Car inspection steps up fight against soot filter fraud
From 1 July 2022, a particular counter test (PN measurement) will be used during the annual vehicle inspection for diesel cars. This should detect defective or removed soot filters, says Flemish Minister for Mobility, Lydia Peeters (Open Vld).
“Since a particulate filter removes 95 to 99 % of particulate emissions, this has a significant impact on the exhaust emissions of diesel vehicles and therefore on public health”, says Peeters, who together with Brussels and Wallonia have agreed on a set of specifications for the vehicle inspection centers.
Figures from Statistics Flanders show that there are 1,68 million diesel cars on the road in Flanders. Vehicles from Euro standard 5 onwards are obliged to have a working particle filter to reduce the emission of fine dust.
In the aftermath of Dieselgate, it emerged that fraud was also being committed with soot filters and that there were people who were deliberately removing them. The problem is that soot filter fraud goes undetected by the car inspection authorities because the soot measurement used there is not designed to detect a soot filter’s presence (or absence).
A solution lies in a check with a particle counter. This particle counter gives a better estimate of the emission of particulates. It is a simple method to determine whether the particulate filter is present and working properly during the technical inspection.
Waiting for EU framework
But that will change from 1 July 2022 onwards in Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia. The three regions have agreed on specifications for the vehicle inspection centres. The centers can now purchase new equipment, the so-called particle counter test, to specifically check for particulate filter fraud.
The Flemish car inspection federation GOCA was already in May last year ready to tackle diesel particle filter fraud with a particle counting device. But Peeters slammed on the brakes because the Minister wanted to wait for the EU to synchronize the legal framework.
Truck, buses and petrol cars next?
All vehicles and vans with a diesel engine from Euronorm 5a and upwards will be checked in the first phase. In time, it will be studied whether this measure can be extended to trucks, buses and petrol cars.
If a vehicle emits more than 1 million fine particulates per cubic centimeter, it receives a red card. The particulate filter is then broken or removed and must be replaced within 14 days. The vehicle must then be retested.
If a vehicle emits less than 250 000 particulate matter per cubic centimeter, the car is given a green card. For vehicles in the grey zone between 250 000 and 1 million particulate matter, there is a transition period of 2 years, and the owner receives a warning.