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VW: real world emissions tests a major challenge

MP committee slams scandal-hit Volkswagen over its ethics as it publishes correspondence with the German carmaker’s UK director

European Commission proposals for real world driving emissions testing to be introduced from 2017 are “extremely challenging” for the car industry, according to the UK managing director of scandal-hit Volkswagen Group.

Volkswagen Group UK managing director Paul Willis speaking during the EAC session this week

Volkswagen Group UK managing director Paul Willis speaking during the EAC evidence session in October 2015

In written correspondence published by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) today (December 20), VW’s Paul Willis voices his support for real driving emissions (RDE) testing of diesel cars but states that this will be a “major challenge” to for the industry comply with.

The publication of the correspondence has prompted the MP committee to question the ethics of the German carmaker after it admitted earlier this year to fitting ‘cheat devices’ to several of its car models in order to circumvent tests designed to limit emissions of nitrogen dioxide.

It follows evidence given by Volkswagen’s Mr Willis as part of the EAC’s inquiry into the scandal at a Committee hearing on October 15 2015. At this hearing, Mr Willis denied that the VW cars fitted with a cheat device had pumped more NOx emissions into the atmosphere as a result of the test manipulation (see AirQualityNews.com story).

And, in the additional written evidence to the EAC published today, Mr Willis reiterates this point, stating: “As there is no legal limits for NOx emissions in the real world, it is impossible for the Volkswagen Group to meet it.

“Given the impossibility of programming software to meet that undefined limit, it is also impossible for us to quantify the amount of NOx emissions that would have been saved per vehicle.”

Mr Willis then goes on to state in the correspondence that there are “deficiencies” in the current diesel emission testing regime, which takes place in laboratories rather than being based on on-the-road driving, and that he supports “the move toward a more appropriate testing regime that better reflects real world driving”.

Currently, air pollution emissions from cars are tested in the laboratory to see if they meet legal limits, but this form of testing has been shown to vastly underestimate the real emissions from cars when driving on the road.

Real Driving Emissions

Mr Wilis also voices support for recent stipulations set out by the European Commission’s Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles (TCMV) for a new EU real driving emissions (RDE) testing regime to be implemented on a staggered basis for new vehicles from September 2017 onwards.

These stipulations were rejected last week by MEPs on the European Parliament’s Environment Committee for “watering down” and “delaying” the implementation of stricter emissions testing (see AirQualityNews.com story).

However, Mr Willis states in the EAC correspondence that the TCMV’s suggested conformity factor of 1 plus a margin of error of 0.5 for cars to comply with the proposed emissions tests represents a “major challenge for the industry”.

He states: “The timeline, boundary conditions and conformity factors agreed by the TCMV are extremely challenging for the industry.”

Environmental Audit Committee

Publishing Mr Willis’ written evidence today, Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) chair Huw Irranca-Davies MP questioned the ethics of Volkswagen and challenged the carmaker to produce vehicles which emit the same level of pollutants that its adverts suggest.

The Labour MP said: “At a public hearing in Parliament, Volkswagen UK agreed that car companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure vehicles meet air pollution standards. However, the car maker’s response to us shows that it has adopted a legalistic approach to emissions testing, rather than being committed to the spirit of pollution limits drawn up to protect human health.

“Test limits were not introduced merely to ensure cars meet emissions limits in the laboratory, but to protect the people living and working in our towns and cities. Today, I would like to publicly challenge VW and other car makers to make a commitment to their customers to produce cars whose average real world emissions actually reflect the figures they use in their advertising.”

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