Focusing on automotive regulatory compliance at the China VIAQ Summit
Friday, 9 November 2018 at 11:44:AM
The number of events on vehicle interior air quality (VIAQ) seems to grow every year, especially in China, where odorous compounds in vehicle air are particularly unpopular amongst consumers. However, for many in the industry the most informative conference in the region is the China
In-Vehicle Air Quality Summit, which this year was organised by independent
sponsors ECV Auto Events, and held over two days in Shanghai, on 29–30 October.
Over 100 delegates from the automotive industry, including
senior managers, lab managers and market development specialists, attended the
VIAQ summit in Shanghai this year.
Regulations affecting the vehicle manufacturing industry
So who was there? Pretty much all the big names were present,
from government research agencies CATARC and CEARI, through major OEMs such as BMW,
Jaguar Landrover, Honda, Toyota, Volvo, Group PSA, Ford, FAW and BAIC, to
material manufacturers including Honeywell, Avery Dennison, FoamPartner and Stahl…
and not forgetting organisations involved in testing, such as test labs SGS and
TUV, and ourselves as analytical equipment manufacturers.
The driving force behind the presence of such a
comprehensive range of key players – and one which dominated most of the
discussions – is the need to comply with the Chinese regulation GB/T 27630.
This sets strict limit levels for eight compounds in vehicle interior air, and
OEMs are currently in a ‘grace period’ before the compliance deadline of 2020. However,
responsibility for meeting the requirements of GB/T 27630 is passed
successively down the supply chain, from the OEMs to the component
manufacturers and in turn their suppliers.
Dr Xiaojian Li from the Chinese Government research group CATARC,
discussing the issues surrounding ‘new car smell’.
Problems in implementing Chinese standard method GB/T 27630
So is everyone ready? OEMs certainly have a handle on the
regulatory implications, but it’s fair to say that many companies further down
the supply chain are facing challenges in implementation – challenges that
arise primarily from the sample-prep end of the analytical process for
analysing automotive materials.
One of the major issues is that there are currently a large
number of methods used for sampling emissions, raising problems when
manufacturers try to correlate results. Not only that, but the limited set of
compounds cited in GB/T 27630 are not necessarily those that give rise to odour
Approaches to harmonising methods for automotive VOC testing
But there are solutions, and during my presentation I
highlighted to the conference recent developments at the UN, who are currently harmonising
the current ISO 12219-1 method for VIAQ testing with the Chinese HJ/T 400
method. Current thinking is that the resulting method would then be very likely
to be re-adopted by ISO.
Although this sounds like a rather convoluted process, it
currently offers the best hope for a universal method that could be followed by
all global automotive manufacturers. However, this would not help the materials
manufacturers, who still have to deal with a profusion of methods applied to
their products. Therefore, I put forward the view that the next stage of
harmonisation needs to come from industry-level groups, working together to harmonise
sample preparation methods, as this is the biggest factor affecting variability
Joe Guo from Ford speaking on the factors affecting vehicle
interior environmental quality (VIEQ).
Surprising findings – Facial expressions and acetaldehyde from apples
But regulatory compliance wasn’t the sole topic of
conversation at the conference, and it was a pleasure to hear about some of the
interesting research that’s been conducted. These included work by PSA Groupe
(which includes Peugeot, Citroën, Opel and Vauxhall), who have taken
slow-motion videos of people taking part in an olfactory test, and used their
expressions to help generate ratings for the intensity, pleasure and
acceptability of odours.
Another piece of research by leather manufacturer Stahl gave
us pause for thought about acetaldehyde, one of the target compounds in GB/T
27630. They pointed out that we ingest more acetaldehyde from drinking a beer or
having apples in our car than we’re exposed to in a vehicle interior. Of
course, there’s a difference between ingestion and inhalation, but it does
raise the interesting situation of what happens if, after having carefully
controlled all the acetaldehyde emissions from the furnishings to within limit
levels, you then put a crate of apples on the back seat!
Kevin Clunie from Avery Dennison highlights the compromises
to be made in material manufacture during the panel session.
Lowering VOC emissions and improving material emissions testing
A panel discussion during the conference, which I
moderated, also raised several interesting points, including the effects of the
current shift towards electric and hybrid vehicles, which requires advanced
materials with a high strength/weight ratio. Related to this, Kevin Clunie from
Avery Dennison made the point that there’s a balancing act between three
factors – performance, compliance and cost – that makes it difficult to achieve
high material performance and low VOC
emissions for a reasonable price.
Finally, a question was raised about how to deal with
conflicting test results on similar samples. I raised the importance of
validation of sampling and analysis, as well as use of certified reference
materials, certified reference tubes and participation in round-robin tests. So
the message is that although there are challenges in VIAQ, there are certainly
solutions… and plenty of expertise out there.
Chujun Zang from our Shanghai office describes to delegates how our Micro-Chamber/Thermal Extractor can be used to investigate VOCs released from materials.
Advice on VIAQ compliance from Markes International
If you find yourself needing answers to questions about VIAQ,
don’t hesitate to send me an email… and if you’d like to learn more about the
developing regulatory situation in VIAQ, then download our Application Note 131,
which explains all about ISO 12219, GB/T 27630 and the new UN regulation.
Dr Caroline Widdowson is the Market Development Manager at Markes International, having previously received her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry and MBA from Cardiff University. She is one of the UK representatives on ISO TC146 SC6 Indoor Air Quality committee, which is responsible for developing the ISO 12219 and ISO 16000 series of methods. Caroline is also a member of CEN TC351 (Construction products: Assessment of release of dangerous substances).