Tougher car emission tests start in EU, welcomed by consumers

A new law would give the EU authority to oversee national car approval bodies. [Automobile Italia/Flickr]

Tougher and more realistic emissions tests for cars and vans take effect in the EU on Friday (1 September), a measure welcomed by the auto industry and consumer groups, coming on the heels of the Dieselgate scandal that shook the bloc, particularly Germany.

A new laboratory test, called WLTP, will introduce much more realistic testing conditions for measuring pollutant and CO2 emissions. It will therefore provide a more accurate basis for measuring a vehicle’s fuel consumption and emissions.

A second new test to measure emissions on the road – known as the real driving emissions (RDE) test – will also be in force from Friday, making Europe the only region in the world to have such scrutiny.

Under RDE, a car will be driven on public roads over a wide range of conditions using portable measuring equipment. RDE will complement WLTP to ensure that pollutant emission levels, measured during the laboratory test, are confirmed on the road.

The new tests will apply only to new cars from September until the end of the year and to all vehicles from September 2018. They will help eliminate loopholes used by car manufacturers under the current New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) system, which dates from the 1970s.

In some cases, some manufacturers over-inflated tyres to optimise the wheels’ rolling resistance during tests, using special motor oils or reducing the weight of the vehicle.

The Dieselgate scandal blew up when Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 that it installed software devices in 11 million diesel-engine cars worldwide that reduced emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides when it detected the vehicle was undergoing tests.

Dieselgate scandal still fuming in Europe, more action needed

Europe has not yet reached the bottom of the Dieselgate scandal as “many other brands” besides Volkswagen show too high emissions in real driving conditions, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska warned in a letter to the 28 member states’ transport ministers.

“Consumers have for too long been fooled about the amount of petrol and diesel that cars
guzzle and have ended up paying much more than expected in fuel costs,” said Monique Goyens, the director general of the BEUC, a European consumers group, which welcomed the introduction of more realistic new tests.

But she cautioned that both the EU and member states must closely follow the implementation of the new testing system and provide full information to consumers during the transition period.

“We call on the member states to ensure that consumers have access to the information by no later than 1 January 2019. This is important so that people can buy cars based on reliable information as soon as possible, but without causing confusion during the transition period,” Guyens said

Europe’s car manufacturers, represented by the ACEA, also gave the nod to the new tests, saying the car industry has already invested heavily to achieve “significant improvement in emissions” in new diesel vehicles.

“Indeed, these diesel vehicles will deliver very low pollutant emissions not only in the laboratory but also on the road,” said the ACEA’s Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert.

“We believe the introduction of this latest generation of diesel vehicles… will play a strong role in helping cities move towards compliance with EU air quality targets,” he said.

The ACEA also welcomed the fact that with RDE in place as the EU-wide test, there should be no more confusion caused by using “a multitude of different tests, each with varying and incomparable methods and results”.

EU drafts tougher 'Dieselgate' rules to stop cheating

National ministers moved today (29 May) to crack down on emissions cheating after the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal by giving the European Commission more powers to monitor testing and fine automakers.

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