Many major car manufacturers are selling diesel cars that fail to meet EU air pollution limits, a study has found.
As of September 1, all new diesel cars should meet the Euro 6 auto emissions standard.
However, sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) has found that just one in 10 cars have met this standard when tested on real roads rather than on test tracks. On average, new diesel cars in the EU produce emissions about five times higher than the allowed limit.
The T&E Don’t Breathe Here report analysed all recent data on breaches of EU air pollution laws by vehicles.
Audi was found to be the worst offender — emitting 22 times the permitted limit.
Just three of 23 tested vehicles met the new standards on the road. Other manufacturers who failed to meet the standard included Opel, Citroen, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, and BMW.
The study found that cars are not the only offenders, with non-road mobile machinery — ranging from portable machines such as hedge trimmers to large off-road construction machines such as bulldozers as well as engines for compressors, pumps, and generators — also playing a part.
T&E said that because testing systems are so inadequate across Europe, carmakers avail of cheaper, less effective exhaust treatment systems. In contrast, diesel cars sold in the US by the same manufacturers use better exhaust treatment systems and produce lower emissions.
T&E pointed out that a new on-road test will, for the first time, measure diesel’s ‘real-world’ emissions but it will not apply to all new cars until 2018 at the earliest. The sustainable transport group accused carmakers of trying to delay and weaken the introduction of the tests by demanding further changes to rules which were agreed to in July.
T&E clean vehicles manager Greg Archer said European citizens deserve clean air, particularly with emission limits now in place.
“Every new diesel car should now be clean but just one in ten actually is. This is the main cause of the air pollution crisis affecting cities,” said Mr Archer. “Carmakers sell clean diesel in the US, and European citizens need clean air too.”
The group pointed out that the cost of a modern diesel after-treatment system is around €300.
Cars are responsible for 12% of Europe’s total CO2 emissions and are the single largest source of emissions in the transport sector.
The World Health Organisation has estimated that 500,000 premature deaths were attributable to air pollution in 2012 across Europe.
Ireland is ranked eighth out of 28 European countries in terms of emissions from new passenger cars by the European Environment Agency. The most efficient cars were bought in the Netherlands, Greece, and Portugal, while the least efficient cars were in Estonia, Latvia, and Bulgaria.
According to T&E, Peugeot-Citroen make the most fuel-efficient cars in Europe, although Nissan has made the most rapid progress in cleaning up emissions from its European fleet, with a 12.1% reduction in CO2 emissions last year.
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