We have read about how many car manufacturers have found ways to cheat fuel economy and emissions tests. Ben Webster writes in The Times that, now that these manufacturers have had to change their ways, they have instead changed the tests to show the opposite. And he explains why.
Cars ‘rigged to perform badly’ in emissions tests
Car manufacturers may still be cheating in emissions tests, this time by making vehicles perform worse than they really do.
The industry could be deliberately sabotaging cars during carbon dioxide emissions tests to make it easier to meet future targets, according to a report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).
In 2015’s “dieselgate” scandal, VW was found to have used illegal devices to understate air pollution emissions in diesel engines. The commission has since introduced a new test and set the industry a target of reducing emissions by 15 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030. By recording an initial inflated result, the industry would have to make fewer improvements to meet the targets.
A JRC report says that cars presented for testing had a “depleted battery” to make them use more fuel to charge it during the test. The start-stop function, designed to save fuel by cutting the engine when stationary, failed to operate. Gear-shift patterns may also have been adjusted to consume more fuel.
The report, which does not name any manufacturers, also says that the industry has overstated CO2 emissions in official declarations by an average of 4.5 per cent compared with measured values, with reporting for some models as much as 13 per cent higher.
The commission concludes that the “inflated starting point . . . would de facto reduce the level of ambition” set for the industry by its targets.
William Todts, executive director of the Transport & Environment campaign group, said: “After dieselgate, carmakers promised to change and new tests were the solution. Now they’re using new tests to undermine the already weak CO2 standards.
“They want to meet these with minimal effort so they can keep selling diesels and delay the shift to electric cars. The car industry wants to stay in the past and cannot be trusted.”
The group claimed that the effect of the manipulation by the industry would be to halve the actual emissions savings they would have to make.
A European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association spokesman said: “The EU automobile industry worked hard to support the commission in developing the new laboratory test, known as WLTP, for measuring CO2 and pollutant emissions. WLTP introduces much more realistic and robust testing conditions. This ensures that lab measurements now better reflect the on-road performance of a car. [We] remain committed to help the commission further improve and fine-tune the WLTP regulation, should this be required.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said it could not comment on the findings because it had not seen the evidence but the “industry would like to see the full test results.”