Motorists hit with up to €450 in extra fuel costs as carmakers game CO2 tests

Differences between real-world and lab figures reached up to 42%. This has increased from 25% in 2013. [Shutterstock]

Cars consume much more than manufacturers claim they do and the gap between lab and real-world performance can reach up to 42%, according to a new ICCT study. EURACTIV Germany reports.

A new report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has shone the light on the significant difference between laboratory testing and how cars perform in the real-world.

With a gap of up to 42%, the authors of the study said that the divergence between the two sets of data “continues to grow”.

“We collected data from a million vehicles from seven countries and all the data sources confirm that the gap between what the carmakers publish as their fuel consumption and what is actually the reality continues to reach new highs,” said ICCT researcher and study author Uwe Tietge.

Petrol cars allowed to exceed pollution limits by 50% under draft EU laws

New European cars with petrol engines will be allowed to overshoot a limit on toxic particulates emissions by 50% under a draft EU regulation backed by the UK and most other EU states. Our partner The Guardian reports.

“When we released our first study back in 2013, for the first time, the discrepancy was about 25%. Today, it has reached 40% for new privately-owned cars and more than 45% for new company cars,” he added.

The ICCT carried out the study in conjunction with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). Online comparison sites and car magazines were some of the sources for information.

“About three-quarters of the discrepancies between real-world and type performance are down to car manufacturers exploiting systematic loopholes in the existing regulations,” said Dr Peter Mock, ICCT’s Europe director.

VW says 'defeat device' in conformity with European law

Volkswagen said the software allowing its diesel vehicles to evade emissions rules does not violate European law, as the carmaker aims to toughen its legal defenses in view of a possible rise in compensation claims in its home region.

Limits on CO2 emissions are directly linked to fuel consumption and car manufacturers must pay attention to environmental requirements more than ever or face significant penalties.

However, manufacturers are permitted to prepare a vehicle’s tyres specifically for the test or fully charge the car’s battery beforehand, which, although not forbidden by the rules, does not reflect real-world driving behaviour.

The remaining discrepancies are down to technologies like start-stop mechanisms, which record higher fuel-saving figures in laboratory conditions.

This doesn’t just have an impact on consumer wallets (the difference could reach €450 a year); the environmental impact is also more than expected.

“Instead of pursuing clean and economical technology, they’re more interested in exploiting the latest loophole in order to polish their gas-guzzlers’ fuel consumption figures,” said MEP Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA).

German transport minister refuses to shoulder blame for Dieselgate

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has claimed that Berlin bears no responsibility for Dieselgate, telling a European Parliament committee that “Volkswagen cheated, so Volkswagen is responsible.” EURACTIV Germany reports.

She also pointed to the fact that consumers end up paying out more of their hard-earned money than they would have been previously led to believe and that the environment suffers as a result of the increase in CO2.

Even the German Motor Club (VCD) were disappointed and called for action to be taken. The association called for manufacturers to face punative measures if their real-world and lab figures differed by more than 10%.

“It is expected that new, more realitistic WLTP (Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedures) testing measures, due to enter into force next autumn, will mean manufacturers will once again try and get creative in order to make their results look as nice as possible,” warned VCD transport policy expert Michael Müller-Görnert.

Currently, passenger car consumption figures are measured by the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), which was established in the 1980s, under laboratory conditions. The WLTP aims to improve the test procedure, having been designed by the car industries of the United Nations, and is set to be introduced in the EU next year.

The ICCT doesn’t think that is enough though and has called for further retesting by independent bodies to be carried out as well.

Subscribe to our newsletters