A VW Golf VII car and a VW Passat are loaded in a delivery tower at the company's Wolfsburg plant

UK vehicle emission tests find only VW employed 'cheat devices'

A vehicle emissions testing programme by the UK government that assessed cars across a number of manufacturers concluded that devices used to cheat nitrogen oxide (NO?) tests were only found in VW cars.

VW had been installing so-called cheat devices in order to evade air pollution regulators across the world that would artificially lower its NO? emissions during the testing regime. The company may now have to buy back or replace about 115,000 of its diesel vehicles equipped with emission-cheating technology in the US, approximately one-fifth of all affected cars in America.

There were concerns that other manufacturers may also have been trying to cheat the regulations with similar devices. However, a series of tests conducted by the UK government over a period of six months on a total of 56 different vehicle types in Germany and 37 different vehicle types in the UK has concluded that VW were the only manufacturer actively installing cheat devices in its vehicles.

However, the tests also found that NO? emissions are typically higher in real-world conditions and on the test track than they are in laboratory conditions. This was the case for all manufacturers’ vehicles, with results varying significantly between different makes and models.

The results echo findings from the consumer group Which? in January that claimed 95 per cent of diesel cars and 10 per cent of petrol vehicles had emissions above the official legal limit.

The Vehicle Certification Agency on behalf of the Department for Transport tested a representative selection of the UK’s top selling diesel vehicles.

The programme has led the Agency to conclude that existing lab tests designed to ensure emission limits are met have been shown to be inadequate.

“The UK has secured a tough new Europe-wide ‘real driving emissions’ test,” it said. “From next year, vehicles will have to meet emissions limits in real driving conditions across a wide range of typical operating temperatures.

“This will improve consumer confidence in manufacturers. The UK will be working to ensure that the new rules for real driving emissions and type approval are robust, deliver the expected outcomes and that manufacturers behave consistently.”

Some manufacturers have announced that they intend to make changes to vehicles already in use to improve emissions and will offer this to customers on a voluntary basis.

In a written statement to Parliament, the Department for Transport’s Robert Goodwill MP said: “Not only has this caused disruption and distress to the 1.2 million Volkswagen Group users in the UK, it showed a lack of regard for the serious health consequences of NO? emissions and caused significant damage to the trust consumers have placed in car manufacturers across the country.

“It was vital that we immediately started a UK investigation into whether other manufacturers were using equivalent prohibited devices and more broadly to better understand why emissions results in the real world were significantly different from those tested under laboratory conditions.

“Importantly, the tests have not detected evidence of test cycle manipulation strategies as used by the Volkswagen Group from other manufacturers.

“However, tests have found higher levels of NO? emissions in test track and real-world driving conditions than in the laboratory for all vehicles, with results varying significantly between different makes and models.”

The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, also pressed for reform across the automotive industry.

“Following the Volkswagen emissions scandal, the whole of the automotive industry must work hard to restore public trust by being transparent about the systems they employ and advancing plans for introducing cleaner engine technology,” he said.

Meanwhile, the German Finance Ministry is proposing an incentive of 5,000 euros for electric car buyers and 3,000 euros for those who purchase a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

The Ministry is set to present its proposal at a summit in Berlin tomorrow between Chancellor Angela Merkel and chiefs from the German car industry to discuss measures to raise the share of electric cars on German roads.

The ministry wants the scheme to run until June 2018, after which the amount will be reduced to a 3,000-euro incentive for electric cars and 2,000 euros for plug-ins. However, the incentives will not apply to luxury cars costing more than 60,000 euros.

The incentives programme is estimated to cost approximately 1.2bn euros and will be shared equally between the government and the industry.

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