European Construction Equipment Industry Reaffirms Commitment to Reducing Emissions

Dr. Wolfgang Burget of the Committee of European Construction Equipment reaffirms the construction equipment industry's desire to reduce emissions, but notes it must be done in a feasible manner.

For the last 10 years, the European construction equipment industry has a proven track record of increased product, process and energy efficiency, consequent reduction in fuel consumption and engine emissions. “Apparently not enough, if we are to believe the lobbies in the EU and its member states,” stated Dr Wolfgang Burget, Chairman of the High-Level Technical Policy Advisory Group of CECE, the Committee of European Construction Equipment, and Managing Director of LIEBHERR EMtec GmbH at a press conference on the occasion of the CECE Congress held in Berlin.

He pointed out that the European construction equipment industry is strongly committed to CO2, to NOx and to particulate reduction but with a realistic and sector specific approach. “We are not only heading towards a fifth round of emission regulation,” he continued but his industry also had to face initiatives by cities like Berlin or Graz to impose requirements to retrofit diesel particulate filters to the actual machines in order to support cities in fulfilling their local air quality targets set by the EU. “Currently the battle of CECE is in preventing unrealistic requirements and to convince lobbies and decision makers to see four aspects,” Burget stated.

  1. Construction equipment is not comparable to cars because construction machines are complex working machines able to fulfill a wide range of construction process applications. Due to this wide range of application iit is rather a fragmented sector, offering up to thousands of machine types. Many machines are even produced in a relatively low volume, sometimes only 10 machines per year of a certain model. Burget said that it was absolutely vital to take this into account when imposing new regulations.
  2. Setting tighter limits on new machines will only have a very minor benefit to the air quality as they are vastly outnumbered by a large population of older machines which produce higher levels of emissions.
  3. The obligation to equip all construction machines already in operation with diesel particulate filters is not the key solution to solve the problem of better air quality but leads to other challenges.
  4. It is also vital for the global competitiveness of the European industry that additional stages on engine emissions must be visible long in advance and that in-between there have to be long periods of stability so that manufacturers can focus on advanced product innovations.

Engine emission legislation is an enormous cost factor

Mobile machines have their own engine emission legislation. They reduce emissions in stages like in the automotive sector, but cover mainly reductions of particulates and NOx, however not of CO2. The latest stage that was introduced was Stage IIIB which started 2011 for the first power range.The new stage caused enormous costs for the complete re-design of machines. Up to 70% of available R&D capacities had to be allocated to this re-design of products and could not be used to increase customer benefits in product application or to develop new solutions for huge markets outside the EU. New engine emission legislation is by far the most expensive factor defining the costs of the new machines. It also disconnects the EU and North-America from the growth markets like in Asia, which do not have similar legislation and where the special fuel needed is not available.

Stage IV will be introduced stepwise starting 2014

Burget said that it had taken and still took his sector enormous efforts to comply with Stage IIIB. Unlike the previous stages it was not exchanging a black box with an engine by another, but a very complex re-design was needed. Depending on “in-time” availability of detailed technical data for new engines and their appropriate adaption to the specific needs of the machines, some – mainly smaller manufacturers - also faced enormous time pressure. “I would like to remember you that the next stage with further emission reductions is already in front of us: Stage IV will be introduced stepwise starting 2014 with the first power band.” However, member states of the EU keep on requesting more severe stages. So again, the engines emission legislation is under review now. “We fear that a 'copy-paste-effect' of regulations known from the automotive sector may happen which would neither be appropriate for our products nor for our industry,” said Burget.

Clean air thanks to diesel particulate filters – a too simple view on the problem 

One important aspect is the growing pressure from local authorities, like cities, regions and even whole countries to impose requirements to retrofit diesel particulate filters to in-service machines, e.g. machines with emission Stages IIIA and lower. Besides technical and safety issues related to retrofitting of old machines this is a too simple view on the problem and does not take into account its full complexity. The simple use of particle filters does not help sales or employment, nor does it help to reduce CO2 production. Due to high costs for retrofitting old machines it will motivate customers to extend the use-period of older and more polluting machines which is even worse for the environment. People lobbying for this solution should not forget that when equipping old machines with retrofit systems and thus making changes on the motor system, they could lose their CE-certification. Since particulate filter systems need sufficient space, which was not designed for machines of previous emission stages, they have to be fixed outside the engine compartment of the machines, affecting for example its safety because operators may no longer have a 360 degree view. It could also happen that those machines will no longer be allowed to be driven on public roads. These are only some points that have to be considered when calling for diesel particle filters as the best solution to fulfil local air requirements.

High risk that construction equipment will get CO2 emissions legislation

Up to now, the construction equipment sector is not submitted to CO2 emissions’ limits or joining the Emissions Trading Scheme. With its "Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050" the European Commission has been setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-century as agreed by European Heads of State and governments. It shows how the sectors responsible for Europe's emissions, that is power generation, industry, transport, buildings and construction, as well as agriculture can make the transition to a low-carbon economy over the coming decades. Following up on a European Commission strategy adopted in 2007, the EU has put in place a comprehensive legal framework to reduce CO2 emissions. The legislation sets binding emission targets for new cars and recently on light duty trucks. There is a high risk that construction equipment will be among the next candidates to get a similar legislation.

Industry believes in a market driven approach

Burget stated, “But we will be prepared. We are already working on how we as an industry ensure our contribution to reduce CO2 emissions from our machines. Our key message to the European institutions is: Don’t regulate us on something where market forces will already drive us in the right direction.” The industry calls her approach an holistic approach. According to that, any programme for CO2 reduction has to include all the elements of operation. In addition to the machine itself, the type of equipment selected, the operation of that equipment, its efficiency and alternative fuel sources have an impact on the overall performance. According to the industry what really counts at the end is the CO2 reduction within a whole process, like building a highway. Companies admit that their equipment plays a role in that, but also the use of it. “This is something which we need to work on with our customers,” said Burget and continued saying that putting just the engines of the machines on a test bench and measuring fuel consumption in an unrealistic test cycle was not the right approach. CECE and the industry behind it strongly believes in a „market driven? approach instead of a legislative, as this will ensure innovative solutions that optimise overall process performance. The industry is already heavily pushed by its customers to limit fuel consumption, which is among the most significant input costs. New solutions of the industry focus e.g. on combining processes, on more efficient hydraulics, the reduction of idling time or hybrids with energy recovery. So, manufacturers are already working on it even without regulations imposed on them.

Industry calls for harmonization of non-road mobile machinery requirements

The current lack of harmonized requirements in the EU for the use of non-road mobile machinery on public roads is another big challenge for the European industry. While vehicles and agricultural tractors benefit from harmonised requirements the same is not true for other types of machines. This is a real gap in the Single Market. Manufacturers need to comply with the technical regulations set up by each member state separately. They also need to follow their conformity assessment procedures individually. This is time-consuming and cost-intensive. A commission study published 10 years ago already showed a positive economic impact of a harmonisation, but up to now nothing has happened. Now a new study is in the planning and CECE has alerted Mr. Tajani who is the Vice President of the EU Commission that a solution for the sector has to be found. He has replied with a formal letter ensuring that measures will be taken soon. “However, we feel that there is a risk that the units will not be motivated to really progress because they fear that the member states could block such an initiative,” Burget closed his statement.