* A third of CO2 emissions cuts down to test loopholes
* Commission working on new testing cycle
* Debate continues over 2020 emissions goal
(Adds comment from VDA, final paragraph)
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Feb 8 European car manufacturers are
exploiting test loopholes to exaggerate their vehicles' green
credentials, an official European Commission study has found.
The report, which is likely to stoke already heated debate
on carbon standards, found that cars are more polluting and a
lot less fuel-efficient than their makers tell us.
Simulations used to test new cars have never perfectly
reflected actual emissions. However, the EC-commisioned analysis
by three consulting firms found "flexibilities" squeezed
consumers, benefited manufacturers and jeopardised European
Union environment goals.
Test techniques such as using tyres with extra traction or
driving on an unrealistically smooth road surface could account
for about a third of the recorded drop in average carbon dioxide
(CO2) emissions across the European Union between 2002 and 2010,
"Frankly, people should be absolutely outraged. This is just
taking money out of people's pockets. The industry is running
rings around this procedure," one EU source told Reuters on
condition of anonymity.
CO2 emissions were 167.2 grams per kilometre (g/km) in 2002
and 140.4 g/km by 2010, figures in the report showed, giving a
total average reduction across new EU cars of 26.8 g/km. The
study attributed 9.1 g/km, or roughly a third, to the way
testing was performed, rather than improved technology.
"This means that vehicles do not deliver end-users the
promised fuel cost reductions, leading to consumer
misinformation," said the report carried out by the Netherlands
Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO),
British-based AEA Ricardo and IHS Global Insight, of the United
Already widely used, the flexibilities could be exploited
further as debate continues in Brussels on implementation of a
2020 target to cut average emissions across the EU fleet to 95
In addition to the 2020 goal, the Commission is revising
testing law, but it is not expected to close all the loopholes.
Globally, the United Nations is working on new standards.
The Commission said new tests from around 2016 should
"mitigate" the effect of these flexibilities on the gap between
actual and regulatory CO2 emissions, though "some tolerances are
necessary for practical reasons".
EU consumer organisation BEUC calculated that the
flexibilities meant that consumers paid up to 135 euros ($180) a
year more in fuel, based on today's fuel prices and 14,000km of
driving in a car bought in 2010.
British Liberal member of the European Parliament Chris
Davies said he was working on amendments to tackle testing
standards as part of the 2020 cars emissions debate.
"The cheats are confounding the lawmakers and deceiving the
public," he said.
Another British Liberal European politician, Fiona Hall, is
calling for conformity tests after cars have entered service.
One of those involved in the report, TNO consultant Richard
Smokers, said that such tests would help and that Europe's use
of flexibilities was more pronounced than elsewhere.
The United States already has in-service tests and Japan is
culturally scrupulous, he said.
"What we have heard from people in the field is that there
is a cultural reluctance to exploit flexibilities. It's the
difference between the spirit and the letter of the law. In
Europe, we have a tradition of finding and exploiting bandwidths
and loopholes," he said.
VDA, which represents the German auto industry, said in a
statement that a unified testing cycle was necessary and the car
industry was "working actively" on reform.
($1 = 0.7469 euros)
(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost in Paris; Editing by