The race to electrify mobility took an important step forward with a series of announcements from German carmakers on new electric cars and trucks. This coincided with a strong signal from the European Commission, through its Low-Emission Mobility Strategy, that electric vehicles, and not diesel-powered ones, have the principal role in decarbonising transport.
By Jos Dings, T&E executive directorAmerica is no green saint. An American emits more than twice the carbon of a European. Per head Americans also use more than twice as much oil for transport as Europeans do – mostly because five Americans own as many vehicles as eight Europeans and many of their vehicles don’t even fit in European garages. They send more than three times as much household waste to landfills. And so on.
Three-quarters of a list of 30 diesel cars that are among the dirtiest in Europe were approved for sale in the EU by the carmakers’ ‘home’ authorities, a new analysis shows. The ‘Dirty 30’, compiled by T&E, showed highly suspicious emissions behaviour when tested by the UK, French and German governments. This raises serious questions for the national type approval authorities that refuse to take any action to bring the carmakers back in compliance and instead blame Brussels for ‘vague’ legal definitions.
The newly elected mayor of London has said improving the British capital’s air quality will be one of his top priorities. Sadiq Khan’s first policy announcement after winning the election in May was to increase the size of London’s clean air charging zone and impose an additional charge on the most polluting vehicles.
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.