The appalling scale of carmakers’ gaming and cheating of emissions tests became more apparent in April as their credibility collapsed like a house of cards. The steady drip-drip with which the public became increasingly aware of the magnitude and pervasiveness of carmakers’ wrongdoing started on 20 April when Mitsubishi’s top executives admitted it had cheated CO2 tests on 625,000 minicars in Japan. Mitsubishi’s president acknowledged the misconduct with a deep bow of apology and later admitted the carmaker had cheated fuel tests for 25 years.
Switzerland has voted in favour of building a second road tunnel through the Gotthard alpine mountain. In a referendum in late February, the Swiss electorate voted by 57% to 43% to approve a second road tunnel, despite it appearing to contradict the Swiss constitution that commits the country to shifting goods transport from road to rail. The vote has been widely seen as part of a political swing to the right, which has been accompanied by a weakening of public willingness to support environmental measures.
Yet more evidence has emerged that highlights the discrepancy between the emissions levels measured in official testing and those emitted by cars on the road. T&E’s French member organisations have publicised the initial findings of a commission of enquiry set up last October by the French environment minister, Ségolène Royal.
Fiat’s 500X diesel car is the latest to come under suspicion for emitting levels of pollutants that are well over the amounts recorded in official testing. T&E’s German member DUH has published the results of an analysis on the compact SUV, saying the officially recorded emissions levels are ‘technically not plausible’. Fiat denies the car breaches Euro 6 rules, but has agreed to a modification of its engines.
Last week was a big week in the history of T&E, in the history of policymaking in our area, and even, to a certain extent, in the history of the EU. That may sound a bit pompous so I will explain.
Renault is to recall more than 15,000 vehicles and modify up 700,000 more to make sure its engines are in line with emissions standards after raids by French investigators at its headquarters. Environment minister Ségolène Royal said the French firm and other carmakers had not been using defeat device software like Volkswagen but that some of its vehicles did have unacceptably high emissions on the road.
T&E’s contribution to exposing the failed system of EU car testing has been one of its key campaigns in 2015. The discrepancy between lab tests for dangerous nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and those produced on the road was shown to be on average a whopping 500% – and more for some models. But the year was memorable for the unravelling of the biggest emissions scandal in auto-industry history.