MPs investigate whether vehicle testing is ‘fit for purpose’

MPs have launched an inquiry into the process used to test road vehicles prior to their approval for sale in the UK

MPs are investigating the process used to determine whether car models are suitable for sale in the UK following the revelations about German carmaker Volkswagen’s cheating of emissions tests.

Turin, Italy - september 22, 2014 Car Emission testing center

The Transport Select Committee will look at whether type approval for road vehicles is ‘fit for purpose’

Parliament’s Transport Select Committee yesterday (November 16) launched a call for evidence towards for an inquiry into whether vehicle type approval testing is fit for purpose.

Type approval is granted to a product that meets a minimum set of regulatory, technical and safety requirements. This is generally required before the product can be sold.

However, there is widespread acceptance in the motor industry that current laboratory-based testing of vehicle emissions does not accurately reflect the actual level of emissions from cars driving in the real world.

Volkswagen has admitted that a number of its car models were fitted with ‘defeat devices’ designed to manipulate nitrogen dioxide emissions tests. Further investigations have also separately revealed that the firm may have understated CO2 emissions and overstated fuel efficiency for 800,000 vehicles.

The government’s Vehicle Certification Agency is currently investigating whether other cars and manufacturers beyond Volkswagen have been manipulating NO2 emissions tests.

Launching the MP inquiry, chair of the Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said: “The Volkswagen scandal has raised serious concerns about whether vehicle type approval testing is fit for purpose. We heard evidence in October that the gap between emissions detected in test conditions and those detected in the real world significant. The testing procedure is clearly inadequate.”


Earlier this month, EU Member States approved a new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) testing procedure with the aim of combatting this issue, which will come into force gradually from 2017, but this has faced criticism for not being strict enough (see story).

Mrs Ellman MP added: “The EU is taking steps to move towards real world driving tests. The current proposals have been criticised for giving too much leeway to motor manufacturers. It is essential to examine these allegations and to ensure that the Government and EU take action to restore public confidence.”

As part of its inquiry, the Committee is seeking submissions of evidence on the following before a deadline of December 7 2015:

  • The effectiveness of the current arrangements for type approval
  • Negotiations on World-wide Light-vehicle Test Procedures and Real Driving Emissions
  • The appropriateness of the current drive cycle and how a move to Real Driving Emissions tests will change testing
  • The gap between emissions detected in test and real world conditions
  • Comparisons with other jurisdictions (especially the US and markets in Asia)
  • The range of metrics considered in type testing, whether the levels set represent a reasonable level of ambition and a reasonable pace of change, and the evidence base that underpins how levels have been set
  • The role of type approval in driving change in levels of safety, emissions, and performance
  • The appropriateness of the overall principles that determine the approach being taken on type approval

Vehicle Type Approval

According to the Transport Select Committee, two systems of type approval have been in existence for more than 20 years. One, based around European Union directives, provides for the approval of whole vehicles, vehicle systems and separate components.

The second provides for the approval of vehicle systems and separate components, but not whole vehicles. It is based around United Nations (UN) Regulations which were formerly known as UNECE Regulations.

In a recent letter to Committee Chair Louise Ellman MP, Volkswagen UK managing director Paul Willis wrote: “It is widely recognised, both inside and outside of the industry, that the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) testing (which is the type approval testing used in the EU) is not fit for purpose. Its deficiencies are recognised. There is no simple linear relationship that exists between data from NEDC testing and data derived from real world driving.”

It follows the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s recent launch of an inquiry into the government’s role in tackling air quality in the UK (see story) as well as the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into diesel emissions and air quality (see story).


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