Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 10, 2015

Dirty Diesels On The Road: NOx Failure Rate 97.5 Percent!

An on-the-road test of some 200 different cars, sold in Europe and equipped with diesel engines, found only five that had real-world nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels the same as levels recorded during regulatory tests in the laboratory.

This is according to test results provided by Emissions Analytics, an independent testing facility based in Winchester, England. EA said it tested 150 diesel models that supposedly complied with Euro 5 emissions requirements, and another 50 that claimed to have met newer, tougher Euro 6 regulations.

That only five were found to get the same emissions results in actual road tests that they achieved in the lab represents a 97.5 percent failure rate.

The test results show the problem with Volkswagen diesels emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of NOx and other pollutants, thanks to “defeat devices” installed to pass tests but shut off pollution controls in on-road driving, is just the tip of an iceberg. The “iceberg” being the rest of the auto industry.

EA did not name and shame individual models, in releasing their test results, but they did note that dirty diesels also come with distressing regularity from Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Honda and Mitsubishi. An earlier study by the UK’s Guardian newspaper claimed dirty diesels also come from Renault, Citroën, Nissan, Hyundai, Fiat Chrysler (including Jeep) and Volvo.

No VW-style “defeat devices” were found, EA stated, and no manufacturer’s emissions came close to those belched out by VW models (VW Group marques include Audi, Skoda, SEAT and others).

Generally speaking, SUVs were exponentially worse polluters than cars (20x vs. 4x).

The response of the few automakers that were willing to reply to EA’s findings could be best summed up as “hey, we passed the lab tests. We never said on-road results would be the same.”

Most manufacturers, it seems, feel the tests are ridiculous, and a poor measure of NOx, as well as other pollutants. Most seem to favor a new test – even an on-road test – as long as regulators would be willing to make the test “reasonable”. The lab test standard now for diesels is virtually un-achievable in real-world driving, they contend.

Lab tests and on-road performance, EA agrees, have an inherent disconnect.

“Emissions Analytics was formed to overcome the challenge of finding accurate fuel consumption and emissions figures for road vehicles,” the company explains on its website. “It is widely recognised that most drivers struggle to get close to the official fuel consumption figures. Furthermore, readings from a car’s onboard computer do not reflect what comes out of the tailpipe. And yet, all fuel reduction and emissions management tools currently on the market are based on manufacturers’ figures or ECU readings.”

The goal, EA feels, is a test that accurately gauges not only NOx, but “the full range of exhaust gases which contribute to the greenhouse effect, reduce air quality and damage human health and the environment.”

Regulators in the European Union say they are working on just such a test, which may be available in 2016.

But don’t expect suddenly cleaner air. Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has been quoted as saying meaningful reduction in diesel pollution is not likely achievable before 2019.

Jerry Garrett

October 10, 2015

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