Diesel cars still breaching emissions limits, ICCT claims

Data published today by the International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT) has suggested that a majority of new diesel cars being placed onto the market do not meet emissions standards.

The NGO has published findings of its Real Urban Emissions Initiative (TRUE) project, which offers a ratings system of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) measured based on measurements using remote sensing technology for over 90% of passenger car registrations in Europe.

ICCT has tested cars under real-world conidtions using remote sensing equipment

The rating uses a green/yellow/red (good/moderate/poor) scheme to profile the European vehicle fleet as well as vehicle families and individual vehicle models.

The results suggest that NOx emissions are systemically higher from diesel cars, even the newest (Euro 6) models. All Euro 6 petrol cars, in contrast, received a ‘good’ or ‘moderate’ rating, ICCT said.

TRUE, which is a partnership of the FIA Foundation, the International Council on Clean Transportation, the Global New Car Assessment Programme, Transport and Environment, and C40 Cities, and ‘seeks to bring transparency to the public debate on vehicle emissions and urban air quality’, the organisation said.

The rating system is based on a methodology developed by the ICCT, which makes use of remote-sensing technology and statistical analysis. The EU diesel car NOx emissions limit is 80 mg/km and was, until 1 September 2017, only tested by car makers in laboratory conditions.

Passenger cars rated in the TRUE system, grouped by fuel type and Euro standard. The red category includes both cars that only slightly exceed the rating’s threshold for NOx emissions (180 g/km, equivalent to the Euro 5 type- approval limit for diesel cars, which all new cars should theoretically have met for at least seven years) and gross emitters that exceed the regulatory limit by 18 times or more. Nearly all diesel vehicles on European roads today received a “poor” rating, meaning they exceed the Euro 5 diesel NOx emissions limits introduced in September 2009.

The new limit under RDE regulations, introduced on 1 September 2017 and includes some on-road testing, is 168 mg/km and will reduce to 120 mg/km in 2019.

Commenting on the findings, Rachel Muncrief, program director for the ICCT, said: “This initial project is an important first step, but remote sensing could take us very much further in terms of our ability to monitor, analyze, and control vehicle pollutant emissions and gain control of Europe’s urban air-quality problem.”

Remote sensing

The car industry has questioned the veracity of the findings, particularly in light of the fact that the conclusions have been drawn from using a remote sensing technique.

Remote sensing differs from other emissions test methods as the testing equipment does not physically interact with the vehicle undergoing testing.

It sees a light source and detector placed either at the side of or above a used to measure exhaust emissions via spectroscopy as vehicles pass by the measurement location. A benefit of the technique is that it is able to offer real-world insights into emissions from a large sample of vehicles, however, critics claim that this only offers a snapshot of the emissions performance in isolated locations.

Publication of the ICCT findings has been welcomed by the Allow Independent Road-testing Alliance (AIR) — whose members include the UK-based emissions testing firm Emissions Analytics, as well as the Energy Saving Trust and Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies.

Commenting on the release, Nick Molden, co-founder of AIR and chief executive of Emissions Analytics, said: “Our ethos since we launched last September has been to support the right data to ensure the right response to Europe’s air quality problem and its vehicle emissions crisis. A public index has to have a level of granularity to be effective and suitably standardised to be accessible to those making important decisions.”

Related Links
TRUE real-world passenger vehicle emissions rating system


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