Europe confirms new emissions test to start September 2017

The forthcoming World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) will come into effect from 1st September 2017, after a decision was made by the European Commission to ignore calls to delay its introduction.

There has been lobbying from countries with large automotive manufacturing industries to postpone the implementation of the new testing process, to give car makers more time to bring emissions and fuel economy figures into line with quoted results. The current New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) is widely recognised as being unfit for purpose as fuel economy results are becoming increasingly further away from real-world figures.

The new WLTP protocol has been designed on similar lines to the NEDC, but with stricter controls and cycles that more accurately reflect normal driving behaviour. As such, it will start to be used from September next year - with an additional year's grace period until 2018 for vehicles that recieve their test cirtificates between now and 2017. Cars being tested from autumn 2017 onwards will have to have been tested using the WLTP process to be legally sold.

The WLTP cycle has been designed to level the results around the world, though the European Union has also decided to implemnt the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test. This will superceed the WLTP if anything, as the test is more stringent still and involves test cycles completed on actual roads, using portable emissions measurement systems (PEMS) fitted to the car. This is opposed to the laboratory based tests used by NEDC and WLTP.

Only Europe as a region has committed to RDE testing currently though, so WLTP will still have some relevence as a comparison tool for other models and testing regiemes around the world; in the same way that NEDC has one benefit in that it at least acts as a yardstick by which to measure cars against each other by.

There has been increased scrutiny on vehicle test procedures ever since the VW Emissions Scandal broke last year. The moves to retain the existing implementation date for WLTP, rather than postponing it, will at least add some confidence to consumers looking to buy cars in the future.

The decision has yet to be passed into law as only the European Parliament, rather than the European Commission, can enforce it. However, it is likely that the move will not be overturned, despite the European Parliament having three months to accept or reject the decision.

European transport policy campaigners Transport & Environment have said: "The current test (NEDC) is riddled with loopholes that carmakers use to manipulate test rules to produce artificially low official CO2 and fuel economy figures. This has caused the gap between test and real-world performance to grow from 8 per cent to over 40 per cent. The actual fuel efficiency of cars on the road has been stagnating for three years now."

Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at T&E, commented: "We congratulate Commissioner Bieńkowska (who headed up the decision panel) and her team on standing firm against the pressure of some member states that are under the thumb of the car industry. This is a victory for drivers who will get more realistic fuel efficiency information to help them choose better cars."

T&E stresses that although the new WLTP test is a good step forward, it is still a standard laboratory test executed under set conditions and hence prone to new forms of vehicle 'optimisation' – by 2025 the gap is expected to be over 30 per cent. Therefore, the body considers it necessary to complement lab testing with random, spot checks on the road.

Find out more about the decision by viewing the European Commission's fact sheet here.

Photo courtesy of ADAC

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:15th Jun 2016

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