Seoul Autogas Summit exceeds expectations
In January the Autogas-minded turned to Seoul to follow the Regional Autogas Summit in Korea. Experts discussed how much more seriously air pollution from transport does impact the health of city dwellers, how even the most modern diesel cars are not living up to their expectations and not nearly as clean as is implied and how Autogas in combination with cutting edge technology is used to effectively lower pollution levels in large cities.
Benefiting from the impulse generated at last year’s Global Autogas Summit in Miami and the Regional Autogas Summit in Cartagena, Colombia, the WLPGA Autogas Summit opened its doors on January 29th in Seoul, Korea addressing participants from the Asia-Pacific region. In his key note, Cornie Huizenga Secretary General of SLoCaT, the Partnership for Sustainable Low Carbon Transport pointed out that the gradual decarbonisation of transport needs to be real and measurable but at the same time cannot be done at the expense of local living conditions and health. Ideally it is a combined approach based on new ways of urban planning, different mobility networks with a stronger bias on public transport inside cities and multimodal connectivity between cities as well as the expectable improvements in fuel economy. Cornie Huizenga quoted Ban Ki Moon how “we need to change the way we plan our cities, the way we move goods and ourselves”.
Autogas already plays an important role as its properties make it one of the fuels of choice for the necessary motorised transport in the city alongside other less polluting alternatives. The five main messages coming out of high level debate are:
Health impact of conventional fuels greater than we thought
Nitrous oxides (NOX) and especially particulates have a harmful effect on the air we breathe. While NOX greatly promote the formation of smog, particulates are very harmful, Small particles – besides being a proven cause for lung cancer – have extended impact on human health, not only damaging respiratory organs but also seriously affecting other organs such as the heart or even the brain. The participants were given insight in the complex chemistry of interaction with body tissue at different depths of the organism’s line of defense. The actual harm is done when the unburnt hydrocarbons which are attached to these very small particles interact with the surrounding tissue deep in the uman body. As they penetrate into the finest branches of the respiratory organs the effect of unburnt fuel increases the deeper they go.
Modern clean cars aren’t as clean as type testing suggests they are
The primary focus to reduce CO2 emissions at all costs had diverted attention from a balanced approach, eclipsing the increase of other (harmful) emissions, especially NOX. The way these tests are performed in the lab contribute to the fact that emissions measured in the field yield a different image than the exact same vehicle performing a standardised test on a dynamometer (test bench). While the most modern diesel vehicles now are equipped with better particle filters, these filters tend to be more effective at filtering coarse particles, letting some of the finer ones through. NOX emissions on the other hand, remained much higher under real driving conditions, up to seven times higher than indicated in the tests. These vehicles would even fail to meet EUR 3 emissions limits! This in combination with the increasing number of diesel vehicles on our roads leads to significantly higher levels of nitrous oxides (NOX). Many cities in which diesel has a high market share exhibit alarming levels of contamination.
Even modern urban areas show no effect of the cleaner cars, the positive trend has been stagnating for years
In a struggle to clear the air, large European cities like London, Paris and Berlin are addressing cleaner air, passing legislation to restrict access to the inner cities. Depending on the age of the vehilces, referencing the emissions classification according to type approval regulations valid at the time, “decongestion” or “strict emissions” zones have been established. However, it has become clear, that the new vehicles are not meeting their emissions limits under real driving conditions, especially in urban driving. As an effect, the air quality in cities does not improve despite the vehicle fleet being renewed. Quite regularly the EU threatens to punish Member States for consistently failing to meet air quality specifications, the air concentrations of NOX often reaching levels that pose a health risk. More aggressive policy changes will be necessary in order to see a positive effect.
Autogas is a clean fuel which in combination with modern technology keeps the promise of clearing the air
Direct injection Autogas engines are nearly as efficient as modern diesel engines emitting fewer NOx and particulates and are less costly. In comparison with gasoline direct injection the emissions of particulates are reduced by 80 to 98%. Leading cities around the world have already mandated special fuels or technologies for vehicles to be eligible to enter “decongestion” or “strict emissions” zones. Cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul already employ Autogas on a large scale in their taxi fleets with very positive effects.
Since recently automotive manufacturers are increasingly recognising the true potential of this globally available fuel and are beginning to incorporate more and more modern Autogas options in their portfolio
They have also recognised, that while not every customer in every market must be targeted, the benefits are too good to ignore. Hyundai, for instance displayed a medium sized car, typically used as a taxi around the world, with its most modern engine (LPG direct injection) optimised for the use with LPG. This car to be launched next year – at first on the Korean market.
The summit exceeded all expectations. The bar was raised considerably for any event to follow. The next steps for the international Autogas community will be to consistently communicate the technological advances to reclaim the position of this modern alternative fuel. Autogas has lower carbon emissions as well as considerably fewer harmful emissions, thus contributing to slowing down climate change as well as to clearing the air in large cities. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is much to be gained for each regional market by joining forces and finding solutions on a global platform.