MUNICH -- The EU should set up a single, independent authority to test vehicles in the bloc's 28 nations, says a green lobby group, which also claims the scandal of Volkswagen using diesel defeat devices in the U.S. is just the "tip of the iceberg."
There is strong evidence that similar illegal devices are also used in Europe by both VW and other automakers, the Transport and Environment (T&E) lobby group says. Since 2009, which is when VW began using defeat devices, more than 40 million diesel cars have been sold in Europe, a sixth of all cars on the road today, T&E says.
"What is needed is a truly independent EU type approval authority funded by a levy of 20 euros on every vehicle sold,” said T&E’s clean vehicles manager, Greg Archer, in a statement.
Europe lacks an EU-wide oversight system for vehicle testing similar to the U.S. government's Environmental Protection Agency. Each of the 28 member states is in charge of making sure the emissions standards are not violated, which makes any potential breaches hard to investigate on a broad scale. Automakers pay testing organizations to perform tests in the carmakers’ own laboratories. The tests are overseen by national type approval authorities and automakers "shop" for the best deal from agencies across Europe, T&E says.
Automakers manipulate emissions tests for both air pollution and CO2 emissions in "countless" ways, according to the lobbyists.
The gap between official fuel economy figures and those achieved by an average driver have grown to 40 percent, T&E says. For new diesel cars nitrogen oxide emissions are typically five times higher on the road than the allowed limit and just one in 10 cars meets the required level on the road, it says.
More than half of the cars sold in Europe are powered by diesel engines, which are popular with consumers because governments for decades have given diesels favorable tax treatment.
For carmakers, diesel engines help them comply with Europe’s strict emissions regulations since they emit less CO2 and offer better fuel economy than equivalent gasoline-powered engines.
But diesel emit more nitrogen oxides and the large number of diesel cars in congested cities has led to calls for diesels to be banned because of health fears.
A new emissions test, the World Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), will be introduced in Europe as early as 2017. It will give more realistic test results.
The European automakers association ACEA said the new Euro 6 standard will soon require emissions testing of cars under all driving conditions, "making Europe the only region in the world to implement such real world testing."
"The automotive industry is fully supporting the development this new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test in order to ensure a more robust control on emissions," ACEA said in a statement.
"ACEA has been calling on the European Commission and member states to provide clarity on the RDE testing conditions and timings urgently so that the industry can start working on RDE and get RDE-compliant vehicles into the market as soon as possible," the statement said.