Realistic real-world driving emissions tests: a last chance for diesel cars?

Air pollution emissions limits for cars, vans and trucks (Euro Standards) have been progressively tightened, on paper, over 25 years but have failed to deliver real-world improvements for several key pollutants, notably nitrogen dioxide. This is because obsolete tests and “cycle beating” techniques have been used by carmakers leading to levels of emissions from some cars many times higher on the road than in laboratory tests. In October 2014, the Commission will be discussing progress and next steps with EU member states. This paper outlines key issues for member states to ensure that the new real-world (PEMS) tests are robust and representative of real-world driving in order for emissions to decline on the road.

 

Member states exceeding nitrogen dioxide limits are relying on effective RDE tests to reduce emissions in the future and avoid infraction proceedings for failing to meeting ambient air pollution limits. A weak and ineffective testing regime will not improve air pollution or tackle the widespread health consequences. As a result, the only solution left to cities will be to ban all diesel vehicles. If this is necessary it is likely to result in a significant decline in sales and strongly impact on European carmakers that specialise in diesel cars.