UK to retest diesels and compare with real-world emissions

As part of the UK-based inquiry into the fallout from the VW emissions scandal, the British Government’s vehicle certification arm will re-run tests on engines suspected of cheating regulations. In the first step towards real-driving tests having a significant impact on the emissions ratings of UK cars, the results from laboratory retests will also be compared to on-road driving emissions.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said in regards to the investigation: “The Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA), the UK regulator, is working with vehicle manufacturers to ensure that this issue is not industry wide. As part of this work they will re-run laboratory tests where necessary and compare them against real world driving emissions.”

“The Government takes the unacceptable actions of VW extremely seriously. My priority is to protect the public as we go through the process of investigating what went wrong and what we can do to stop it happening again in the future.”

The start of investigations into UK diesel cars comes on the back of a statement by Huw Irranca-Davies MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), saying: “I support the Government’s call for complete transparency across the EU automotive industry, a thorough investigation into the full extent of this scandal is needed. In the light of the revelations over VW in the US, customers here in the UK and across the EU need and deserve urgent reassurance that they have not been deceived by VW or other automotive manufacturers.

“But this is not simply an issue of customers being deceived. Air pollution from dangerous emissions in diesel vehicles is linked to thousands of deaths in the UK each year. We need to know from our government that the reported vehicle emissions in the UK are accurate, that no deception similar to that in the US has taken place, and that our emissions-testing regime is rigorous and secure.

“This will also add weight to the calls by the previous EAC committee to clean up the air in our city centres by introducing a network of low emission zones. The impact of poor air quality on health and mortality is already a scandal in the UK and in many of our major cities, and emissions from diesel vehicles are the prime culprit. The new Environment Audit Committee will discuss whether to examine these matters in the coming weeks.”

The UK is supported by the European Commission in carrying out investigations into emissions, in a statement by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. “Our message is clear: zero tolerance on fraud and rigorous compliance with EU rules. We need full disclosure and robust pollutant emissions tests in place.

“The commission invites all member states to carry out the necessary investigations at national level and report back. The commission is offering to facilitate the exchange of information between member states. We need to have a full picture of how many vehicles certified in the EU were fitted with defeat devices. We will discuss this matter in detail with the national Type Approval authorities in the coming days.

“Looking ahead, we count on Member States to swiftly agree on the final measures needed so that measurements of air pollutant emissions used for the delivery of a vehicle’s type approval reflect emissions in real driving conditions and cannot be fooled by deceitful applications. A new Real Driving Emission (RDE) test procedure will be phased in from early 2016, complementing the current laboratory based testing.

“But we still need to find agreement on the type approval treatment in case of major divergence between the results of the laboratory and real driving pollutant emissions tests. The agreement on this package, in addition to the already adopted RDE test procedures, will allow the EU to have ambitious and robust real driving emissions testing scheme in place.”

Next Green Car

Over 3 million deaths annually due to poor air quality

More than 3.3 million people around the world die prematurely from air pollution every year according to a new report published in scientific journal Nature, with road traffic calculated to be the biggest threat to those in the UK.

Scientists from Germany, America, Saudi Arabia and Cyprus have report that estimates the air quality related death toll could double by 2050 unless action is taken to counteract airbourne pollution.

Those countries worst hit are the rapidly developing economies of China and India which accounted for around 2 million premature deaths from air pollution in 2010. The United Kingdom’s total numbered more than 15,000.

The study, published on 16th September breaks down the greatest contributing industries to air pollution involving particulate matter, with residential and commercial energy having the largest impact in the worst hit countries. Power generation is the biggest cause of air pollution in America while, if equal toxicity for different emissions is assumed, in much of the UK and Europe, agriculture is the greatest contributor.

The study is one of the first to differentiate the different sources of air pollution by human toxicity and estimate the number of premature deaths cased by each pollutant. Weighting toxicity for different particulates, the United Kingdom’s biggest threat to pollution is surface transport, in particular road transport; the report calculates that carbonaceous aerosols in vehicle emissions are five times worse than that of inorganic compounds.

The report shows that, of the air pollution related UK deaths in 2010, more than 7,000 were because of particulates from the agriculture industry while road traffic accounted for just over 3,000. Power generation was almost 2,500 and industry more than 1,500. To compare with the worst hit country, China, the deaths from pollution caused by biomass burning (by far the smallest contributor) was almost 3,000 more than the UK total, while almost 450,000 people died because of residential energy pollution.

One unexpected finding is that agricultural emissions of ammonia had, according to the report, “a remarkably large impact on PM (particulate matter), and is the leading source category in Europe, Russia, Turkey, Korea, Japan and the Eastern USA. In many European countries, its contribution is 40 per cent or higher.” The ammonia levels are attributed to fertilizer use and farm animals.

Dr Ben Lane, director at Next Green Car, commented on the new findings saying: “We have known for decades that road transport is a significant contributor of air pollution and leads to thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK alone.

“While much progress has been made to reduce NOx and particulate emissions for new vehicles, even the latest Euro 6 standards for cars are not delivering the emissions reductions when used on real roads. Only electric vehicles are able to deliver the level of mobility we require and the emissions cuts we so desperately need.”

In its conclusion, the report states: “The urban population is expected to grow relatively rapidly from 3.6 billion in 2010 to 5.2 billion by 2015, and combined with increasing air pollution concentrations the health impacts will escalate. Our estimate of urban premature mortality by outdoor air pollution in 2010 is 2 million, increasing to 4.3 million by 2050. Urban population growth is responsible for part of this change, but the levels of air pollution in urban areas are also projected to grow rapidly.”

The report has been published just two months before the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015, set to take place in Paris from the end of November, which will bring the world’s leaders together to create a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim to reduce the impact on global warming.

Sources: Nature Journal, Next Green Car