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Third of fuel economy improvements ‘not real’ says T&E

Drivers are being ‘cheated out’ of real fuel economy gains by a flawed system of testing, according to environmental NGO, Transport & Environment (T&E).

A new report from the European Commission suggests that about a third of all reported CO2 emission reductions from new cars since 2002, have not really happened.

It is not just the tests that are to blame, T&E points to the manipulation of fuel economy by carmakers using ‘flexibilities’ in testing procedures.

Tailpipe-flickr peffsPointing to a report from Dutch consultancy TNI, published by the Commission last month that looked at ‘manipulations/flexibilities’ in type approval testing, the environmental pressure group says this shows how consumers will often find their real-world economy is well below official NEDC figures.

The study found that while two thirds of officially recorded emissions could be credited to genuine improvements in technologies, at least a third (around 9g/km) is likely to be the result of car makers manipulating the test procedures.

Another report based on a study of the real-world fuel economy of drivers in Germany, by International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), also found a big discrepancy compared to official figures.

ICCT compared over 28,000 records of real-world emissions with the official CO2 figures of the same vehicles. It concluded that in the period 2001-10, CO2 emissions in Germany fell officially by 15 per cent, but drivers reported only a 7 per cent improvement. As a result, the fall in CO2 emissions from the average vehicle between 2006 and 2010 was officially 12 per cent (173 g/km down to 152g) but really only 6 per cent (190g down to 179g).

T&E’s Greg Archer says: “It’s clear that around a third to half of the fuel economy claimed by car makers is just hot air. Car buyers are being cheated by the makers manipulating test results to achieve better fuel economy than is possible on the road. Policy makers are being cheated as regulations intended to improve efficiency are only being met in the laboratory. And the environment suffers as official statistics indicating action to reduce greenhouse gases turn out to be greatly exaggerated. This should stop, or CO2 limits should be tightened by around 10% to account for the manipulation.”

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Faye Sunderland

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