traffic emissions.
As of October 2017, new models will only be allowed to emit 170 milligrams per km. EMPA suggests there is a much work to be done to reach that level. One 2016 Euro 6 diesel model tested recorded a staggering 1,300 milligrams of nitric oxides per km from the exhaust. Testing of three other mid-range vehicles using the new RDE procedure also recorded high emissions, of between 600 and 1,400 milligrams per km.
These vehicles can continue to be sold until the fall of 2019; however, upcoming model series must pass the stricter ‘Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure’ (WLTP) and Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests to be approved. The EMPA article (available here) says there are alternatives available now that are much cleaner: with NOx emissions way below 10 milligrams per kilometer, the natural / biogas vehicle that was also included in the measurements fared around 60 to 140 times better than the diesel cars.
Gas vehicles are operating in Switzerland with a biomethane (renewable natural gas – RNG) share of at least 10 percent. According to the Association of the Swiss Gas Industry (VSG), they emit less nitrogen oxides than conventional vehicles and significantly less carbon dioxide and other pollutants harmful to the environment and health, such as particulate matter.
EMPA is a member f NGVA Europe.