Just days before the Volkswagen scandal became public, environmental campaigners in Germany confronted Angela Merkel with the message ‘Diesel exhausts kill’ as the German chancellor opened the Frankfurt International Motor Show, the largest car show in Europe. The message was presented via a 13-metre-long blow-up car with its own cloud of exhaust fumes, designed to highlight the finding that most new diesel cars fail air quality standards they should have met by 1 September.
The impact of the Volkswagen emissions rigging scandal has centred on the shock that a leading and profitable car company from a country with a strong environmental record had been using specialist software to manipulate test results. But T&E has been warning about discrepancies between published fuel-consumption data (which come from official test results) and ‘real-world’ driving conditions for 17 years.
A number of European governments have ordered their own national investigations following news that Volkswagen had rigged emissions tests by using ‘defeat devices’. The European Commission issued a statement encouraging such inquiries.
The Volkswagen test-rigging scandal has been roundly cited as an embarrassment for regulators in Europe because it took an American regulator to highlight blatant malpractice by a European company. The discomfort is heightened by the fact that diesel cars make up a tiny percentage of the market in the US – about 3% – but they account for about 50% of sales in Europe. EU regulators were also informed at the same time as those in the US by the International Council on Clean Transportation but took no action.
The use of cheap, ineffective or poorly configured exhaust treatment systems is one of main reasons why the majority of new diesel cars fail to meet EU air pollution limits on the road. That’s according to the latest research by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), which last year found that 13 out of 15 modern diesel cars did not achieve the Euro 6 limit in real-world testing.
New research has suggested that investing in public and low-emission transport could bring massive financial savings in addition to making a sizeable contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.
The role of shared mobility in shaping European transport is likely to be influenced by a Spanish case referred to the European Court of Justice. A judge in Barcelona has asked the court to rule on whether Uber, the smartphone application for hailing taxis, often unlicensed, should be regulated as a digital or transport service. Meanwhile, the European Commission has launched its own investigation into how to deal with Uber, which will run in parallel with the court case.
Electric vehicle (EV) sales grew to 67,000 vehicles in 2014, up from just 700 in 2010, which T&E’s analysis found was partly the result of more major car companies offering EV models in the market. However, they still only represent 0.5% of the total annual sales, in part as a result of limited supply of models (just 20 are available). Some manufacturers – most notably Ford and Fiat – are not supplying any models.
While new cars sold in 2014 averaged CO2 emissions of 123g/km, according to the How Cleans are Europe's cars 2015? report, real-world emissions are much higher and reductions in CO2 are happening considerably slower than depicted. Now T&E is warning that the cheating will continue to undermine progress even after a new test, the Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedures (WLTP), is introduced.