Ending the cheating: using real-world CO2 measurements within the post-2020 CO2 standards

The biggest failure of the current car CO2 has been the failure to deliver emissions reductions on the road. Whilst new car CO2 emissions measured using the obsolete laboratory test (NEDC) have fallen by 31% since 2000, on the road the reduction is just, 11%. The gap between test and real-world performance has leapt from 9 to 42% weakening the regulation, increasing CO2 emissions and raising fuel bills for drivers. The underlying issue was basing the regulation on laboratory tests. Whilst the new WLTP addresses some loopholes, its introduction also creates new flexibilities that the car industry are planning to exploit to undermine both the current regulation to 2020/1 and proposed future regulations for 2025/30.

There are two key ways the post-2020 regulation will be weakened:

  1. By increasing the gap between the average WLTP test value and average real-world performance which is expected to grow from 23% in 2020 to 31% in 2025.
  2. By double testing cars using the old NEDC test (for compliance with 2020/1 targets) and WLTP (to establish the baseline for proposed 2025 targets). This raises the 2020 WLTP baseline by about 10g/km, effectively halving the stringency of the proposed emission reduction.

At the heart of the problem is that all laboratory tests still include too much interpretation of the requirements and optional approaches allowing tests and vehicles to be optimised and the results massaged upwards or downwards within the letter of the rules. This can be used to produce artificially low NEDC test results to help meet 2020/1 targets; and high WLTP values for 2021 to inflate the baseline on which the Commission's proposed 2025 and 2030 percentage reduction targets are based.

By measuring real-world fuel efficiency using fuel consumption meters or real-world tests, it is possible to reduce the manipulation of regulations. The Commission’s own experts recommended such an approach but the Commission failed to follow through with effective proposals. Co-decision makers in the European Parliament and Member States now need to finish the job by amending the post-2020 car and van proposals.