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The revamped procedures are intended to overcome obsolete tests and ‘cycle beating’ techniques used by car manufacturers to attain emissions levels seven to 10 times lower than actual air pollution emissions on the road.
The rules were agreed with strong support from Germany and the Netherlands after the car industry had unsuccessfully pushed for them to be watered down.
The next step for the new test rules, which will be the first regime to measure air-polluting emissions on the road, is for the European Commission and member states to agree on what the limits for the tests will be and from when they will apply. An agreement is expected to be reached by the autumn.
François Cuenot, air pollution officer at T&E, said: ‘T&E is delighted that the Commission and member states have taken this important step to tackle air pollution from diesel. Europe now needs to fully enforce the new rules from 2017 to bring an end to dirty diesels.’
The 80 milligram of nitrogen oxide per km limit agreed for diesel cars in 2007 should be met in full, T&E has said. Nitrogen dioxide limits have been exceeded across Europe, exacerbating asthma in vulnerable people and shortening life expectancy in polluted places. Only effective real-driving emissions tests which actually reduce emissions will allow EU countries to avoid potential fines for failing to meeting air pollution rules.
The continuation of the current testing regime has seen air pollution spikes in European cities with widespread health consequences and the prospect of local governments banning diesel vehicles as the only remaining solution.
In the UK, where the number of diesel cars has risen from 1.6 million to 12 million since 1994, the Sunday Times newspaper has launched a clean air campaign calling for better monitoring of air pollution, easier access to information about pollution levels and more action to curb pollution. Last month a UK Department of Health agency published research showing that thousands of people in Britain suffered attacks when smog full of tiny particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas typical of diesel emissions descended last spring.