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Without real-world measurements it’s unlikely the VW cheating would ever have been exposed. A key lesson is that emissions tests must shift out of the laboratory and onto the road in order to deliver real-world emissions reductions and accurate information for disillusioned drivers. As a first step, new Real-world Driving Emissions tests (RDE) for cars were finally agreed by EU national governments in October 2015. These will initially be used to assess the compliance of diesel cars with the Euro 6 NOx emission limits. The introduction of RDE tests is a good start but the tests are far from perfect: they give manufacturers too much flexibility to account for so-called ‘measurement uncertainties’ on the road (something MEPs will try to tighten in the first quarter of 2016); they do not apply to other air pollutants or CO2; and they do not take into account cold starts or regeneration events that are an important source of emissions.
Looking forward to 2016, RDE should be swiftly expanded to include CO2 and fuel efficiency testing, putting an end to the situation where an average driver wastes 40% more fuel than advertised during purchase of the vehicle. T&E has started work with PSA Peugeot Citroën to measure and publish real-world fuel economy figures using on-road testing by summer 2016. This demonstrates that some carmakers know there is no reason why RDE cannot be used to measure CO2. With a complementary new laboratory testing framework (World Light-duty Test Procedure, or WLTP) and a strengthened system of approving vehicles also set to be proposed in 2016, the Commission is taking some constructive steps to ensure emissions reductions observed in labs are finally delivered on the road too. With an upcoming proposal, at the end of 2016, for a future 2025 car CO2 standard, the EU is putting the regulations in place to ensure cars effectively contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the Paris Climate agreement.