Engine retrofit for clean air

Affordable technology to reduce the impact of existing diesels on air quality.

On 16 April 2018 the European Commission awarded the Horizon Prize on Engine Retrofit for Clean Air at a ceremony during the Transport Research Arena (TRA) in Vienna, Austria.

The prize aimed at spurring the development of new technologies that can be applied to recent EURO 5 and EURO 6 diesel engines to reduce emissions of pollutants in real driving conditions to the lowest level possible, in order to improve air quality in European cities.

Contestants had to provide full documentation of their solution, as well as to develop a prototype vehicle and to deliver it to JRC in Ispra. Along with a complete evaluation of the supplied material, an exhaustive verification testing, performed by JRC, included both bench and Real Driving Emission tests.

As a result, the € 1.5 million prize was awarded to the winning consortia consisting of lead company Amminex Emissions Technology, supported by TU Graz, Johnson Matthey PLC and International Council on Clean Transportation Europe.

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The results are remarkable: the technology demonstrated that effectively retrofitting diesel vehicles is feasible and the demonstrated reduction of emissions both on test bench and during real driving were remarkable, putting the retrofitted vehicle ahead of many EURO 6 vehicles currently on the market. On the test bench the demonstrated reduction of emissions over very demanding test conditions, which included test at 7°C, was over 80%. The results were even better in real driving on normal roads, where it matched or in some cases was even lower than current EURO 6 vehicle emissions in the recently introduced real driving protocol. The vehicle was also tested on steep mountain roads – and this even more demanding scenario emissions decreased by almost 90%.

The cost of this technology (including installation and reagent costs for 100.000km) is less than €2000, with potential to be further decreased thanks to economies of scale should it be massively deployed.

Why this prize

European citizens in many urban areas suffer from serious health impacts due to air quality issues. This prize aims at reducing the pollution produced by the existing fleet by promoting the development of retrofittable technology (i.e. devices or modification of existing engines). The implementation of the technology should extend the life of retrofitted vehicles while greatly reducing their impact on the urban environment and could allow city authorities to consider measures to encourage their use to solve air quality issues.

Supporting information:

  • According to the European Environment Agency air pollution is the top environmental risk factor of premature death in Europe
  • Tests affirm that on-road NOX emissions of light-duty diesel vehicles differ substantially between laboratory testing and actual on-road driving, with average discrepancies of 4-7 times even for very recent vehicles
  • WHO studies reveal that exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy has been associated with adverse birth outcomes, including reduced foetal growth, pre-term birth and spontaneous abortions
  • Recent studies on air pollution suggest that exposure in early life can significantly affect childhood development and trigger diseases like allergies, asthma or diabetes later in life


The Horizon Prize for the cleanest engine retrofit will be awarded to the contestants who will demonstrate on a running vehicle a solution for an existing engine and powertrains that best addresses the issue of greatly reducing emissions of NOx, particles, hydrocarbons in real driving conditions, while ensuring low levels of undesired other pollutants also in the future. The technology should not affect the operational capabilities of the retrofitted vehicles, for instance it should not significantly increase the fuel consumption, at the same time providing sufficient dynamic performance for normal vehicle driving.

Rules & Guidance

Who can join the contest?

The contest will be open to any legal entity (including natural persons) or groups of legal entities. Target audience are individuals, SMEs, research centres, universities suppliers of components and car manufacturers.

Exclusion criteria foreseen in the provisions of articles 106(1), 107, 108 and 109 of the Financial Regulation (regulation 966/2012) will apply.

Participants already awarded an EU or Euratom prize cannot receive a second prize for the same activities.

How will your application be evaluated?

By 12 September 2017 17:00:00 CET participants have to submit the application through the Participant Portal and deliver the prototype (i.e. the donor vehicle with the installed innovation which has already been tested by the applicants, with no modifications) to the JRC in Ispra.

Applications will be evaluated by an independent expert jury of more than eight members. The jury will evaluate all eligible applications against the award criteria as described in part 5 of the Rules of Contest. The role of the expert jury will be to evaluate the accuracy and robustness of the provided data and assessments, and mark them accordingly.

In order to be able to better evaluate and compare applications, applicants may be invited to hearings to provide explanations to any consequential questions by the jury. The Commission may decide to submit the applicant prototype for verification testing at JRC, which can include chassis dynamometer and Real Driving Emissions tests.

Read the detailed rules of the contest.


The full list of the jury members is:

  • Neville Jackson (Chair)
  • Frank Atzler
  • Massimo Bardissone
  • Emanuele Colombo
  • Petrica Dulgheru
  • Norbert Ligterink
  • Virginie Morel
  • Lauretta Rubino
  • Monica Tutuianu


What is the "Horizon Prize"?

"Horizon Prizes" are a new instrument that offers a financial reward for developing a breakthrough solution to societal or technological problems. (1) Horizon prize on Engine Retrofit for Clean Air and (2) Horizon prize on Cleanest Engine of the Future are inducement prizes.

What does the "inducement prize" mean?

This type of prize is used to spur investment in a given direction, by specifying a target prior to the performance of the work. It is therefore mainly used for research and innovation, in order to:

  • identify new approaches or ideas and attract investment in specific areas
  • demonstrate the feasibility or potential of some technologies or promote their development and diffusion

What is the difference between a "Prize" and a "Grant"?

Prizes are awarded for the delivery of a pre-defined result (included in the prize application), while grants are funding research and/or innovation projects based on a grant proposal that will be carried out in the future.

What is the "Horizon prize on Engine Retrofit for Clean Air" about?

Current engines, while certified on test stands according to the Euro standards in force, exhibit higher noxious emissions while driving. Horizon prize on Engine Retrofit for Clean Air aims at spurring the development of new technologies that can be applied to existing diesel engines and powertrains to reduce emissions of pollutants in real driving conditions to the lowest level possible, in order to improve air quality issues in European cities.

Who can participate?

The contest is open to all legal entities (i.e. natural or legal persons) or groups of legal entities. Some exceptions apply (Please see Rules of Contest). Applicants that have already received an EU or Euratom prize cannot receive a second prize for the same activities.

How can I apply for the Prize?

You can apply to participate in the contest through the Participant Portal.

Do I have to develop a complete vehicle in order to participate?

Performance will have to be demonstrated by providing a complete vehicle including the proposed innovation for real drive testing. More information is provided in the Rules of Contest. Prizes aim at developing and applying only powertrain technologies, no alterations can be applied to such donor vehicle to improve its performance (for instance lightweighting it or improving its aerodynamics or tires).

To which kind of transport mode is the prize targeted?

The Prize is targeted to passenger cars only. Cars in which the improvements are achieved by using fuels or stored energy other than the main fuel (i.e. plug-in electricity, hybrids with large batteries, stored compressed gases, etc.) are excluded. However, it is expected that the innovation can be applied also to light commercial vehicles, normally using similar engines.

Which type of engine is considered?

The Engine retrofit prize is mainly targeting the existing diesel-engine vehicle fleet. The list of vehicles and engines that can be used to demonstrate the innovation for the retrofit prize will be available on the prize website. However, if the technology can provide improvements to other type of vehicles (for instance, direct injection gasoline ones), there are bonuses foreseen in the rules of contest if such improvements are also demonstrated on additional prototypes.

To whom will the prize be awarded?

The Horizon Prizes on engines is a best-in-class contest. This means that the prize is awarded to the participant that better addresses the announced objective within the stated time period.

How will my technology be tested and evaluated?

Once the contest is closed, a high level jury will evaluate all eligible entries against the general award criteria described in the Rules of Contest.

The prize will be awarded to the entry that demonstrates the best solution to the challenge whilst meeting the award criteria.

What are the obligations related to the assignment/spending of the Prize money and on the accountability with respect to the spending of the Prize money?

There are no obligations on assignment/spending of the Prize money and no obligations on accountability with respect to the spending of the prize money. This will not be subject to an audit.

The rules of the contest don’t include the testing details other that the 3 cycles (NEDC, WLTC, CADC), but they refer to the Template Part B, where a fixed weight of 1500kg is mentioned. In the RoC, however, chassis dyno parameters shall be selected based on UNECE Regulation 83 coefficients using the empty weight of the donor vehicle minus any replacement components plus 100kg plus the retrofit weight (for the post retrofit tests). What is the correct approach for weight?

The definition in the RoC should be followed, a specific template will be added as the current one is applicable to the Cleanest Engine of the Future Prize.

Template B requires that the WLTC to begin with an engine cold start, but at the same time it specifies that between NEDC and WLTC the engine should be switched off and the vehicle may be parked on the chassis dyno for up to 2 hours. This is not a cold start as defined for the NEDC.

To avoid any confusion with the NEDC requirements, which are not intended to be applied, the word ‚cold‘ will be deleted from template B, i.e. WLTC shall be run with any temperature the engine will have after the prescribed maximum interval of two hours, as cold start performance will be assessed by the NEDC test. A certain time between the tests will in any case be needed to analyse the bags, with a maximum limit of two hours.

Template B requires CADC to be conducted with “engine hot start” but at the same time it is required that between WLTC and ARTEMIS cycles the temperature shall be kept at 25°C for at least 2h. Does that mean that the engine need to keep running between the WLTC and the CADC?

No, the engine shall be switched off, ARTEMIS shall be run with any temperature the engine will have after the prescribed interval which is required to increase the chamber temperature from 10 to 25°C.

Are the NO2 targets based on the NO2/NOX ratio or for the NOX/NO2 ratio, as mention in the introduction sentence?

NO2 to NOx is correct as it is the one used for the limit.

In section 7 – Procedure of the “Rules of the contest” it is stated that the testing has to be done “at an external independent laboratory”, and in Section 10 –Initial testing definition it says “certified laboratory”. What kind of certification is required?

With “certified” an accreditation like ISO 9001 or 17025 or similar from other organizations is intended.

How will the emission levels be assessed from the three testing cycles?

In order to be eligible, the tested technology has to pass minimum threshold on each test cycle individually. To get to a single mark, an average of these results will be used, obtained by scoring each test result for each criteria according to the scoring grids and averaging the resulting marks.

Which coefficients should I use at the dyno?

Donor car: Inertia: Empty weight + 100 kg --> Equivalent inertia
F0, F2 --> a(N), b (N/(km/h))^2 for the relevant inertia
from Regulation 83 Table A4a/3 of E/ECE/TRANS/505/Rev.1/Add.82/Rev.5

Retrofitted vehicle: Inertia: Empty weight + 100 + retrofit - removed parts*
F0, F2 --> a(N), b (N/(km/h))^2 for the relevant inertia
from Regulation 83 Table A4a/3 of E/ECE/TRANS/505/Rev.1/Add.82/Rev.5
*removed parts which are acceptable according to the rules

* All the above will be reflected in an upcoming update of Rules of Contest and Submission forms on the Participant Portal


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