It has been a year since Volkswagen admitted to fitting millions of cars with cheating software to dupe emissions tests, plunging the German auto giant into one of the biggest scandals ever to hit the industry.
As Dieselgate turns one year old, an EU not-for-profit organization Transport & Environment (T&E), has conducted a study on diesel passenger cars. According to their report, not one single brand complies with the latest air pollution limits for diesel cars and vans in real-world driving. Furthermore, they found that Volkswagen has the least polluting (Euro 6) diesel vehicles. The “Euro 6” is the European Union’s most recent pollution standard for automakers.
T&E analyzed emissions test data from around 230 diesel car models. The data was gathered from investigations conducted by the British, French and German governments, as well as a large public database. The carmakers’ ranking was built with on-road performance figures mostly measured in real world driving.
They found that Fiat and Suzuki diesel cars on average pollute 15 times more than the legal NOx limit. Nissan-Renault vehicles exceed the limit more than 14 times; GM’s brands Opel/Vauxhall pollute 10 times more, while VW pollute twice as much as the Euro 6 standard.
By their calculations, 29 million diesel cars and vans are on Europe’s roads with a classification of ‘dirty’. The latest standard of Euro 6 has only been required for the last year or two, so the majority of diesels on the road are much worse.
This report, released on the first anniversary of the Dieselgate scandal, exposes the shocking number of dirty diesel cars on the EU’s roads and the feeble regulation of cars by national authorities that have focused on protecting their own commercial interests or those of domestic carmakers. In the US, following the disclosure that VW had cheated emissions tests, justice has been swiftly and effectively delivered. This is in stark contrast to Europe where VW claims it has not acted illegally, no penalties have been levied and no compensation has been provided to customers.
But the failure to penalize VW in Europe is the tip of the Dieselgate iceberg with an estimated 29 million grossly polluting modern diesel cars now in use, a number that is still growing. Over four in five cars that meet the Euro 5 standard for NOx in the laboratory, and were sold between 2010-14, actually produce more than three times this level when driven on the road. Two-thirds of Euro 6 cars (most on sale since 2015) still produce more than three times the limit when driven on the road. 69% of the dirty diesel cars were sold in France, Germany, Italy and the UK. These member states also approved most of the polluting diesel cars for sale.
Cheating on environmental regulation is not a victimless crime. This causes premature deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) has described worsening air pollution levels as a “public health emergency”. Last year, the European Environment Agency said that NO2, mainly created by diesel engines in urban areas, is responsible for an estimated 72,000 premature deaths in Europe.
I can only imagine how bad the US diesel pollution must be, with all of the big pickup trucks I see tossing a cloud behind them.