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Regulating particle number measurements from the tailpipe of light-duty vehicles: the next step?

Light-duty vehicle emission regulation in the European Union requires the dilution of the whole exhaust in a dilution tunnel with constant volume sampling prior to emission measurements. This methodology avoids measurement uncertainties associated with direct raw exhaust emission measurements from the tailpipe, such as exhaust flow determination, exhaust flow pressure pulsations, differences in the response time between exhaust flow and instrument signals, or their misalignment. Transfer tubes connecting the tailpipe to the dilution tunnel of different lengths and mixing of the exhaust gas with the dilution air in the dilution tunnel may increase differences in measurements performed at different facilities. Recently, the light-duty vehicle regulation was complemented by on-road measurements with Portable Emissions Measurement Systems (PEMS). PEMS measurements are conducted from the vehicle tailpipe. Differences between tailpipe and full dilution tunnel measurements have not been adequately addressed so far. In this study we compare particle number emissions measured at the full dilution tunnel or directly at the tailpipe. The measurements covered solid particles with diameter larger than 23 nm, as required by the current regulation, but also solid particles larger than 10 nm, as recommended for future regulations. The studied vehicle technologies were diesel, gasoline, and compressed natural gas. The differences between tailpipe and dilution tunnel particle number emissions were found to be small (<15%) for both size ranges, with the exception of engine cold start (up to 35% in some cases). Theoretical estimates showed that agglomeration in the transfer line from the vehicle to the dilution tunnel might reduce particle concentrations by up to 17%. Exhaust flow rate determination and time misalignment of exhaust flow and particle concentration signals can introduce uncertainties of ±10% and ±5%, respectively, to the tailpipe measurements. The results suggest that tailpipe sampling is not only possible, but it can additionally give more representative (“real”) emissions of the vehicle and should be considered in post Euro 6 regulations.