EU plans ‘real world’ economy and emissions tests

New regime starts on September 1st, when diesel-engined cars get stricter limits


In a move that has long been argued over, the European Union looks set to enforce a fuel-economy testing regime on carmakers that would see the tests move out of the laboratory and on to the real road.

The process kicks off September 1st, when a new, slightly stricter economy test regime kicks in that ban diesel-engined cars from emitting more than 0.08g of nitrous oxides per kilometre. But the European Commission is apparently working on proposals to put before member states before year’s end that could see a more realistic assessment of fuel economy brought in.

Currently, the official fuel-economy tests are carried out on test tracks, under laboratory conditions. Carmakers have been heavily criticised for using such “tricks” as taping over un-aerodynamic panel gaps and removing weight from the car (including such items as spare tyres) in order to produce a better result. All of which is legal and above board under the current system.

But according to an EU policy document, that lenient approach has created “negative publicity and reputational damage for vehicle manufacturers”.

A backlash against such a new system has already begun.

The VDA, the group that represents the German car industry, has said it will come up with its own, independent package of testing proposals. And carmakers across Europe have repeatedly railed against any more stringent testing of cars, primarily because they are afraid of the adverse affects higher emissions and economy figures will have on sales and on fines for exceeding carbon-dioxide limits.

The gap between tested and real-world economy has come to the fore in the past 12 months, though, thanks to high-profile cases in the US. Both Hyundai and Ford were criticised by the Environmental Protection Agency and sued by owners for providing overinflated fuel-economy estimates.

Both companies were required to reimburse owners for the extra fuel burned over and above the official test results.

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