New meters to uncover soot filter fraud

Summary

Auto inspection centres in Belgium are being fitted with new technology to detect if a car does not have a diesel particulate filter

‘End to impunity’

By 2020, all auto inspection centres in Belgium will be fitted with technology that can detect the absence of soot filters in diesel vehicles. The initiative, according to Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts, will bring an end to soot filter fraud.

Cars and lorries that run on diesel are required to be fitted with a diesel particulate filter under EU law. The devices filter out soot emitted by the vehicle, an environmental and public health hazard.

All new diesel-fuelled vehicles are fitted with the filters. But if they become defective, they can cause damage to other parts of the motor. That means replacing them, and that’s expensive, costing from €1,500 to €3,000.

Having them removed, however, costs less than €500. While removing them is illegal, a VRT investigation in 2017 uncovered widespread use of the practice, with some garages openly advertising the service.

‘International pioneers’

And while cars older than four years must be inspected every year, VRT also revealed that the auto inspection centres could not detect if a soot filter had been removed. The federal agency responsible for auto inspections and driving licenses soon got to work testing a variety of metres and have determined that Particle Number (PN) meters are the most effective in determining if a diesel-fuelled vehicle is absent a soot filter.

Flanders collaborated with Wallonia and Brussels to fund the test procedures. “We are the first in Europe to carry out these advanced tests and so are international pioneers in the fight against soot filter fraud,” said Weyts. “This will bring an end to the impunity. We are working on a legal framework now so that inspection centres can be fitted as soon as possible.”

All inspection centres across the country should be fitted with the PN meters by the end of next year, he said.