Most European Automakers Unable To Meet EU Emissions Standards

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Originally published on Gas2.

According to Thomas Goettle, automotive expert for PA Consultant Group, most European manufacturers are in trouble when it comes to meeting new European Union emissions standards. They face the possibility of enormous fines as a result. The problem is compounded by new procedures adopted by the EU for measuring emissions. Instead of doing so under laboratory conditions, the new tests will be conducted in the field using portable testing equipment. Most observers expect the real world tests to be about 10% more rigorous than current in-lab procedures. The new test procedures will begin in January, 2017.

Tailpipe-pollution-in-Europe-Berit-Rolad-NTB-Scanpix-via-Bergens-Tidende-1024x576PA Consulting partner Lars Erik Maurud tells Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende, “On an annual basis we measure emission values from different automakers. A new test — Worldwide Harmonized Light Duty Test Procedure (WLTP) — will provide a more realistic emission figures than current tests, which have been criticized for not showing what the cars actually use in real life.” Maurud says some of the Continent’s biggest manufacturers will not be able to meet the new regulations, despite spending nearly $40 billion a year on research and development.

Maurud thinks BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Hyundai-Kia and Volkswagen are in the worst trouble. Although they are bringing hybrid and electric cars to market, the number of those cars being offered is too small to bring them into compliance on a company-wide basis. Right now at Volkswagen, only 0.1% of its sales are electric cars while 2% are plug-in hybrids. Maurud believes VW could face up to $10 billion in fines as a result.

BMW is also in a bad situation because is sells so many large and heavy SUVs. It could be looking at fines of up to $1 billion, Maurud says. Of the European manufacturers, only Peugeot/Citroen, Fiat, Renault/Nissan, Toyota and Volvo have a good chance to meeting the tougher standards. Each of them has already managed to achieve fairly large reductions in the average emissions of all the cars they sell.

The problem is partly due to the culture at individual companies. While Toyota has pressed forward aggressively with its hybrid technology, many of the others are depending on new techniques for lowering emissions in traditional gasoline and diesel engines. Maurud says BMW in particular is reluctant to give up on the powerful gasoline engines that have been its hallmark for the past 50 years. Much of Volkswagen’s diesel cheating troubles can be traced to senior managers who refused to believe diesels could not compete with Toyota’s hybrid technology and do it for less money.

The upcoming emissions standards will show no respect to any manufacturer because of its past accomplishments or proud heritage. Those who cannot comply will be unable to stay in business. It’s a simple as that.

Special thanks to Leif Hansen, who pointed me to the Bergens Tidende news article. 

Photo credit: Berit Rolad/NTB Scanpix via Bergens Tidende

Reprinted with permission.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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17 thoughts on “Most European Automakers Unable To Meet EU Emissions Standards

  • It goes to show that most European Car Manufacturers have been cheating by designing their vehicles to pass the tests under laboratory conditions. Doing an actual road testing could help reduce the cheat optimizations because it has more random traffic than the lab. Let us hope that with the new testing method, they randomize the routes too so that it is difficult to build a cheat program and the results should reflect real world test.

    • I miss GM/Opel/Vauxhal, Ford and Mercedes in the list up there.

  • That it is coming to this brick wall is also the responsibility of the EU and the national governments (example, Germany), who were in the past willing to require only token enforcement and to depend on the ‘word of honor’ of the auto companies. It is important to find an outcome which does not result in too many perverse incentives, for example there has been a suggestion that the 2020 limits could be met by fitting millions of cars with natural gas tanks, and suddenly setting up immense numbers of wind-powered synthetic gas facilities to feed them. Maybe there is a solution similar to that being attempted in California, by which the fines are paid, and used to further the adoption of EVs, for example with incentives for charging infrastructure build-out.

  • This is where EU emissions are really going up, not electricity. Get rid of diesel. Bring on the EVs. The execs responsible for diesel gate need some jail time to think over their misdeeds, not golden parachutes and cushy retirements.

  • “Those who cannot comply will be unable to stay in business.”
    Or the European regulators will choose to give an extension or some other trick to let the automakers off the hook for now. I keep wondering why Europe hasn’t been more of a leader with clean transportation.

    • Lack of vision. They don’t see that companies that don’t embrace pure electric are going to go out of business.

      • That’s why I also think the EV revolution and evolution will depend more on Tesla/China/Asia than the incumbents in the old or new world.

    • When it comes to CO2, fossil fuels and global warming by vehicles then Europe is a clear leader.

      NOx on the other hand, not so much.

      • Might that now start to change as people become more aware of what VW was doing? More attention to truly clean vehicles and not ersatz halfway measures.

        • Well it’s not really changing all that much. It’s been surprisingly quiet about it afterwards. CO2 is still the main focus and thankfully that will lead to a lof of electrification which will reduce other emissions too.

  • Here comes the stick – hopefully.

    They did had sugar for too long now and the dentist is calling.

  • Then I assume Opel will stand more than well once Chevy Bolt is introduced into their lineup. Think Bolt will fare well in Europe, given European buyers fancy such design. The only thing missing is widespread inductive charging network, but Opel/GM could turn the tables by installing such wireless chargers in the very proximity of their dealerships, which they have more than few in Europe. By doing so GM/Opel would gain significant advantage over its competitors and further bolster its position before Tesla M 3 hits European roads. A breeze ..

    • Opel sell about 900k cars in europe. About 20% EV penetration will be needed to hit the emission target.
      You expect them to be able to sell 180k Bolts in Europe in 4 years?

      Opel has no advantage and will most likely struggle to hit the target.

  • The conclusions in the article are very strange. It’s based on current sales and emission levels and not on strategies and expected emissions by the time the fines will start to come.

    BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen are well prepared, have a good strategy to make these goals and are not likely to pay any fines.

    Volvo and Renault/Nissan are even better prepared.

    GM and Ford have shown very little effort and strategy to get there but should (barely) be able to manage.

    Honda, Jaguar Land Rover and PSA are likely to be toast unless they do something fast.

    Fiat are dead in the water and this might be the fines that break the company totally. Fiat going under within 10 years?!

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