Transport & Car Blog

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Carmakers accused of manipulating emissions tests

  Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A new report has accused car manufacturers of deliberately manipulating their claimed CO2 emission and fuel consumption figures.

Manufacturers are alleged to adopt techniques which effectively improve the energy efficiency and environmental standards of new vehicles during the official EU testing process.

The non-governmental Transport & Environment campaign group (T&E) claims there can be as much as a 25 per cent variation between the figures officially released and the actual day-to-day efficiency of vehicles.

Practises such as altering wheel alignment and pumping up a vehicle’s tyres successfully reduce rolling resistance and provide better fuel consumption readings. Manufacturers are also known to disconnect the alternator to lessen the engine load and use lubricants to reduce internal friction.

If this isn’t enough, manufacturers may also tape up shut lines and panel gaps in order to reduce drag, allowing the car to move with less air resistance and utilise lower levels of fuel.

“There is a growing gap between the official fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of new passenger cars and vans and that which is achieved by the same vehicles on the road,” said the report.

“The regulatory pressure to reduce new car CO2 emissions, the significant tax breaks on cars with low CO2 test figures and high oil prices have all increased the incentive for carmakers to manipulate official test results.”

While manufacturers may claim that these ploys are open to consumers to implement also, they are, in reality, used in complete isolation, and help only to benefit the manufacturer and overplay a car’s environmental performance:

“This new evidence shows that carmakers in Europe are cheating their own customers by manipulating official tests, which leads to thousands of euros of additional fuel costs for drivers,” says Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E.

“They are also cheating legislators, as EU laws intended to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and vans are only being met in the laboratory, not on the road. The only way to rebuild this trust is by closing loopholes in the current test procedures, to ensure that cheaters never prosper.”

The study also criticises the way in which test procedures provide automatic allowances which allow manufactures to declare results up to 4% below the true figures.

The New European Driving Cycle, the official mileage test performed on new cars in Europe, is now 30 years old and has clearly been abused to provide preferential results for car makers. New tests are likely to be introduced which more accurately reflect day-to-day driving conditions, but carmakers are alleged to be delaying their introduction.

T&E’s report has suggested that amendments to the regulations need to be put in place to allow more thorough testing systems checks and the introduction of an in-depth new test cycle.

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