European automakers, already battered by the region’s economic downturn, face a fresh financial headache if the European Union implements, as planned, a new way of testing CO2 emissions from cars starting in 2017. The EU wants to replace the New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) test, which measures CO2 emissions and fuel economy of new vehicles, by a more accurate United Nations-sponsored test cycle called the World Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP).
The move means that automakers will have to invest more heavily in solutions to boost fuel efficiency to meet tougher EU emissions limits, but it could also boost electric car sales and bring new business to suppliers, industry watchers say. Exane BNP Paribas estimates that using the WLTP standard could add nearly 1,000 euros to the cost of buying a car, a blow to mass-market automakers that already often resort to heavy discounting to encourage recession-hit consumers to buy new vehicles.
Carmakers want the test’s implementation delayed until 2020, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer said when presenting the company’s 2013 financial results in March. The EU goal of introducing the test by 2017 is “incredibly ambitious,” Erik Jonnaert, ACEA secretary general, told Automotive News Europe. Jonnaert said automakers will pass on to car buyers the cost of implementing the test. Additional costs will vary depending on manufacturers and their own processes and vehicle types, he said.
The WLTP test reflects modern driving conditions better than the NEDC procedure that was introduced in the 1970s to measure smog-causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, with CO2 and fuel consumption tests added later. The technical and driving pattern assumptions made at the time are outdated today and emissions results from real-world driving may be 20 percent to 30 percent higher than results from the NEDC test, Exane BNP Paribas estimated in an April 7 report. Brussels-based environmental lobby group Transport & Environment says independent driving tests show that CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are an average of 23 percent higher than the official figures reported by carmakers. Automakers selling cars in Europe already face the challenge of reducing CO2 emissions to an industrywide average of 95 grams per kilometer by 2021 from about 130g/km now. They claim the new test will make the target harder to achieve.