Governments back new real-world tests to tackle ‘Petrolgate’

New real-world emissions tests for modern petrol engines have been backed by EU governments. However, the tests will allow a conformity factor of 50%, meaning new petrol cars will be allowed to exceed current limits on particulate emissions by half – to take account of uncertainties in the test procedure. Governments agreed to stick with the September 2018 proposed date for all new cars to comply with the rules.

The new rules are intended to address the large numbers of ultrafine and highly damaging particles emitted from the new generation of gasoline engines. These particles penetrate deeply into human lungs and blood and contribute to the 467,000 deaths from air pollution annually, according to the latest EEA figures.

The new GDI engines emit 10 times more particles than their predecessors when on the road despite the fact that an inexpensive Gasoline Particulate Filter (GPF) – costing around €25 per car – can solve the problem. T&E said that without the robust new tests the car industry will not deploy the solution on an adequate scale and time frame. Some carmakers, including the VW Group, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) and the PSA Group, had already announced plans to fit particle filters from next year.

The vote at the European Council was passed by 23 votes to 3. Only the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania voted against the regulation while Slovakia abstained.

T&E clean vehicles manager Julia Poliscanova said: ‘This decision will ensure petrol cars are fitted with filters to trap the tiny, harmful particles emitted in the exhaust. It is a good day for urban residents forced to breathe air polluted by car exhausts.’

Governments also approved changes to the new nitrogen oxides (NOx) tests for diesel engines. The changes will make tests more representative of real-world driving by accounting for the higher emissions when engines are cold and when the particulate filters are cleaned, which were not covered in the original rules.

T&E clean vehicles engineer Florent Grelier said: ‘The Commission can now focus on establishing the rules to test cars on the road using a real world test. This is essential to ensure cars in use perform as they do in the lab and will ensure in the future carmakers cannot circumvent the rules as they’ve done for far too long.’