Germany raises objections to tougher European emissions testing proposals

26 April 2017

26 April 2017 Key elements of a draft bill which proposes tougher regulations on the emissions testing of new cars in the European Union have been opposed by Germany. The proposals aim to prevent a repetition of the circumstances which allowed carmakers such as Volkswagen to use software which manipulated emissions tests, partly as a result of their direct relationships with testing agencies. Although the bill is still only at the draft stage and needs to be finalised in negotiations between EU lawmakers, the European Commission and member states, it was endorsed by the European Parliament on 4 April. Under the new draft bill, the EU would gain more oversight and could fine carmakers up to €30,000 per vehicle. OEMs would no longer pay testing agencies directly as EU member states would fund the emissions test centres themselves, although they may seek to recoup costs by introducing fees for OEMs. Crucially, the new regulations stipulate that EU member states would have to test at least 20% of the car models sold in their respective markets in the previous year. Furthermore, the EU would also gain powers to conduct vehicle spot-checks and levy fines, with national authorities also able to review each other’s decisions. The proposals also call for funds raised from fines to be used to compensate car owners and boost environmental protection and market surveillance measures. Reuters reports that it has seen a position paper from Germany which opposes plans for the EU to have the power to impose fines on carmakers. Germany reportedly also favours the retention of emissions testing and its funding at the national level, as opposed to on a pan-European basis. The alternative solution proposed by Germany is that the independence and supervisory powers of national authorities are actually strengthened in order to improve the effectiveness of spot checks on polluting cars. ′We invite the co-legislators to uphold our level of ambition so that we introduce greater quality and independence in vehicle testing, more surveillance of cars already in circulation, and greater European oversight,’ a spokeswoman for the European Commission said. With the introduction of real driving emissions (RDE) tests and the roll-out of the WLTP regime from September, manipulating emissions tests will become more difficult. However, pressure remains on improving the accuracy of emissions tests, with Reuters reporting that ′regulators in Britain and Germany say that carmakers have made extensive use of a ′thermal window’ which allows manufacturers to turn down pollution-control systems for the sake of protecting an engine.’ A new study in Germany itself has highlighted that NOx emissions of diesel cars are even more excessive than previously thought. Auto Motor und Sport magazine reports that the German Federal Environment Office, UBA, has calculated that the average NOx emissions of the diesel parc in Germany actually stand at 767mg NOx/km instead of 575mg NOx/km. The UBA said: ′For the re-evaluation, measurements at all outside temperatures typical for Germany were also taken into account’ said the UBA. The authority has therefore not only taken warm-engine measurements at an outside temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, but has also tested exhaust emissions of diesel vehicles at temperatures which are typical for all the seasons in Germany. Euro 5-compliant diesels are particularly ′dirty’, averaging 906mg NOx/km and thus exceed the 180mg NOx/km limit by more than 400 per cent. Euro 4 diesels averaged 674mg NOx/km with a legal limit of 250mg NOx/km. However, Euro 6 diesels actually exceeded their legal limit by the most. The UBA study calculated that although they averaged at a lower 507mg NOx/km, this is more than 500 per cent higher than their legal limit of 80mg NOx/km. In response to the UBA study, the German Automotive Industry Association, the VDA, issued a statement on Wednesday: ′It is known that the emissions on the road are higher than in the laboratory. The statement of the VDA that Euro 6 vehicles have clearly better NOx values ″‹″‹than Euro 5 diesel is confirmed. However, the emissions on the road are different depending on the model, driving behaviour as well as traffic and weather conditions. It is also known that real values ″‹″‹also depend on the exhaust technology used. We welcome the introduction of RDE and WLTP, and we are open to reforms of type approval as well.  But you should not throw the baby out with the bath water. The Federal Government has, as it were, the duty to prevent excessive bureaucracy and European centralism. Many other governments of EU Member States are also addressing European centralism.’