Diesel dirt­ier than tested

New study shows es­pe­cially trucks spew out most of the poi­son that cause pre­ma­ture deaths

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN al­wyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

IT turns out the VW group did not have to cheat on their ve­hi­cles’ emis­sions in the lab to get cleaner re­sults than on the road, for a re­cent study, pub­lished in

Na­ture, has shown that lab­o­ra­tory tests of ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions from diesel ve­hi­cles un­der­es­ti­mate the real-world emis­sions by as much as 50%.

The re­search ex­am­ined 11 ma­jor ve­hi­cle mar­kets rep­re­sent­ing more than 80% of new diesel ve­hi­cle sales in 2015.

Sci­en­tists at the Univer­sity of York’s Stock­holm En­vi­ron­ment In­sti­tute (SEI) said in a state­ment that of these mar­kets they found ve­hi­cles emit­ted 13,2 mil­lion tons of ni­tro­gen ox­ide un­der real-world driv­ing con­di­tions, which is 4,6 mil­lion tons more than the 8,6 mil­lion tons ex­pected from ve­hi­cles’ per­for­mance un­der of­fi­cial lab­o­ra­tory tests.

Chris Mal­ley, from the SEI, said: “This study shows that ex­cess diesel ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions effect crop yields and a va­ri­ety of hu­man health is­sues. We es­ti­mate that im­ple­ment­ing Next Gen­er­a­tion stan­dards could re­duce crop pro­duc­tion loss by up to two per­cent for Chi­nese wheat, Chi­nese maize, and Brazil­ian soy, and re­sult in an ad­di­tional four mil­lion tons of crop pro­duc­tion glob­ally.”

Health im­pacts

Ni­tro­gen ox­ide is a key contributor to out­door air pol­lu­tion.

Long-term ex­po­sure to these pol­lu­tants is linked to a range of ad­verse health out­comes, in­clud­ing dis­abil­ity and re­duced life ex­pectancy due to stroke, heart dis­ease, chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease, and lung cancer.

Josh Miller, re­searcher at the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil on Clean Trans­porta­tion (ICCT), said: “Heavy-duty ve­hi­cles, such as com­mer­cial trucks and buses, were by far the largest contributor world­wide, ac­count­ing for 76% of the to­tal ex­cess gas emis­sions. “Five of the 11 mar­kets that we looked at, Brazil, China, the EU, In­dia, and the U.S., pro­duced 90% of that.

“For light-duty ve­hi­cles, such as pas­sen­ger cars, trucks, and vans, the Euro­pean Union pro­duced nearly 70% of the ex­cess diesel ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions.”

Pre­ma­ture deaths

The study es­ti­mates that ex­cess diesel ve­hi­cle ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions in 2015 were also linked to ap­prox­i­mately 38 000 pre­ma­ture deaths world­wide — mostly in the Euro­pean Union, China, and In­dia.

Su­san Anen­berg, co-founder of En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Analytics, LLC, said: “The con­se­quences of ex­cess diesel NOx emis­sions for pub­lic health are strik­ing. At a global level, the study es­ti­mates that the im­pact of all real-world diesel ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions will grow to 183 600 early deaths in 2040, un­less something is done to re­duce it.

“In Europe, the ozone mor­tal­ity bur­den each year would be 10% lower if diesel ve­hi­cle ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions were in line with cer­ti­fi­ca­tion lim­its.”

Which may ex­plain why Ru­pert Stadler, chair of Audi — part of the VW Group — last week an­nounced Audi’s plans to launch three new elec­tric mod­els by 2020, af­ter which the brand will grad­u­ally elec­trify mod­els in each of its core se­ries.


Note the small air in­take of next year’s Audi A2Q car, which is full elec­tric and doesn’t a fan to cool an en­gine. The A2Q can re­port­edly reach 500 km on a charge and has no tailpipe to spew out toxic smog.

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