EU proposes stricter tests on car emissions from 2017 in wake of VW scandal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators proposed stricter tests on Wednesday on car fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions from late next year to plug loopholes highlighted by the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Trees are reflected on the bonnet of a Volkswagen (VW) car in the morning sunshine in London, Britain May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

The draft EU executive proposal, which will go before the European Parliament and EU leaders, would introduce tougher testing procedures for new cars from September 2017 and for all vehicles a year later.

The legislation is part of the EU's response to Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE revelation last September that it used software to cheat tests on pollution limits in the United States.

“This is a crucial step to restore credibility,” the European Commissioner for Climate Action Miguel Arias Canete said.

The Commission is also expected to review CO2 and fuel consumption standards for the period after 2020 later this year or early the next. The proposed new testing methodology would give regulators better tools to police these targets.

The VW emissions scandal highlighted the inconsistency between car performance in laboratory tests and on real roads.

A separate EU law aims to close this gap for diesel vehicles’ emissions of nitrogen oxide, which have been blamed for premature death and respiratory diseases.

Fuel consumption performance is one of the main criteria informing car purchases, but consumer groups say the data provided by car manufacturers is unreliable.

“The whole wider emissions scandal has really made fools of consumers,” Chris Carroll of the European Consumer Organization said. “The existing test is wildly out of date and was completely unrepresentative of how cars are set up and driven on the road.”

Carbon dioxide emission levels can be altered via a variety of engineering tricks to reduce a car’s fuel consumption, such as switching off air conditioning and improving aerodynamics by removing wing mirrors and taping up doors.

Although unethical, such practices are not illegal.

(This version of the story corrects timing of Commission review in paragraph 5 to later this year or early next, from later this month)

Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Susan Fenton