Press Release

CO2 cuts claimed by carmakers only half as good as they sound, warns T&E

April 30, 2014

Carbon emissions of the average car sold in Europe fell 3.9% in 2013 to 127g/km, according to official figures published today by the European Environmental Agency (EEA). Sustainable transport group, Transport & Environment (T&E), recognizes the progress made by car manufacturers in reducing climate-changing emissions. However, flaws in the current fuel efficiency and emissions test mean the official figures do not match up on the road.

Recent research shows that average fuel-efficiency figures achieved by drivers on the road are around 25% higher than official figures claimed by carmakers. This means that whilst on average new cars in 2013 achieved 5 litres per kilometer in tests, on the road the car consumes 6.25 l/km costing a typical motorist an additional €350 in fuel a year [1].

The significant gap between real-world CO2 emissions figures and test results occurs because carmakers manipulate test procedures, ‘creatively’ exploiting loopholes and flexibilities in the obsolete and outdated test to boost their green credentials. The industry supplies specially prepared test vehicles using a range of tricks to lower test results, such as: taping over cracks around the doors and grills; over-inflating tyres; adjusting the wheel alignment and brakes; using special super-lubricants; minimising the weight of the vehicle; testing at unrealistically high temperatures and on super-slick test-tracks. Tests conducted for T&E indicate that not using all these tricks increases CO2 emissions in the test by on average about 25%, explaining the gap between test and reality.

Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said: “Fuel efficiency standards for vehicles are Europe’s single most effective policy to drive down CO2 emissions, but are being undermined by an obsolete test. The test procedures are a Swiss cheese, full of loopholes, that carmakers exploit to exaggerate improvements in fuel economy and emissions.”

Europe’s current fuel-efficiency and emissions testing regime is not fit for purpose. It was developed more than 40 years ago and now bears little relation to real-world driving conditions and technologies. This is why around half of the ‘improvements’ in carbon emissions between 2007 and 2011 have not been delivered on the road.

The European Commission plans to introduce a new test cycle in 2017 – the World Light Duty Test Procedure (WLTP). This move was widely supported by MEPs last year. However, the new, closer-to-reality test faces fierce opposition from carmakers who want to delay its introduction until after 2021.

“EU Member States must support the Commission in quickly introducing new tests to stop carmakers misleading their customers and cheating the regulations,” Greg Archer concluded.

The EU’s first obligatory rules on carbon emissions require car manufacturers to limit their average car to a maximum of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2015, and 95g by 2021. Manipulation of tests has therefore contributed to average emissions achieving the target 2 years early. The intention is to switch to the new WLTP cycle using a conversion factor to adjust the 2021 target so that it requires no additional effort from car manufacturers, but still reflects the stringency of the original target.