December 19, 2002

Major Automotive Industry Organizations Issue New Edition of the World-Wide Fuel Charter Targeting Global Fuel Quality Standards

A joint effort on the part of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), the U.S.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the United States’ Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) has produced the third and latest edition of the World-Wide Fuel Charter [see note 1 below].

Discussions aimed at drafting a set of common global standards for fuel quality were launched in 1995, with initial results published in 1998 as the first World-Wide Fuel Charter, or WWFC. A second edition followed in 2000, reflecting global trends in vehicle exhaust emission regulations and the progress made in relevant automotive technologies. The Charter in its latest version represents a finalization of this protracted effort.

Founded on the automakers’ objective of incorporating advanced emission reduction technologies in the vehicles they produce, WWFC has made specific recommendations in four different categories of fuel quality for both gasoline and diesel fuel [2], taking into account regulatory levels for automotive exhaust emissions on a worldwide scale.

The third edition of the Charter, however, proposes revisions in the fuel quality recommendations, determined on the basis of the latest available research data. The most significant of the proposed revisions are as follows.

  1. Regarding gasoline lead content [3] in Category 1 markets, the previously recommended lead content level had been in the range of 0.05-0.40g per liter of gasoline. Now, in its most recent edition, WWFC is recommending zero lead content—in other words, promoting the universal elimination of any use of leaded gasoline—based on the threat that lead poses to public health and the corresponding need to promote the use of catalyst-equipped motor vehicles.
  2. Regarding the content of fatty acid methyl esters, or FAME [4], in diesel fuel, the previous approach had been to approve a maximum level of 5 percent in Category 1 and Category 2 markets. Now, in view of an international trend towards increased use of these methyl esters as extenders to, or replacements of, diesel fuel, the decision has been made to allow its use in Category 3 markets as well, on the condition that FAME quality comply with established standards and FAME-based diesel fuel meet the recommended values for each category.

WWFC also recommends the following maximum sulfur content [5] values for the different categories of gasoline and diesel fuel.

  Category 1 Category 2 Category 3 Category 4
Gasoline 1000 ppm 200 ppm 30 ppm Sulfur-free [6]
Diesel fuel 3000 ppm 300 ppm 30 ppm Sulfur-free

[ppm=parts per million]

[Notes on Names and Terminology]

[1] The World-Wide Fuel Charter (WWFC)
The World-Wide Fuel Charter recommends global standards for fuel quality, taking into consideration the status of vehicle emission technologies and the requirements of automobile users worldwide. WWFC has been established on the basis of extensive discussions carried out by its membership, composed of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) with 14 member companies, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) with 12 member companies, the U.S.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) with 13 member companies, and the United States’ Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) with 27 member companies. WWFC associate members are the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), the Association of International Automotive Manufacturers of Canada (AIAMC), the Associacion Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz (AMIA), the Associacao Nacional dos Fabricantes de Veiculos Automotores (ANFAVEA) of Brazil, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA), the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI), the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) and the Thai Automotive Industry Association (TAIA). The International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) takes part in WWFC in a supporting member capacity.

[2] The Four Categories of Fuel Quality
WWFC has established four different categories of recommended fuel quality for both unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel, based on vehicle emission control technologies in use and requirements for reducing vehicle emissions. The four categories are described in the Charter as follows.

  • Category 1: Markets with no or first level of emission control; based primarily on fundamental vehicle/engine performance and protection of emission control systems.
  • Category 2: Markets with stringent requirements for emission control or other market demands. For example, markets requiring U.S. Tier 0 or Tier 1, EURO 1 and 2 or equivalent emission standards.
  • Category 3: Markets with advanced requirements for emission control or other market demands. For example, markets requiring U.S. California LEV, ULEV and EURO 3 and 4 or equivalent emission standards.
  • Category 4: Markets with further advanced requirements for emission control, to enable sophisticated NOx and particulate matter aftertreatment technologies. For example, markets requiring U.S. California LEV-II, U.S. EPA Tier 2, EURO 4 in conjunction with increased fuel efficiency constraints or equivalent emission standards.

WWFC also recommends the following maximum sulfur content [5] values for the different categories of gasoline and diesel fuel.

[3] Gasoline Lead Content
The third edition of WWFC recommends the complete elimination of the use of leaded gasoline worldwide, including from markets where the use of lead as a gasoline additive is allowed. The position of automakers is that the use of lead in fuels should be eliminated on a global scale as soon as possible and by no later than 2005. For markets with no vehicle emission controls or only the first level of such controls, WWFC in its previous editions tolerated lead content in trace amounts, as well as the use of leaded gasoline in specific cases, including wherever its use was permitted by law. Numerous countries worldwide continue today to allow the use of lead in gasoline.

Lead, as a metal additive to gasoline, contributes to atmospheric contamination and destroys catalyst-based vehicle emission control systems. Leaded gasoline is therefore a barrier to the introduction of automotive emission control systems that can reduce exhaust emissions by 90 percent or more over uncontrolled levels. Leaded gasoline also impedes the move towards globally harmonized vehicle technologies.

Lead is added to gasoline because of its ability to raise the gasoline’s octane value. In markets where the use of lead has been reduced or eliminated, there are cases of MMT (methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl), ferrocene or other octane-enhancing metal additives being used as substitutes. In its latest edition, however, WWFC recommends a halt to the use of all types of metal additives, based on findings that they are harmful to catalyst-equipped motor vehicles.

[4] Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME)
Methyl esters are synthesized through the chemical reaction (known as esterification) between rapeseed, soybean or other vegetable oils and ethanol. In the U.S. and Europe, considerable progress has been made in standardizing the properties of methyl esters. A significant advantage of FAME content in diesel fuel is that it reduces exhaust gas particulate matter. However, the disadvantages of methyl esters are also significant: they require special care to avoid excessive viscosity at low temperatures and to prevent high water content and the consequent risk of corrosion. Methyl esters also attack rubber and composite materials in the fuel system. It is clear that further extensive studies are required on the properties of FAME as diesel fuel extenders or replacements, including their impact on engine response.

[5] Sulfur Content in Gasoline and Diesel Fuel
High sulfur content in gasoline contaminates and impairs the performance of catalyst-based vehicle emission control equipment. High sulfur content in diesel fuel increases fine particulate matter (PM) emissions and shortens the service life of oxidation catalysts. Sulfur also is a barrier to the use of NOx traps, diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology and other advanced diesel and gasoline technologies.

[6] Sulfur-Free Fuels
It is extremely difficult to remove all sulfur content from gasoline, diesel and other crude oil-derived fuels. This being the case, fuels with sulfur content levels in the range of 5-10 ppm (or less) are generally considered to be sulfur-free.