Despite the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal and a pledge as far back as 2010, the European Commission will not impose real world emissions limits on car makers until 2017.
The Commish has said for years that it wants to crack down on deadly nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, but the exposure by the US Environmental Protection Agency of VW’s “defeat device” has now put a rocket under officials.
Nonetheless, auto manufacturers will still have a grace period to get their houses in order.
Even without the software that VW used, real-world diesel emissions can be 400 to 500 per cent higher than official test results in laboratories. And the Commission believes it would be too onerous to expect manufacturers to comply with the official 80-milligram-a-kilometer limit that will come into force from September 2017.
Instead, in real world testing, emissions will be permitted to exceed that limit by as much as 60 per cent until September 2019.
Industry Commissioner Elżbieta Bienkowska told the European Parliament on Tuesday that there would be "zero tolerance" of fraud, but many MEPs were annoyed that it had taken a scandal to make anything actually happen.
“We have been calling for a real driving emissions (RDE) test procedure for years, and we think it must be applied to vehicles from 2017 onwards with no new loopholes in the form of conformity factors or deviation margins to ensure that new diesel cars on EU roads finally meet the limit agreed almost 10 years ago,” said German MEP Matthias Groote.
But the Commission is facing opposition to its plans, with heavy lobbying from the auto industry and some countries including Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia pushing for the thresholds to be delayed still further.
The emissions "cheating" software is on as many as eight million cars in Europe and investigations are under way in Germany and France with other countries expected to follow suit. In the US, the EPA has extended its investigation to check other manufacturers, but many in Europe are embarrassed that it took a United States body to uncover a European scandal.
“The Volkswagen [issue] has unveiled many of the shortcomings we have been denouncing. Now this is a chance to act: We must put an end to the European system where car makers pay national testing organisations to perform the testing, choosing where they want their models tested and acting as funders of these testing authorities. We should establish an independent EU-type approval authority that would oversee testing and be truly independent,” said Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt.
The European Parliament will decide its position on the issue in a vote at the October plenary session in Strasbourg. ®