Tuesday 13 October 2015

Evidence of "widespread abuse by carmakers" - T&E

The average gap between real-world figures and drive cycle test results is growing across the industry. This may suggest that Volkswagen is not the only guilty party when it comes to fixing figures, says Transport & Environment (T&E).

A recent report titled “Mind the Gap 2015” by T&E suggests that some new cars, notably the Mercedes A-, C- and E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Peugeot 308, are consuming 50 per cent more fuel in on-road tests than in test laboratories.

When considering all European OEMs collectively, T&E believes that the gap between official test results and real-world figures for emissions and fuel economy “has become a chasm.” Between 2001 and 2014, the gap increased to 40 per cent. Without appropriate action, the organisation suggests this figure “will likely grow to 50 per cent on average by 2020.”

Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E, comments: “Like the air pollution test, the European system of testing cars to measure fuel economy and CO2 emissions is utterly discredited. The Volkswagen scandal was just the tip of the iceberg and what lies beneath is widespread abuse by carmakers of testing rules enabling cars to swallow more than 50% more fuel than is claimed.”

He implies that simple “known factors” do not account for the size of the gap between test figures and real-world figures. While this does not necessarily mean that other OEMs are using so-called defeat devices to manipulate results, Archer thinks it is vital for EU governments to unearth the reasons behind the discrepancies.

“This widening gap casts more doubt on how carmakers trick their customers in Europe to produce much better fuel efficiency in tests than can be achieved on the road,” he observes. “The only solution is a comprehensive investigation into both air pollution and fuel economy tests and all car manufacturers to identify whether unfair and illegal practices, like defeat devices, may be in use. There must also be a comprehensive overhaul of the testing system.”

On 6 October 2015, the European Commission’s regulatory committee (TCMV) met with member states to discuss plans for creating real driving emissions (RDE) test procedures, which would replace the current New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) tests in order to accurately represent vehicle emissions and efficiency.

The addition of an RDE package was already slated to come into effect in Europe by 2017, after being voted for in May 2015. But the meeting served to highlight key elements in the proposed legislations, and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) is confident that this was a step in the right direction, as the automotive industry has been calling for proposals for years.

“Our industry is committed to contributing constructively to the efforts of the Commission and member states to upgrade emissions testing,” affirms Erik Jonnaert, ACEA Secretary General.

Many industry experts believe that RDE test procedures could go a long way in accurately measuring emissions. Although he is eager to move forward and believes the implementation of RDE test procedures would be positive, Jonnaert warns: “It is important to proceed in a way which allows manufacturers to plan and implement the necessary changes, without jeopardising the role of diesel as one of the key pillars for fulfilling future CO2 targets.”

Jonnaert thinks there is a danger that diesel may now become over-regulated. How can the industry move forward without ‘jeopardising’ diesel?

“Clarity and predictability will enable manufacturers to continue investing in technologies that meet even higher standards and contribute to the fight against climate change,” he concludes.

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