From 3 January 2012 all diesel-powered buses and coaches venturing into the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will have to comply with the Euro 4 exhaust emission limits so far as particulates are concerned. Any vehicles that do not will attract a substantial daily penalty charge.
Nor are diesel minibuses exempt from this fresh tightening of the LEZ regulations, although the obligation placed on them is less onerous. They will only have to meet the Euro 3 particulate limit; but if they fail they too will attract a daily financial penalty.
There are two ways of meeting these new requirements; either buy something that already matches them, or upgrade your existing vehicle to the required standard with a suitable retrofitted emission control system. Not surprisingly Eminox, a well-known specialist in retrofit exhaust emission technology, is hoping that operators affected by the new rules will choose the latter course.
In early December it opened its new London service centre, six miles from Heathrow Airport and just outside the LEZ. One of three centres the company operates in the UK, and said to be the largest of its kind, it can install either its Continuously Regenerating Trap (CRT) or its Fuel Borne Catalyst system, which is more suitable for lighter vehicles.
Both can help operators meet the 2012 rules says Eminox.
With five fitting bays and the capacity to fit from 16 to 48 systems daily, the London centre can accommodate all types of vehicle, including double-deckers. Capable of servicing emission system filters and undertaking specialist fabrication work, it carries a stock of parts for same- or next-day delivery.
“The new centre allows us to increase our fitting capacity to meet the expected demand for retrofits in the run-up to the next phases of the LEZ,” says Eminox marketing director, Mike Galey. “It also expands the local aftersales support we can offer.”
Eminox is on Transport for London’s list of approved LEZ emission abatement equipment suppliers – visit www.tfl.gov.uk for further details – and operators should only have approved equipment installed. Other companies with the necessary approvals include Astra Vehicle Technologies, Baumot, Cawdell Group, Clean Diesel Technologies, Dinex, which has recently launched a new range of replacement exhaust parts for Euro 4 and Euro 5 vehicles, Pirelli Ambiente and HJS Emission Technology.
Represented by Bracknell-based EEL – Emission Engineering Ltd – and with a presence at last year’s Euro Bus Expo – the last-named business is a newcomer to the UK. Based in Menden, Germany, it has been involved in exhaust gas after-treatment for over 30 years.
Operators who know that they will have to comply with the new rules need to start planning the action they are going to take now says Baumot, which works in partnership with Butlerbus Technik in Britain, if they haven’t done so already. In some cases this will involve disposing of buses and coaches that don’t meet the standard and acquiring some that do, in others it will involve reorganising the fleet in such a way that only compliant vehicles will be sent into the LEZ, but in many cases it will involve retrofitting equipment.
If the decision is to retrofit a system then arrangements should be put in place very soon Baumot advises in order to avoid the bottle-necks that are likely to build up towards the end of 2011 as operators rush to get equipment installed. Remember however that a retrofit unit is likely to cost from £3,000 to £5,000 plus labour and fitting can involve taking a vehicle off the road for a day.
Bigger operators may find that it is worth their while to have some of their technicians trained and certified so that the work can be carried out in their own garages at a convenient time.
Emission abatement technology development is not standing still.
One of the biggest challenges emission equipment manufacturers have faced is what to do when the exhaust’s temperature is too low to cause the system’s filter to regenerate; a particular problem with city buses. “Every particulate filter needs a specific temperature to work really well and not every vehicle can achieve this in its normal operating mode,” says Oliver Gravemann, Dinex’s sales manager in Germany.
Last year saw Dinex unveil its AR System, which uses a fuel burner to ensure that the particulate filter is kept at an adequate temperature. Full active regeneration takes place when back-pressure exceeds a pre-defined threshold, with passive regeneration partially occurring between active phases.
“Our solution effectively filters out carbon particles on vehicles that have had problems up until now,” says Gravemann.
Not to be outdone, Eminox showcased its Active Regeneration Trap (ART) – it too employs a burner – at the 2010 IAA commercial vehicle show in Hanover, Germany, while Baumot has been busy promoting a system with a burner too. Like the AR System, both are aimed at low-exhaust-temperature applications.
Baumot calculates that its burner will only consume around 0.4 litres of diesel for every eight hours the vehicle is in operation.
Baumot has also launched a regeneration furnace for cleaning particulate filters.
The main module is constructed out of brick masonry and glazed stainless steel, with heating elements inserted in the sidewall horizontally. Suitable for all makes of particulate trap, it burns out the filter thoroughly in around six hours says the firm.
It can be used in conjunction with Baumot’s BA 5000, which deals with the ash residue. You put the filter in, the ash is blown out with compressed air, and a suction system removes it for disposal.
The design is based on the requirements of a Baumot filter but BA 5000 will accept almost all filters made by other manufacturers.
Cities worldwide are trying to reduce emissions from buses and coaches. Santiago, the capital of Chile, is a prime example.
In response, Chilean fleet operator SUBUS has had 674 of the Euro 3 Volvo B7 and B9 buses it runs equipped with Eminox CRTs under a joint initiative by Eminox and Volvo. The CRTs have upgraded the buses to Enhanced Environmentally-friendly Vehicle (EEV) standard for particulate matter and they were installed complete with electronic service indicators.
Monitoring back-pressure, they indicate when filter servicing is necessary.
Even if they never go anywhere near London, UK operators on continental tour work could be affected increasingly by local emission restrictions in other European cities points out Baumot. One way of ensuring that you are not caught out, says the company, is to check that whatever you retrofit meets the requirements of VERT (www.vert-dpf.eu), a European organisation that certifies the performance of filtration equipment.
Being caught out by a continental LEZ is looking increasingly likely given the extent to which they are proliferating. At the last count there were more than 160 scattered across 11 European countries, including those in place in London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Milan as well as smaller places such as Como in Italy and Muhlacker in Germany.
For further details it’s worth looking at the www.lowemissionzones.eu website which is partially funded by the European Union as part of its urban mobility action plan.
LEZs are not confined to built-up areas however. The A12 motorway in the Austrian Tyrol for example is an LEZ in its own right.
How long before the idea of designating motorways as LEZs catches on elsewhere in Europe?