Despite increasingly strict emission standards, the air we breathe is still not clean. VW is not the sole culprit. EURACTIV’s partner Tagesspiegel reports
In light of the ongoing scandal, the suspicion grows. Is Volkswagen the only manufacturer to have manipulated exhaust emissions? For years, dozens of studies have concluded that there is a significant difference between laboratory emissions tests and those conducted in real world scenarios.
“One would have thought that VW’s competitors would now be advertising their environmental superiority. But we’ve heard nothing,” said Heiko Balsmeyer of the German traffic club (VCD) and project leader of the Clean Air project, a Europe-wide association of nine NGOs.
At the beginning of the Frankfurt motor show, before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its notice of violation to VW, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) had published a report on the discrepancies in nitrogen compound (NOx) emissions between two standard tests.
ADAC, a German automobile club, tested 32 Euro 6 diesel cars over the European type-approval cycle (NEDC), as well as the new Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Cycle (WLTC), which is a more realistic proofing method. The European Commission has proposed that the WLTC replace the NEDC by 2017.
The results of the test were clear. While some manufacturers produce acceptable results over both types of tests, some have focused on passing the NEDC and neglected real-world operating conditions and failed the WLTC.
For example, a Volvo that was tested produced NOx emissions 14.6 times higher than the maximum threshold, while Renault and Hyundai both failed the test, producing values 8.8 and 6.7 times higher than acceptable, respectively.
Martin Schmied of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) told Tagesspiegel, “We have noticed that in the five years since Euro 5 standards were introduced, there has been no decrease in NOx emissions in comparison with Euro 4.”
Since Euro 6 standards were adopted, there has been a slight reduction in emissions, but they still remain “well above the limit”, said Schmied. The UBA has worked with five other EU countries and Switzerland on its own test cycle that measures pollutants in every second of the test, simulating more realistic driving conditions.
Schmied said that the Euro 6 standards had been set and should therefore be respected. One of the biggest factors in VW failing its emission tests was their decision not to use diesel exhaust fluid on some of its models, choosing to use a catalytic converter instead.
Diesel exhaust fluid, such as ‘AdBlue’, has to be replenished periodically, whereas catalytic converters require much less frequent maintenance.
Heiko Balsmeyer thinks that, “it is scandalous that VW would prioritise the convenience of their customers over the health of the community.” The World Health Organisation (WHO) has long said that more than one hundred thousand people prematurely die every year as a result of air pollution, mainly caused in the cities by diesel cars. So far, this worrying statistic has failed to have much effect.
Large discrepancies in CO2 emissions
On Monday, the Clean Air Organisation, Transport & Environment (T&E), published a study that concludes that CO2 standards are not being adhered to either.
In 2008, the EU introduced mandatory CO2 standards, but according to T&E’s data, there are discrepancies. In this case, fuel consumption in the laboratory and on the road is compared. On average, cars can exceed the stated consumption, and therefore emission levels as well, by up to 40%.
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The organisation’s study states that the discrepancy has grown with each passing year. In 2001, it stood at 8%. Mercedes showed the largest single discrepancy, in terms of CO2, at 50%. T&E also criticised Opel, whose CO2 emissions have increased since 2008.