Study: Diesel Vehicles Emit Up To 50% More Nitrogen Oxide In Real World Than Laboratory Tests

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Real-world nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles are up to 50% higher than the estimates that result from laboratory testing, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature.

The work, which was quite comprehensive, investigated 11 top vehicle markets, which together represented over 80% of new diesel vehicle sales in the year 2015.

Amongst these markets, the researchers found that diesel vehicles emitted around 13.2 million tons of nitrogen oxide under real-world conditions — roughly 4.6 million tons of emissions more than official laboratory tests estimate (~8.6 million tons).

The researchers involved in the work were spread throughout the International Council on Clean Transportation and Environmental Health Analytics, the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the University of Colorado, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

SEI researcher Chris Malley commented on the study: “This study shows that excess diesel nitrogen oxide emissions affect crop yields and a variety of human health issues. We estimate that implementing Next Generation standards could reduce crop production loss by 1-2% for Chinese wheat, Chinese maize, and Brazilian soy, and result in an additional 4 million tonnes of crop production globally.”

The press release provides more: “The study estimates that excess diesel vehicle nitrogen oxide emissions in 2015 were also linked to approximately 38,000 premature deaths worldwide — mostly in the European Union, China, and India. … At a global level, the study estimates that the impact of all real-world diesel nitrogen oxide emissions will grow to 183,600 early deaths in 2040, unless something is done to reduce it. In some countries, implementing the most stringent standards — already in place elsewhere — could substantially improve the situation, according to the researchers.”

With regard to the vehicle types in question (that emitted the most nitrogen oxide), there are no surprises there.

Josh Miller of the the International Council on Clean Transportation commented: “Heavy-duty vehicles, such as commercial trucks and buses, were by far the largest contributor worldwide, accounting for 76% of the total excess gas emissions. 5 of the 11 markets that we looked at, Brazil, China, the EU, India, and the US, produced 90% of that. For light-duty vehicles, such as passenger cars, trucks, and vans, the European Union produced nearly 70% of the excess diesel nitrogen oxide emissions.”

About what you’d expect. You’d think that at some point all of the research and negative PR surrounding diesel vehicles would lead to a change in regulations in the European Union, wouldn’t you?

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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