European Commission Provisionally Approves Real World Diesel Emission Testing

Today the European Commission voted by large majority to approve a second rule package calling for real driving emissions tests for diesel passenger vehicles.

In the wake a Volkswagen cheating scandal, the member states met at the Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles to vote for the kind of testing that caught VWs in the first place.

Volkswagen had installed a “defeat device” as U.S. authorities called it, that detected when a TDI was on a dynamometer in test mode and at that point it would go into a cleaner running mode to pass the test. Once on the open road, a Jekyll and Hyde personality change happened, and 2009-2015 VW TDIs could emit up to 40-times the legal limit of NOx emissions.

SEE ALSO: What Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’ Is, and Why it Matters

Subject to final approval, that potential is slated to be no more after Sept. 1, 2017 in Europe, says the Commission, as real driving emissions (RDE) tests are implemented.

The next step is for the draft comitology regulation to be sent to the European Parliament and the Council for regulatory scrutiny.

The need for RDEs and the political momentum appear strong as the commission noted.

“The problem right now, as the Commission has pointed out time and again, is that laboratory tests do not accurately reflect the amount of air pollution emitted during real driving conditions,” said the EU Commission in a statement.

The commission added it has been working hard in this area already.

“The EU is the first and only region in the world to mandate these robust testing methods. And this is not the end of the story,” said Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. “We will complement this important step with a revision of the framework regulation on type-approval and market surveillance of motor vehicles. We are working hard to present a proposal to strengthen the type-approval system and reinforce the independence of vehicle testing. We are listening to the many views expressed and ideas put forward, and I thank the European Parliament in particular for its valuable input.”

Today the EU member states agreed the new RDE test will be binding on the type-approvals issued by the national type-approval authority (TAA) from September 2017 for all newly approved types of vehicles (from September 2019 for all new vehicles).

In the short term, to overcome technical limits to improving the real world emission performance of currently produced diesel cars , the member states agreed manufacturers need to reduce the divergence between the regulatory limit from lab tests and the values of the RDE procedure when the car is driven by a real driver on a real road. This so-called “conformity factor” has in two steps:

• in a first step, car manufacturers will have to bring down the discrepancy to a conformity factor of maximum 2.1 (110%) for new models by September 2017 (for new vehicles by September 2019);
• in a second step, this discrepancy will be brought down to a factor of 1.5 (50%), taking account of technical margins of error, by January 2020 for all new models (by January 2021 for all new vehicles).

Today’s agreement by member states on the allowed divergence between the regulatory limit measured in real driving conditions and measured in laboratory conditions is still a significant reduction compared to the current discrepancy (400 percent on average).

Even with lab tests, the EU said it has been at work on cutting NOx limits.

Following are rules as they’ve been amended over the years for diesel vehicles sold in Europe:
• January 2000: 500 mg/km (Euro3)
• January 2005: 250 mg/km (Euro 4)
• September 2009: 180 mg/km (Euro 5)
• September 2014: 80 mg/km (Euro 6)