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Environment MEPs reject watered down diesel car testing

Environment MEPs reject emissions standards set out in draft real world testing proposals for diesel vehicles

The European Parliament’s environment committee last night (December 14) rejected the emissions standards set out in proposals for new on-the-road testing of air pollution from Euro 6 diesel cars.

Demand for diesel in UK is expected to increase by 30% over next 15 years

The European Parliament as a whole will vote on the proposals in January

MEPs yesterday voted against RDE test regulations agreed by the EU’s Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles (TCMV) in October, which set out that the test procedure should only apply to some new types of cars from 2017 and should not apply to all new cars on European roads until 2019.

The proposed RDE (Real Driving Emissions) test procedure is designed to better reflect actual driving on the road compared to the current laboratory tests, which have been shown to vastly underestimate the levels of pollutants emitted from car exhausts.

Discrepency level

These draft RDE proposals would see car manufacturers having to bring down the emissions limit discrepancy to a ‘conformity factor’ of a maximum of 2.1 (110%) for new models by September 2017, and for new vehicles by September 2019.

This discrepancy would then be brought down to a factor of 1.5 (50%) – taking account of technical margins of error – by January 2020 for all new models and by January 2021 for all new cars. A conformity factor for the number of particles (particulate matter) has yet to be determined.

However, according to the resolution agreed by the environment MEPs yesterday, the TCMV’s proposals to raise nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission limits by up to 110% are unjustified and would “undermine the enforcement of existing EU standardsâ€?.

The 110% level was included in order to take into account technical uncertainties involved in using Portable Emission Measurement System (PEMS) devices to test vehicles, but environment MEPs said the maximum margin of error for such devices is actually 30%, or just 18.75% on average.

40 MEPs on the environment committee therefore voted to object to the TCMV’s draft plans and called for stricter emissions test margins, with nine voting against and 13 abstentions.

The agreed resolution will now be put to a vote by the full European Parliament at the January 18-21 plenary session in Strasbourg.

Reaction

Welcoming the outcome of the vote, Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder said the TCMV’s proposal would “water down and delay stricter emissions tests for diesel carsâ€? and undermine the planned ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) in London.

The UK government earlier in the week reportedly sent a briefing to MEPs urging them to support the TCMV’s proposals, amid fears that rejecting the current proposals would further delay the introduction of real world driving emissions testing.

If the European Parliament rejects the proposals in January, the Commission will then need to come back with more ambitious proposals before April 2016.

Nevertheless, Ms Bearder described the UK government’s actions as “disgracefulâ€?, adding: “Cutting diesel pollution is vital to clean up the air in our cities. The technology to reduce deadly emissions is already available; we should not have to wait another decade for legal limits to be met.â€?

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy MEP – also a member of the Parliament’s Liberal group – added: “In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, it’s clear we need to urgently revise road emission tests, but the proposed exemptions agreed by EU governments are a disgrace. The cheaters are rewarded, while the carmakers that respect the emission rules shoulder the costs. Worst of all, harmful levels of air pollution would continue, despite the fact that emission control technologies are available and affordable today.â€?

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