Inaccurate tests cost European drivers 150 billion euros

European drivers have spent an additional 149.6 billion euros (£132 billion) on fuel between 2000 and 2017 because of inaccurate efficiency testing, according to new figures published by Transport & Environment.

The European campaign group reckons that 23.5 billion euros (£21.3 billion) has been wasted at the pumps in 2017 alone, and an additional 264 million tonnes of CO2 has been produced since 2000.

German drivers top the ranking with £32.6 billion wasted since 2000, followed by British motorists with £21.8bn, French £18.6bn, Italians £14.8bn and Spaniards £10.8bn.

The findings are based on comparison between real-world efficiency figures from cars on the road in Europe, compared to the out-dated NEDC test protocol which gives official fuel economy and CO2 emissions results. These are then used by governments for tax purposes, and consumers for comparisons between vehicles and to calculate potential running costs.

While new car CO2 figures have fallen by 31% according to laboratory-based NEDC results since 2000, the reduction when analysed using real-world tests is only 10%. The gap between official and real-world performance has jumped from 9% in 2000 to 42% in 2017.

Greg Archer, Clean Vehicles Director at Transport & Environment said: "Carmakers claims of huge progress improving fuel consumption is a scam. Despite regulations to reduce emissions, there has been no real-world improvement in CO2 emissions for five years and just a 10% improvement since 2000 - far less than the industry like to claim.

"The victims are citizens that have paid out €150 billion for more fuel and are also suffering the consequences of unchecked climate change.

"The (European) Commission's inadequate proposal to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and vans after 2020 comes with a new licence for carmakers to keep gaming the system. The result will be EU member states missing their climate targets and drivers continuing to fork out more for fuel.

"Members of the European Parliament and the EU environment ministers now need to act to prevent car industry colluding to cheat the rules."

T&E fuel costs

Laboratory tests are always going to give different results to those found by drivers in real-world conditions. How heavily a car is loaded, what the weather conditions are like, what type of terrain is covered, and how quickly or slowly a driver travels are personalised variables that are impossible to take into account for truly accurate results.

Even the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests, which use Portable Emissions Measurement Systems attached to cars as they complete routes on public roads, will find variations in efficiency compared to some drivers' experiences. As such, laboratory-based tests could have a part to play as a level playing field on which cars can be compared, but need to be balanced with on-the-road testing.

However, the NEDC tests have long been accepted as out-dated and inaccurate, and the results of T&E's findings show the true extent of this. Even the WLTP test that is currently being phased in - which has a more accurate test cycle than NEDC - is thought by many, T&E included, as not being up to the task of accurately representing a vehicle's economy scores.

Analysis by T&E says that the new WLTP tests fix many of the NEDC's problems, but introduce new loopholes for manufacturers to exploit. By inflating WLTP CO2 test results by at least 10 g/km, the automotive industry can achieve a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions proposed by the European Commission by 2025, as the stringency of the target is reduced by at least half.

T&E says: "At the heart of the problem is that all laboratory tests still include too much interpretation and a lack of independent supervision of tests so blatant breaches of the rules are not stopped.

"Whilst the new WLTP test addresses some loopholes, its introduction also creates new flexibilities that the car industry are exploiting to undermine both the current regulation to 2020/1 and proposed future regulations for 2025/30.

"Specifically, the industry plans to double test cars using the old NEDC test (for compliance with 2020/1 targets) and WLTP (to establish the baseline for proposed 2025 targets).

"This will enable them to optimise both tests to produce low NEDC values whilst inflating the 2020 WLTP baseline. By raising the WLTP lab results by 10g/km, more than half of the fuel savings benefit of the Cars CO2 regulation to 2025 is eliminated."

T&E proposes that the solution is to measure real-world fuel efficiency using fuel consumption meters or real-world tests, to reduce the manipulation of regulations. If WLTP loopholes are closed off, the campaign groups calculates that an additional 108 million tonnes of CO2 in cumulative emissions between 2020 and 2030 would be saved.

Should these loopholes not be closed, the fuel burnt to produce these emissions would cost drivers an extra 57 billion euros (£51.6 billion) at today's prices, and real-world CO2 emissions would only reduce by 12%.

Further information on T&E's findings can be found at the group's website.

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Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:29th Aug 2018

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