While the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal has been the face of insufficient emissions levels enforcement in the EU in the past year, the problem is a wide-ranging one involving nearly every manufacturer operating in Europe.
While most manufacturers have (apparently) not been brazen and arrogant enough to use “defeat devices” as obviously deceiving as Volkswagen has, the problems with testing standards are substantial. Official fuel economy figures, for instance, very rarely match up with real-world figures.
This disparity has been growing in recent years, with stricter regulations leading directly to an increased gap between reality and official testing results, according to new research from Toulouse School of Economics Professor Mathias Reynaert and UC Berkeley Professor James Sallee.
In other words, stricter emissions standards haven’t led to notable improvements, but rather have resulted in many manufacturers working to game the system to avoid the costly (both with regard to margins and to market share) changes that would be required to reduce pollution levels.
Green Car Reports provides more: “The researchers used data from Dutch fuel-card service Travelcard to estimate real-world fuel economy and emissions, and then compared their figures to official ratings. They found that real-world results were higher than official ratings across the board. In 2004, real-world fuel consumption averaged 10% higher than official ratings, but that gap increased to around 40% over the past 5 years. Reynaert believes the increasing disparity between laboratory and real-world results indicates that virtually all carmakers are cheating on emissions tests.”
Continuing: “He notes that the widening of the gap roughly corresponds with the introduction of stricter European Union emissions standards in 2007. The New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) testing protocol also leaves plenty of room for carmakers to cheat, he argues. This isn’t the first time the NEDC has been accused of being too lenient.”
Damning findings. But I can’t imagine that they’ll lead to any real changes. There are too many entrenched interests in positions of power. If real change is going to come, it’ll have to be the result of companies like Tesla, Uber, etc., changing the nature of the auto industry and market, rather than from top-down decrees.
That said, if there was to be a real push to implement serious testing standards in the EU, I certainly wouldn’t complain. But I’m not expecting Germany or France to ever do so.
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