Fuel consumption test for passenger cars: Enough waiting

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

A European car emissions testing centre. [Mike Dotta/Shutterstock]

The European Commission has failed to live up to its promise of adopting a new test to measure the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of passenger cars and must now deliver as a matter of urgency, writes Monique Goyens in an open letter to the EU executive.

The following open letter was authored by Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation. The missive is addressed to Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner in charge of Climate Action and Energy and Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissionner in charge of the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

Dear Commissioners Bieńkowska and Cañete,

In December 2014 I wrote to you both asking for the urgent adoption of a new test to measure the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of passenger cars. Despite the commitment you gave me to adopt such a test under EU legislation as a matter of urgency, we now fear this delay is putting at great risk the chances of such a test being operational from 2017, as expected. We need you to act and here is why.

Yesterday we heard the news that Mitsubishi and some Nissan vehicles available on the market have misleading fuel consumption figures due to Mitsubishi’s fraudulent activities in Japan. If further evidence was needed of a systematic approach in the automotive sector to get around vehicle emissions tests on a global scale, then this is it.

And please allow me to remind you of the European context. Cars on our roads are guzzling around 40% more fuel than official figures indicate. Volkswagen has admitted to using a cheat device to get around emissions tests and to advertising incorrect fuel consumption figures. And several other major automotive players have also used underhand, if not illegal tactics to get around EU emissions tests.

Enough is enough. We have expected a new test protocol, the WLTP, to replace the outdated and existing one since 2014. Time and time again the Commission has indicated deadlines that have not been met, and now that the intended implementation date is just round the corner, in September 2017, we fear that time is running out.

Of course, the problems faced by consumers, in terms of being provided with both unreliable and irrelevant information of passenger cars will not be solved entirely by the new test itself.

We also need a suit of other measures. We welcomed the Commission’s proposal on type approval and market surveillance and we expect Member States to support some of the badly needed measures to improve market surveillance in this area.

However, we are still awaiting, almost 10 years since it was first mooted by the Commission, an overhaul to the car labelling Directive. Such a reform must bring the car label more in line with the Energy Label and should give consumers real insights into the running costs associated with their cars. The information must also be brought onto the world wide web.

Furthermore, it is becoming blatantly clear that our reliance on laboratory testing of vehicles is a sign of a bygone era. We know that on-the-road tests are good for air pollutant emissions, but we also know the same tests are possible for fuel consumption and CO2. The Commission must now also commit to developing a future real world test protocol for fuel consumption in order to give consumers the most reliable information possible.

Finally, we find it outrageous that owners of affected VW vehicles in Europe are being treated like second class citizens whilst US owners are being offered substantial ‘good will’ payments. What are national authorities and the European Commission doing exactly to ensure that owners in Europe are fairly compensated for buying vehicles clearly fitted with an illegal defeat device?

We need to see the Commission move into the 21st century and we need to feel assured that consumer protection is being given its due recognition during the development of EU legislation. As things stand, and even despite the emissions scandal, we feel that it is the automotive sector who are astonishingly still punching well above their curb weight. Please, put consumers first and put an end to this sorry state of affairs.

Yours sincerely,

Monique Goyens

Director-General
BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation

For more information see BEUC’s dedicated pages on the Volkswagen emission affair and sustainable mobility.

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