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  • Carmakers’ hands tied as EU agrees CO2 targets will be based on new test

    CO2 targets for 2021 for new cars will be based on an improved test, the WLTP (Worldwide harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure), after a decision today by the European Council and the European Commission. Sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes the decision as the conversion methodology will limit how much carmakers can manipulate tests to meet 2021 CO2 limits for new cars.

    The agreed methodology will take WLTP CO2 test results and convert these back into a metric equivalent to the current obsolete NEDC laboratory test using a correlation tool to maintain equivalent stringency between the tests. This approach enables the existing carmaker CO2 targets to be used with the improved WLTP test.

    Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at T&E, said: “We congratulate Commissioner Cañete and his team on completing this complex technical exercise that complements last week’s decision to implement WLTP for all cars from 2018. The decision will begin to eliminate some of the ways carmakers manipulate CO2 tests but we need a new 2025 car CO2 regulation to secure the full benefits of the WLTP test.”

    T&E has reservations about some aspects of the correlation tool that allow for some unfair flexibilities in the current NEDC test. However, the benefits of introducing the WLTP test from 2018 and using this as the basis for assessing 2021 car CO2 targets are more important than continuing arguments over the details of the correlation tool.

    The current test (NEDC) is riddled with loopholes that carmakers use to manipulate test rules to produce artificially low official CO2 and fuel economy figures. This has caused the gap between test and real-world performance to grow from 8% in 2001 to over 40% now. As a result, the actual fuel efficiency of cars on the road has been stagnating for past three years.

    Although the new WLTP test is an important step forward, it is still a standard laboratory test executed under set conditions and hence prone to new forms of vehicle ‘optimisation’ – by 2025 the gap between the WLTP results and real-world performance is expected to be over 30%. It is therefore necessary to complement lab testing with road tests for CO2 to ensure emissions reductions are delivered on the road and reduce test manipulation.  

    “Step by step, Europe is beginning to rebuild its discredited system for testing and approving cars. But there is much more to do to ensure the approval of cars is independent, rigorous and transparent, Greg Archer concluded.

    Member states and the Parliament are currently negotiating a proposal for reviewing the system of approving new cars for sale in the EU. The European Commission is preparing a proposal for post-2020 CO2 standards for new cars, which is expected to be made in the first quarter of 2017 and will be based on the WLTP test.