The European Parliament’s committee of enquiry on car emission tests wants to clarify how deep the European and national institutions have been involved in the VW scandal. The parliamentarians also want to cut off the influence of the car manufacturers on the regulatory system. According to experts, this framework in the US is much more transparent.

The Belgian Socialist Kathleen van Brempt, who on Wednesday (March 2) was appointed as the chair of the new, 45 member inquiry committee into the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, said that this Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (EMIS) should work on what went wrong and on the question why the fraudulent software installed in Volkswagen (VW) diesel vehicles was detected by US authorities and not by those responsible in the EU.

The French member of European Parliament (MEP), the Green Karima Delli, the initiator of the inquiry committee, appointed as one of the vice-chairs, outlined that the committee’s number one priority will be to investigate whether the Commission and the EU member states were aware about the use of defeat devices before the news on the cheating of the German car producer VW broke on September 18 last year. (audio in French)

“We must know who is responsible, who knew what and why we didn’t do anything. So the first aim of the enquiry committee is to audit all the actors, including the whistleblowers, the automobile experts and manufacturers, but also the member states and the European Commission,” Delli said.

“So, everybody will be heard. The first aim of this enquiry committee is to increase transparency.”

Exhaust pipe testing in a research center / ec.europa.eu

Exhaust pipe testing in a research center

The limits of tests

Currently the European Parliament and the EU member states are discussing new rules proposed by the Commission on testing emissions under real driving conditions, known as Real driving emission (RDE) tests.

These reviewed RDE tests still have their limits, explained Jürgen Resch from the Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), a German environmental NGO.

For instance, there are no clear rules for the future to avoid cheating: “Fast accelerations or fully charged vehicles are still not taken into account,” Resch explained.

According to him, no difference should be made between rules for testing brake systems and those for testing emissions controls, meaning that they should be done in whatever weather condition.

Volkswagen production in 1960 in Wolfsburg / Flickr / Roger W / CC BY-SA 2.0

Volkswagen production in 1960 in Wolfsburg, Germany

Differences between US and EU

Vicente Franco, a Spanish engineer from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), who was part of the disclosure of the Volkswagen emission fraud, outlined that “the Diesel problem is more an EU problem rather than an American one.”

In comparison with the EU’s testing regime, the US has a central authority that has the oversight on car emissions tests, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

However, in Europe the supervision is fragmented, since each member state has its own type of approval authority, explained the engineer.

One goal of the Parliament’s committee would be an independent European certification authority to cut off the commercial links between the car manufacturers, the companies that are running the tests and the national authorities that are supervising the procedure.

In the US, those procedures are more transparent than in Europe, Franco of the ICCT said.

“The access to public information is definitely better in the US. It is possible to see what after-treatment system each car has, this is something we do not know in Europe,” Franco explained.

“It is possible to know where it is type-approved, that is something we ignore in Europe. All of the necessary data to repeat the certification test is available in the US whereas it is lacking in Europe.”

  • Author: Laeticia Markakis, Euranet Plus News Agency
  • Further image credits: (middle 1) Exhaust pipe testing in a research center / ec.europa.eu | (middle 2) Volkswagen production in 1960 in Wolfsburg / Flickr / Roger W / CC BY-SA 2.0

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