European Commission scientists have uncovered evidence of carmakers manipulating the results of a new test for CO2 emissions, show documents obtained by Transport & Environment.
Less than three years after the Dieselgate NOx emissions scandal, the car industry is now inflating its CO2/fuel economy results, which could reduce the stringency of its 2025 CO2 targets by more than half as the new levels are based on reductions from published figures obtained in current tests.
In this way they will be able to sell fewer electric cars and more diesel vehicles while still hitting their targets, extending the sales of polluting vehicles while delaying expenditure on electric investment and models while motorists are slow to convert to low carbon alternatives.
The EU regulates carbon dioxide emissions from new cars through its CO2 standards and has set carmakers a target of 95g of CO2 per km in 2021.
In its 2017 proposal for 2025 standards the Commission decided not to propose a new grams-based target but instead to require a 15% cut compared to carmakers’ emissions in 2021, which will be measured in the new WLTP emissions test.
As a result carmakers can weaken the stringency of their 2025 CO2 targets by inflating CO2 results in the WLTP, but still meet the current 2020/21 standards which are based on the old NEDC test.
The Commission documents show that in tests carmakers are switching off the start-stop function. They are also adjusting the gear-shift patterns and using depleted batteries to burn more fuel and emit more CO2.
In addition carmakers are declaring higher values than they actually measure, again inflating the official emission values. The Commission found that: “As a result, the targets for 2025 and 2030 would also be weakened due to the inflated 2021 starting point. This would de facto reduce the level of ambition…”
William Todts, executive director at T&E, said, “After Dieselgate carmakers promised to change and that new tests were the solution. Now it’s clear they’re using these new tests to undermine the already weak CO2 standards. They want to meet these with minimal effort so they can keep selling diesels and delay the shift to electric cars. It’s a sad reminder the car industry wants to stay in the past and cannot be trusted.”
As higher CO2 emissions will result in higher taxes being levied on a vehicle, there is a risk for each carmaker that their cars will be taxed higher than their competitors. To maintain a level playfield, there would need to have been collusion between all car manufacturers to inflate their CO2 values. Brussels is already probing carmaker collusion on a wide range of technology, and last week a report in Germany suggested the cartel investigation was being extended to particulate emissions from petrol engines.
William Todts concluded: “The only way this trick can work is if all carmakers work together. The Commission must extend the ongoing cartel enquiries to investigate whether there has been collusion here. Just fixing the baseline problem isn’t enough, There needs to be sanctions to end the industry’s endemic cheating and collusion.”