New diesel tests fail­ing to tackle rush-hour fumes

‘Real-world’ checks un­der way af­ter cheat­ing scan­dal Green­peace says there is loop­hole in tighter regime

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Damian Car­ring­ton En­vi­ron­ment edi­tor

New “real world” emis­sions reg­u­la­tions fail to pre­vent high lev­els of pol­lu­tion from diesel cars dur­ing rush hour, ac­cord­ing to new data.

Diesel ve­hi­cles are the main cause of the UK’s wide­spread prob­lem with il­le­gal lev­els of air pol­lu­tion, with the VW cheat­ing scan­dal ex­pos­ing the fact that vir­tu­ally all diesel cars emit­ted far more toxic fumes than in of­fi­cial lab­o­ra­tory-based tests.

Since 1 Septem­ber, new mod­els must now be tested on real roads, but the new data shows even this does not pre­vent high lev­els of fumes in slow traf­fic, when pol­lu­tion is at its worst for driv­ers and other road users.

Emis­sions An­a­lyt­ics, a re­spected test­ing firm, mea­sured the emis­sions from two diesel cars on rush-hour jour­neys into and out of Lon­don. In the most con­gested three-mile stretch, a VW Golf and Vaux­hall In­signia both emit­ted far more ni­tro­gen ox­ides (NOx) in their of­fi­cial real world tests – 42% and 118% more re­spec­tively.

There is no sug­ges­tion that ei­ther of the man­u­fac­tur­ers have bro­ken any reg­u­la­tions, as the “real driv­ing emis­sions” (RDE) test al­lows the cars to be tested at dif­fer­ent times of day, com­bines re­sults from ur­ban, ru­ral and mo­tor­way driv­ing, and only ap­plies to new mod­els com­ing on to the mar­ket now.

Green­peace, which com­mis­sioned the new re­search, says the re­sults ex­pose a loop­hole in emis­sions tests.

“The RDE tests should leave the auto in­dus­try no room to hide cars’ real emis­sions,” said Paul Morozzo of Green­peace UK. “These new tests are not ‘real’ enough to en­sure the most pol­lut­ing cars are kept off our roads. That car com­pa­nies are al­lowed to avoid rush-hour traf­fic when test­ing in ur­ban ar­eas is a ma­jor flaw.

“In­stead of wast­ing more time and money hid­ing be­hind tests that still don’t re­flect what’s hap­pen­ing in the real world, car com­pa­nies should switch from diesel to elec­tric and hy­brid tech­nol­ogy,” Morozzo said.

“Min­is­ters can­not rest on their lau­rels ei­ther – these tests do not solve the prob­lem of air pol­lu­tion, which makes a ban on new diesels long be­fore 2040 even more cru­cial.”

Nick Molden, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Emis­sions An­a­lyt­ics, said: “The re­sults show fur­ther im­prove­ments may be re­quired for both the test­ing regime and for diesels to man­age chal­lenges like Lon­don’s rush hour. Other Emis­sions An­a­lyt­ics test­ing shows diesels can be cleaner in nor­mal ur­ban and mo­tor­way driv­ing. How­ever, the pace of change, or lack of, con­tin­ues to threaten the fu­ture of diesel.” Sales of new diesel cars are plum­met­ing, as is the value of sec­ond­hand diesels.

A spokesman for the De­part­ment for Trans­port said: “This gov­ern­ment has led the way in Europe push­ing for on­road emis­sions tests, along­side a tough new lab­o­ra­tory test, to clean up air in our towns and cities. The in­tro­duc­tion of new RDE tests this month is ex­pected to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce av­er­age real-world NOx emis­sions from new cars.”

Mike Hawes, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the So­ci­ety of Mo­tor Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Traders, which rep­re­sents the mo­tor in­dus­try in the UK, said the new RDE tests an­a­lysed emis­sions in a wide range of driv­ing con­di­tions and any car fail­ing to meet the stan­dards would be barred from sale.

“This will pro­vide con­sumers with the re­as­sur­ance that man­u­fac­tur­ers are de­liv­er­ing on air qual­ity,” he said. “Crit­i­cis­ing this new, highly com­plex and ro­bust test based on the re­sults of a cou­ple of ve­hi­cles in­di­cates a fail­ure to un­der­stand the time­line and legal and test­ing process.”

A spokes­woman for Volk­swa­gen said: “The group em­braces the forth­com­ing RDE stan­dards and all its prod­ucts will be fully com­pli­ant.”

The UK gov­ern­ment an­nounced a ban on diesel ve­hi­cles from 2040 as part of a new air pol­lu­tion plan it was forced to pro­duce af­ter be­ing de­feated twice in the courts.

How­ever, the plan, re­leased in July, shies away from charg­ing diesels for en­ter­ing pol­luted ar­eas and was con­demned as “woe­fully in­ad­e­quate” by city lead­ers and “in­ex­cus­able” by doc­tors.

A UN hu­man rights re­port, re­vealed this week by the Guardian, said: “The UK gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to flout its duty to en­sure ad­e­quate air qual­ity and pro­tect the rights to life and health of its cit­i­zens.”

‘That car com­pa­nies are al­lowed to avoid rush-hour traf­fic when test­ing is a ma­jor flaw’

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