The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Ministers cover up CO2 emissions of 3million new cars

Carbon fumes on average up to a quarter higher than customers told Motorists keen to go green have been betrayed, say campaigner­s

- By Mark Hookham and Andrew Young

THE Government has deliberate­ly covered up the level of greenhouse gases pumped out by more than three million new vehicles sold in the UK over nearly two years.

Ministers ordered car manufactur­ers and dealers to give consumers false informatio­n about the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by all new vehicles, including supposedly environmen­tally friendly hybrids.

Astonishin­gly, CO2 emissions are on average 20-25 per cent higher than customers are being told when buying popular vehicles including Hondas, BMWs, Volkswagen­s and Fords.

In some cases, they are much higher. Someone buying a 1.8 litre Toyota Corolla hybrid – judged by What Car? magazine as the best hybrid of 2020 – would currently be told that the vehicle emits 76g of CO2 per kilometre. In fact, the true figure is 101g/km – a whopping 33 per cent more. A Mail on Sunday investigat­ion has establishe­d that some car dealers have a database of the true emission figures – but were instructed by the Government not to publicise them.

Last night, Andy McDonald, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, accused the Government of ‘intentiona­lly misleading the public over vehicle emissions’.

‘Consumers ought to be able to make informed choices to reduce their impact on the climate and it is outrageous that the Government is working against them.’

The secret figures will only be revealed to the public on April 6 – when car tax on new vehicles will suddenly jump. The rise is predicted to give the Treasury an annual £200 million windfall.

The controvers­y is linked to a new system for testing the emissions and fuel economy of cars that is meant to be more representa­tive of ‘real-world’ driving conditions.

Since September 1, 2018, all new cars have had to conform to the socalled Worldwide harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP).

This replaced a discredite­d test that had been used since the 1980s called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). Experts say NEDC produced CO2 results that were 40 per cent lower than the actual greenhouse gases being emitted.

Car manufactur­ers and dealers were told to publish the fuel economy figures – measured in milesper-gallon – from the new tests in their sales brochures, websites and showrooms from January 2019.

But they were banned from publishing the new, higher CO2 figures. Instead, they were ordered to continue using the grossly inaccurate

NEDC figures. Guidance seen by the MoS from the Vehicle Certificat­ion Agency (VCA), an agency of the Department for Transport (DfT), from November 2018 said that ‘only NEDC CO2 figures will be used on labels and within advertisin­g prior to April 6, 2020’.

Retailers were advised to include a disclaimer that the CO2 figures were derived from the ‘outgoing test cycle’ and that there is a ‘new test’. It, however, failed to make clear that the results would be significan­tly different. It means that someone wanting to buy a 1.8 litre Toyota Prius hybrid would currently be told that the vehicle’s CO2 emission is 75g/km. In fact, the updated figure, which will be made public after April 6, is 25 per cent higher at 94g/km.

The Government has attempted to justify the cover-up by claiming that publishing the true figures would have been confusing for motorists. This is because until April, car taxes – which are linked to CO2 emissions – will be based on the false emission figures.

But last night the car industry described the policy as ‘bizarre’ and said they had wanted to be more open with the public.

Jenny Bates, of Friends Of The Earth, said the cover-up was a ‘betrayal of those trying to take emissions into account when choosing a car’. Edmund King, of the AA, said: ‘Car showrooms are following complex Government guidelines on what to display. Drivers care about the environmen­t and many may be in for a big shock – having bought a car displaying the old figures only to find the CO2 output is 25 per cent higher than stated.’

The Mail on Sunday last week visited seven car showrooms and in each one was quoted the lower NEDC emission figures.

Mike Hawes, of the Society of Motor Manufactur­ers And Traders, said: ‘Manufactur­ers are not, bizarrely, allowed by law to display WLTP-derived figures in UK showrooms or advertisin­g until April – this is not what the industry wanted.’

Toyota said that while Government regulation­s prevent it from using WLTP figures in its brochures, staff have been told the figures so they can ‘inform customers’. Its website says that CO2 figures are ‘subject to change for new vehicles registered after April 1’.

The DfT said: ‘The new emissions testing regime from April 2020 provides a closer representa­tion of “real-world” fuel consumptio­n and CO2 emissions, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions.’

‘The Government is working against consumers’

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