The European Commission opened its new vehicle emissions laboratory for commercial vehicles and buses at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) at Ispra, Italy, in March. Known as VELA7 (Vehicle Emissions Laboratory 7), the facility will accommodate vehicles with a simulated gross combination weight of up to 40 t (44 ton) and measuring up to 12 m (40 ft) long. AVL has been a major equipment supplier for the facility.
Measuring 22 m (72 ft) long, 8 m (26 ft) wide, and 6.7 m (22 ft) high, the VELA7 test chamber incorporates three main components: a climatic test chamber, a rolling road dynamometer, and emissions measuring equipment. A range of temperatures can be maintained within the chamber between -30 and +50ºC (-22 and +122ºF) with a tolerance of ±1.0ºC (1.8ºF). Relative humidity can be varied between 30 and 80% within the chamber, with a tolerance of ±5.0%.
Current European emissions regulations for gasoline-powered cars include testing at -7ºC (19ºF) to test catalyst light off at low temperatures. Extending this low-temperature test to other vehicle categories is being considered. Fans simulate airflow through the radiator and over the brakes at the simulated road speeds in dynamometer testing.
The rolling road dynamometer can accommodate double-drive axles. The roller surface has a diameter of 1829 mm (72 in), and an overall roller width of 3000 mm (118 in), with a distance of 900 mm (35 in) between the inner edges of each roller. The rollers can support a maximum load of 13,000 kg (28,660 lb), but by imposing drag can simulate a load of between 800 and 30,000 kg (1765 and 66,140 lb). Testing can be carried out at speeds up to 160 km/h (100 mph). Vehicles under test on the dynamometer are anchored front and rear with heavy-duty chain in case of system malfunction.
Emissions measuring equipment consists of a total dilution tunnel and exhaust gas analysis. The dilution tunnel has a total throughput of 150 m3/min (88 ft3/min). The two lines of exhaust gas analyzers operate in parallel and can monitor pollutants before and after exhaust aftertreatment. The system is designed to measure gaseous emissions of unburnt hydrocarbons, methane, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide.
Particulate emissions are measured by weight using matter trapped in a filter and measured according to current emissions legislation. Non-regulated pollutants can be measured using infrared spectroscopy, including substances such as benzene, aldehydes, or ammonia emitted during selective catalytic reduction of diesel exhaust, using urea as a reductant.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, IES Director Leen Hordijk said, “VELA7 will be very productive by testing all kinds of technical devices, like selective catalytic reduction, which is meant to keep the nitrogen oxides low, [and] trying to find out what the effects are of having compressed natural gas or diesel or mixtures of diesel and biodiesel, how they influence the energy efficiency and so on, so that when legislation is next proposed, that legislation is built on the best available knowledge. And that’s the goal of the Joint Research Centre, to provide the policy developers in Brussels with the best knowledge we can get together.”
VELA7 project leader Adolfo Perujo explained to Automotive Engineering International how the new laboratory would help the JRC: “Before, we could only do engine-related work—nothing involving a dynamometer. It was one month’s work to remove an engine from a truck, test it, and re-install it in the truck, and you cannot expect a truck operator to do that. We needed another option. VELA7 gives us neutrality and independence.”
Since the European vehicle manufacturers association ACEA is a stakeholder, the JRC can also offer the facility to the industry. Perujo also acknowledged that while there was no mandate from the European Commission to conduct in-service testing, VELA7 offers the means to do so, should the EC decide to pursue it.
VELA7 has been built on the same site as VELA1 through 6, laboratories equipped for testing a range of vehicles and equipment from motorcycles and lawn mowers to passenger cars.