We live in an age of misinformation – whether it’s global politics or, closer to home, the car industry and those who are charged with regulating it.
If you were less well-informed on what emerges from a vehicle’s exhaust pipe, you might believe that all diesels are dirty and all petrols are clean – relatively speaking. And until recently, you would have trusted in the Euro6 emissions standards and assumed that because a car conforms to Euro6 it must be ‘clean’.
Not so. Some diesel vehicles now emit the same or less NOx than their petrol counterparts, while some Euro5 models can be cleaner than new Euro6s. So, as a fleet manager or driver of a car provided by your company, how can you make the greenest choice possible?
By working with a global alliance of academic and industry experts, including Dan Carder, the US scientist who uncovered Dieselgate, AIR has created a standardised real-world test for car emissions (the first of its kind), with the results of tests published for all to see in an online database called the AIR Index.
It is starting with NOx – a major contributor to poor air quality in urban areas – and will soon expand the AIR Index to cover CO2 and MPG.
Through testing many hundreds of Euro6-compliant vehicles, we found major discrepancies between on-road emissions and the official European limits. How many fleet drivers would guess that a 2018 Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 gets an ‘A’ rating in the AIR Index, emitting a full 20 times less NOx than a 2017 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi, which gets an ‘E’?
“If a business chooses wisely, both petrol and diesel still have their place in modern fleets”
Getting a real understanding of what comes out of a car’s tailpipe is impossible through car manufacturer or EU regulatory channels. Current tests such as WLTP (World Harmonised Vehicle Testing Procedure) are still totally laboratory-based, while RDE (Real Driving Emissions), which compares on-road emissions to laboratory testing, has until very recently allowed vehicles to emit 2.1 times more NOx than the 80mg/km Euro6 limit on the road. From 1 January 2020, that factor will reduce to 1.43 times for RDE2.
What’s worse, RDE simply flags a result as a pass or a fail with no differentiation between cars which emit close to the new 120mg/km RDE2 limit and the best-performing diesels at less than 20mg/km. So it’s not much help in identifying the dirtier vehicles that are already on our roads.
There are about 40 million diesels on the roads in Europe which have excessive NOx emissions, and about eight million of those are in the UK. The urgent thing to do is to get vehicles rated D or E off the road as quickly as possible. If we can do that then we will bring all European cities into compliance very quickly.
Recent introduction of Euro6-based low emissions zones, such as London’s ULEZ, are a step in the right direction. However, given the huge variation, a reliable, trusted and independent framework to inform fleet policy, control TCO and also benefit CSR is a vital fleet tool to allow a company to choose the cleanest cars when making new purchases, and de-fleet the dirtiest. It also helps businesses to navigate the minefield of Euro6 and future-proof fleets, should legislation suddenly change. If you choose wisely, both diesel and petrol have their place.
Ultimately, if and when the next Dieselgate-style emissions scandal comes along, you can also be sure that you made the most informed decision.
Co-founder of the AIR Alliance, publisher of the AIR Index