The emission limits for real driving tests in the EU will be higher than the legal limits

EU agrees on road emission testing but limit increased

The European Union has agreed to enforce real driving emissions tests from 2017 but increased the limit by more than double, prompting criticism from environmental groups.

The European Commission said increasing the limit for the real driving tests was needed due to technical limits in short-term improvement of diesel cars.

Starting in September 2017, car manufacturers would have to subject their vehicles to both laboratory and real driving emissions tests.

Prompted by the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, the announcement was made soon after the German car maker released its third-quarter results showing a €3.5bn (£2.5bn loss). The car maker said it would have made €3.2bn profit hadn’t it been for the devastating revelations by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental group Client Earth reacted to the announcement that cars will be able to emit up to 2.1 times more emissions during real driving tests than in lab with fierce criticism.

"This is a shockingly cynical move,” said Client Earth's clean air lawyer Alan Andrews. “Car manufacturers have failed to hit air pollution limits on diesel cars and instead of trying to sort the problem, they have been told 'that's alright, we'll just lower the bar'."

The draft regulation will now be assessed by the European Parliament.

"The European Parliament must veto this or it will make a mockery out of the whole EU law-making process, which is already under the spotlight following the VW scandal,” Andrews stated.

"If allowed to stand, there is no doubt this decision will cost lives. It is appalling that the interests of car companies are being put above people's health."

The proposed legislation expects the difference between the two tests to be lowered to 1.5 by January 2020 for new models and January 2021 for all new vehicles.

The US Environmental Protection Agency revealed in September Volkswagen was using sophisticated software, the defeat device, in its cars that enabled the vehicles to detect they were being tested and initiate measures to mitigate emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides.

As running the emission scrubbing systems continuously would have had a negative effect on performance and fuel consumption, the technologies were only used in testing. As a result, actual nitrogen oxide emissions of the affected vehicles were up to 40 times over the US legal limits.

Volkswagen said the software had been installed into 11 million diesel cars.

The firm has set aside €6.7bn to fix the affected vehicles either through software changes or a combination of hardware and software adjustments.

In the UK 1.2 million vehicles manufactured by the Volkswagen Group including Seats, Skodas and Audis will be recalled next year.

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