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An interview with Luboš Trnka: Preparing for tomorrow’s challenges today

ts-Lubos TrnkaThis year’s flagship investment for TÜV SÜD Czech concerned the further equipping and expansion of the emission laboratory premises in Roztoky u Prahy. Luboš Trnka, Director of the Vehicle Environmental Impact Section within the Mobility Division, and responsible for the emission laboratory in Roztoky, talks about the project’s challenges and what mobility will look like in the near future.

This year another major investment into modernisation of the emission laboratory in the Czech Republic was made. How did you use the investment?

We invested chiefly in two areas, the main part went into technology for measuring exhaust emissions in a cylindrical test room, and PEMS equipment for measuring exhaust pollutants in real road traffic. Understandably, the team was also expanded accordingly. The second area involved completion of the conditioning room adjacent to the laboratory – it is used for temperature stabilisation or if you want to condition or temper test vehicles. The room must have a stable temperature, in our case 23 °C, which is a requirement of international regulations. The new room will help us increase the number of vehicles to be measured, since we need to make the most of the new measuring equipment capacity, so that we can run several tests in quick succession, without unnecessary delay. To sum up, the first part of our investment related to measuring technologies, and the second part involved the completion of the conditioning room for temperature stabilisation of vehicles ready for subsequent emission tests.

Why this kind of major investment?

Our plan was a response to various influences. The greatest influence was the change in European passenger car legislation that has taken place over the past two years. This is closely linked to the urgent requirement of our key automotive industry customers to use this upgraded emission laboratory for their tests, because, like other laboratories within the Mobility Division, it is an accredited laboratory according to ISO 17025.

What were the biggest challenges during project management?

There were several. For example, we had to procure measuring equipment meeting the requirements of legislation at a reasonable price, although this was more a technical financial matter. We progressively discussed bids with various suppliers as part of a tender and verified that they were actually able to meet our requirements.ts-emission-laboratory

Other aspects concerned completion of the conditioning room. In this case, we needed to work closely with the Czech Technical University as our strategic partner in VTP Roztoky and with the building owner and developer, because we needed to achieve an acceptable work schedule and to synchronise all activities based on defined requirements. It was good to make use of the break that occurred when we replaced the abovementioned measuring technology to build the room and minimise unnecessary delays, so that the total period during which we would not be able to serve our customers was as short as possible. It was thus quite difficult to bring all these activities together. In addition to all that, our team of collaborators expanded, and there was a certain generational change, so we had to train the new recruits in the new equipment and new test procedures, such as WLTP. We had to coordinate all of this effectively.

What are now your future plans?

We have to get operations going now and start amortising the existing investment. Of course, both legislative and technical developments in the area of vehicle propulsion are moving fast and we have prepared additional plans in this context. We expect requirements for measurement of new exhaust pollutants that have not yet been defined to be introduced into legislation, such as new nitrogen compounds, ammonia compounds or even smaller solid particles of about 10 nanometres. We are preparing for the transition of our emission laboratory to a mobility laboratory, and we assume that cars will also be equipped with various levels of electrification of propulsion. That’s why we need to be prepared and as soon as new legislative requirements emerge, we must be able to comply with them, measure these vehicles properly and help customers get them approved for use. Today, we already have considerable experience, for example, in measuring purely electric buses, whose mass production has been a reality in the Czech Republic for several years, and we can transfer this to the passenger car segment as soon as the need arises.

So, you’re planning to measure hybrid or fully electric vehicles in the future?

Given how legislation surrounding type approval is developing, we expect we will need to supplement our laboratory with other measuring or testing equipment in the area of electric propulsion in future. At the moment, of course, we are basically ready to measure hybrid cars.

ts-measure-emissions-laboratory-Czech

Do you foresee other changes in your key customers profile in the future?

Certainly in the future we expect our customers will require additional and new specific measurements depending on how the market and legislation develops. This brings me back to the previous point – measurement of new types of pollutants and measurement of electric drives is clear. Simultaneously, as the fleet structure changes on the market, we expect not only to encounter new cars in our laboratory, but also vehicles already in operation, which we measure based on requests from both individual customers and approval authorities. To give you an example, new types of tests are likely to appear in the field of electromobility, which should tell us how the vehicle will behave in the specifics of our Central European region, for example when running the heating or the air conditioning. I foresee that the measurement of the energy performance of electrified vehicles according to atmospheric conditions, at different temperatures, etc. will develop. I think it is only a question of four or five years before the new supplementary measurement procedures appear in legislation.

After Dieselgate, a section of the public lost confidence in independent vehicle testing. In your opinion, does vehicle testing still make sense?

If we’re talking about independent testing, it definitely does make sense, even more sense than ever. This may also be due to the abovementioned emission scandal, which probably helped to initiate the expansion of legislation to cover new measurement procedures, especially RDE measurement. This type of test was actually prepared before, but the scandal accelerated its introduction and, in a way, made the new laboratory procedures visible to the public. Some trust may have been lost, perhaps as a result of the sometimes rather incorrect presentation of this purely technical matter in the media, but I believe it will be renewed thanks to these new procedures. Another thing related to this is that new drives, which are now limited in terms of pollutants by European legislation, are already very clean. Thanks to the strict and supplementary emission procedures implemented in legislation over the last two years, there is no risk of repetition of this particular kind of case, since undesirable emission levels would certainly be obvious at the time of type approval testing of the vehicle, i.e. before putting it into operation.

What vehicles can you test in your laboratory?

ts-vehicle-emission-laboratoryWe can test category M1 passenger cars, category N1 or N2 light commercial vehicles, and motorcycles with the new equipment. We are only limited by the actual weight of these vehicles at the time, which should not exceed about 3 tons. We can test all these vehicles with a conventional drive – a traditional petrol or diesel engine, and a hybrid version, with different levels of electrification, and with both a single axle drive or a 4x4 version. We can also test these vehicles as purely battery driven, i.e. completely electric. It is interesting that even such vehicles, which don’t even have an exhaust, are subject to emission regulations. I should however point out that from the perspective of European legislation and Czech laws, when we are talking about testing emissions from passenger or light commercial vehicles, we are talking about testing the vehicle as a whole. Here, in addition to the emission characteristics of the internal combustion engine themselves, a number of other factors are involved, such as the weight of the vehicle, its transmission, the type of bodywork or the tire used – basically all the physical influences that induce the appropriate resistance on the vehicle, whether the effects of inertia forces or aerodynamic drag. We need to incorporate all these physical influences into the laboratory simulation or in actual real traffic.
Here, I would add that we can also test engines as separate assemblies in the emission laboratory. We test engines designed either for commercial vehicles – goods vehicles or buses, or tractors, again, according to the requirements of legislation. This type of testing most often involves diesel or compressed natural gas drives, since there is still no adequate alternative for the transport of goods by high performance long-range vehicles, e.g. in the form of a purely electric drive.

In conclusion, what can we do, in your opinion, personally, as individuals and as companies, to reduce our environmental footprint?

We can behave more responsibly, think about whether or not we need a vehicle for every trip. Behave economically, because we know that sometimes we can take the same journey together with co-workers or using public transport; if there is an appropriate alternative to our mobility needs, we should use it. Also we should try saving energy and materials during work processes.

 Who is Luboš Trnka?   

Luboš Trnka is the Director of the Vehicle Environmental Impact Section within the Mobility Division, and he is responsible for the emission laboratory at the Science and Technology Park in Roztoky u Prahy.

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