German Autobahn A2 at Kamener Kreuz at rush hour in 2014 / Flickr / Dirk Vorderstraße / CC BY 2.0

During a public hearing at the European Parliament about new car emission tests, Green EU lawmakers criticized the new procedure, which still fails to overrule the different real driving conditions. Car industry representatives argued that they will apply the new rules, only the rules.

The EU lawmakers from the Environment Committee (ENVI) had an exchange with car industry and environmental experts on the new RDE  (real driving emission) test procedure on Tuesday (February 23).

Erik Jonnaert, Secretary General of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), welcomed the fact that “there is a final decision on updating the testing methodologies which were completely outdated.”

But Jonnaert rejected the allegations that the European car industry was aware, before the Volkswagen scandal, that emission frauds were committed.

“In Europe, everything is carved in stone. We are asked to follow regulations and so once regulations are revised and updated, we are going to comply with it,” Jonnaert said.

“But I rejected the allegations that all the manufactures were fraudulent in the way they did the tests. They have tested within the boundaries of what is legally possible.”

The Green member of the European Parliament (MEP), the Dutch Bas Eickhout, explained that it is the complete attitude of the car industry which needs to change.

“The car industry seems to see these standards as a kind of target they only need to achieve when it is measured and outside this scope there it is free to go,” Eickhout said.

“But, I mean, the standards are here to protect our citizens, it is for clean air, it is for our health. So the entire attitude of the car industry to circumvent these standards when it is not tested anymore, it is just a crazy attitude and I think that really needs to change.”

For the Green MEP, “real driving emissions test procedure is still reading as a bad novel, as many important points are still exempted from the scope and this is still not real driving emission.”

Jürgen Resch from the Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), a German environmental NGO, explained that “there are no clear rules for the future to avoid cheating the tests: fast accelerations or fully charged vehicles are still not taken into account.”

Resch stated that the fraud of the car industry was “premeditated with thousands of human deaths at the end.”

Conference on climate change - Climate challenges from an energy perspective on February 18, 2016 / European Union 2016 - EP/PE

Conference on climate change on February 18, 2016

Consumers are first victims

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) finds it outrageous that consumers themselves are receiving false information about the car equipment and devices.

The BEUC also criticises the fact that Volkswagen is leaving the customers in the dark by denying on how they would resolve the problem.

Chris Carroll, project coordinator on sustainable transport at the BEUC, explained during the public hearing “that the company has not been clear on how drivers will be informed about the modifications needed to their cars and whether these will impact the performance.”

Carroll added that air pollution was directly a consumer issue and therefore they should be even more informed.

“For consumers, there are two big concerns here. One is the fact that they have been provided with vehicles that don’t achieve what they have been promised in their contract, because they are not performing on the roads as they have done at the time of approval test,” Carroll said.

“But the second concern is that it is motorists. It is the owners of these vehicles who stand to suffer the most from the air pollution emitted by these cars. Although it is a society wild concern, it is the consumer which is potentially impacted the most.”

The BEUC also criticizes that Volkswagen won’t give compensation to the cars owners in Europe as they do in the US, with a 1,000 dollars grant per vehicle.

ENVI Committee meeting on February 17, 2016 / European Union 2016 - EP/PE

ENVI committee meeting on February 17, 2016

In the wake of the Volkswagen Diesel scandal last September, and the use of illegal software to cheat Diesel emission tests, the European Commission decided to speed up the introduction of new road emission test procedures, the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests, and aimed to bring down NOx emissions from cars.

RDE tests were then approved by the European Parliament last January in Strasbourg, despite Green MEPs criticism of these new rules, which will allow vehicle makers to overcome emission limits for nitrogen oxides (NOx) by up to 110 percent between 2017 and 2020 and then by 50 percent beyond that.

  • Author: Laeticia Markakis, Euranet Plus News Agency
  • Further image credits: [middle 1) German Autobahn A2 at Kamener Kreuz at rush hour in 2014 / Flickr / Dirk Vorderstraße / CC BY 2.0 | (middle 2) ENVI Committee meeting on February 17, 2016 / European Union 2016 – EP/PE | (middle 3) Conference on climate change – Climate challenges from an energy perspective on February 18, 2016 / European Union 2016 – EP/PE

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