In the last few days several announcements have demonstrated how the initial exposure of Volkswagen’s cheating US tests is merely the tip of an iceberg of test manipulation.
The new city government in Oslo has said it will eliminate private cars from the city centre by 2019 as part of plans to make the Norwegian capital reduce its greenhouse gases by 50%.
MEPs have voted for mandatory fuel consumption meters on all new cars from 2019 – tightening the Commission’s original proposal on eliminating the discrepancy between emissions in test conditions and those in real-world driving, which omitted fuel consumption meters. The European Parliament’s environment committee said the proposal didn’t do enough to reduce fuel use, and last month it voted for indicators to be obligatory on all new models from 2018 and on all new cars from 1 January 2019.
EU governments have agreed to new limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars that are double the ‘Euro 6’ levels agreed back in 2007. They have also delayed the implementation of new limits for all new cars until 2019. From 2021, all new cars will still be allowed to emit 50% more NOx than the Euro 6 limit of 80mg/km.
The full European Parliament today called on the European Commission and member states to introduce an ambitious on-the-road test in 2017 to finally meet the current Euro 6 limit for diesel cars of 80mg of nitrogen oxides (NOx) per km. The MEPs’ resolution also asked the Commission to set up a European certification authority that will oversee the work of the national type approval authorities to ensure independence from the car industry. Only cars randomly taken from the production line should be tested, MEPs concluded. Currently, national authorities only test ‘golden vehicles’ that are specially prepared for passing the tests, and no systematic checks take place afterwards.
Europeans pay 14 cent more on average in tax for a litre of petrol than for diesel – indirectly subsidising diesel cars to the order of €2,600 per vehicle, a new study by sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) finds. This 30% tax gap in favour of diesel is a key reason for diesel cars’ majority share of new sales in Europe and leads to air quality problems where nine out of 10 diesel cars fail to meet NOx limits when driven on the road. 
The gap between petrol and diesel taxes in Europe is quite unique in the world and is the main reason why diesel engines have taken off in Europe and not worldwide. This study analyses fuel price and tax trends since 1980 and adds a specific analysis of diesel tax paid by trucks. It finds that in 2014 the gap in tax levels for diesel and petrol paid by motorists was €0.14/l, which is 30% lower than petrol per unit of energy or tonne of CO2.
T&E’s German member Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) commissioned emissions testing on a Opel Zafira 1.6 CDTi (Euro 6b, 6,000 km) with a testing house at the Swiss Berner Fachhochschule.
This is my modest attempt to add something to the almighty #autogate scandal that detonated like a bomb on 18 September, four intense weeks ago. Here we go. First, about the industry. All the evidence we have assembled has led us to say this affair is the tip of the iceberg. Predictably the industry is trying to paint it as the opposite - an isolated incident for which a few low-level rogue engineers were responsible.
Europe’s response to the failure of EU vehicle emissions testing exposed by Volkswagen’s admission of cheating must be a complete overhaul of how cars are approved for sale. That was the response of T&E as further evidence emerged of the growing gap between official test results and cars’ actual carbon emissions on the road.