By Erika Clugston
Just when we thought it was dying down, the larger scandal of manufacturer misreporting strikes again with a new study revealing that Europeans have had to pay €149.6 billion in additional fuel costs. This is the result of carmakers lying on efficiency tests, promising better performance than was in reality possible. German drivers have had to pay by far the most, with €36 billion wasted since 2000.
These calculations were done by environmentalists Transport & Environment (T&E) and NABU Germany, based on tests to measure real-world fuel efficiency. What they found was that carmakers were manipulating the laboratory tests to create results that are far beyond ‘optimistic’ in an effort to sell more cars. They used methods such as removing equipment from the cars to make them lighter, thus making them seem more fuel efficient.
Greg Archer, Clean Vehicles Director at Transport & Environment, called out carmakers in his statement, saying, “Carmakers claims of huge progress improving fuel consumption is a scam. Despite regulations to reduce emissions, there has been no real-world improvement in CO2 emissions for five years and just a 10% improvement since 2000 – far less than the industry like to claim. The victims are citizens that have paid out €150 billion for more fuel and are also suffering the consequences of unchecked climate change.”
Top industry carmakers include Volkswagen (easily the largest brand in Europe), Renault, Peugeot, Opel, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Ford, and Audi. These are currently some of the largest brands in Europe, and while to what extent they are cheating efficiency tests we cannot currently say, it’s important to note their role as industry leaders who must answer to the citizens they have misled.
And it is the European citizens paying the price. Last year alone, Germans paid €5.5 billion in extra fuel costs. Since 2000, British drivers have paid €24.1 billion, French €20.5bn, Italians €16.4bn, and Spaniards €12bn. And it’s only been getting worse over the years. In 2000, the real fuel consumption for cars in Europe was 9% higher than promised. In 2016, it was 42% higher.
New methods of measuring have been proposed by carmakers and the European Commission and will be applied from September on. The old test (NEDC) is to be replaced by the ‘WLTP procedure’ and should hopefully provide more realistic data. They will use data gathered from over longer periods of time, at higher rates of acceleration, and with added factors such as the use of air conditioning.
However, some are doubtful that these tests will be much better. T&E suggests, citing the Commission’s own Joint Research Centre study, that “it simply introduces new loopholes. By inflating WLTP test results by at least 10g/km the car industry can easily achieve the 15% reduction in CO2 emissions proposed by the European Commission by 2025 as the stringency of the target is reduced by at least half.” This just goes to show that the scandal is not yet over, and has real consequences — some of which are yet to come.
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