Tougher emissions tests now in effect for new cars

All new cars going on sale must now undergo tougher tests for emissions, under new legal requirements which have come into force across Europe this month (1 September).

The testing requirements, which are intended to mimic ‘real-life’ driving conditions, have been brought in to prevent manufacturers from cheating emissions tests in response to the ‘Dieselgate’ emissions scandal.

New cars will be tested on the road to measure pollutant levels under the RDE testing regime (Picture: Bosch)

Under the old testing regime (NEDC), vehicles were tested in a lab on a rolling road — a process which allowed some carmakers to use software detecting when cars were being tested. This allowed some car manufacturers to provide a false picture of their vehicles’ emissions and led to many new cars vastly exceeding emissions standards.

To combat this the new laws, which have been drawn up by the European Commission, have brought in two new test cycles which it is hoped will ‘help rebuild confidence in the performance of new cars’.

These include a new laboratory test, the World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure — WLTP, as well as a test in real driving conditions — RDE, which is focused on the emission of air pollutants.


According to the Commission, WLTP is ‘more stringent and reliable’ than the previous lab-testing regime, providing data on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions values that are ‘much closer to real world conditions’.

The RDE procedure meanwhile, which takes place on the road and uses portable emissions measuring equipment to measure emissions of NOx and ultrafine particles from vehicles on the road.

Roll-out of the new testing regime began last year (2017) — applying only to new models registered for sale. But, from this month, all new cars must have undergone the updated testing programmes, including testing for fine particles. The test will be mandatory for NOx from September 2019.

Welcoming the new testing requirements, Elżbieta BieÅ„kowska, the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “In the last three years since the emissions scandal broke out, we’ve cardinally changed the rules of the game to prevent emissions cheating, protect our public health and the environment, and boost our industry’s global competitiveness.

“Stronger emissions tests are a key piece of the puzzle. But we are not there yet. I mean: ongoing national investigations, the state of recalls of non-compliant cars, the roll-out of new type-approval rules — and the transition to low emission mobility.”

Experts have suggested that it may take ‘several years’, before the new testing regime has a ‘measurable impact’ on vehicle emissions (see story).


The car industry has said it ‘fully supports’ the introduction of the new testing procedures.

Mike Hawes, cheif executive of the SMMT, said: “Industry fully supports the introduction of the much tougher and more complex WLTP, a test which better reflects what drivers experience behind the wheel, while also providing comparison data for buyers. WLTP is good news for motorists who can be reassured that they are purchasing ever cleaner, more efficient technology with every new model brought to market.

“With more realistic emissions and fuel consumption information available from 1 September 2018, consumers will be better informed to choose the car that is right for them, and take advantage of the many deals on offer with arrival of the new 68 number plates.”


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