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European Diesels Don’t Make the Cut

February 23rd, 2016 No Comments

The diesel engine may be on its way out after a year of high-profile and lesser known failures on the part of diesel engined automobiles during emissions tests.

The obvious reference would be Volkswagen, which of course was caught cheating on emissions tests by installing cheating ¬†software on its diesel engined vehicles that allowed for the car’s engine to operate in a different manner when it was being tested, and then relapse back into releasing higher emissions after passing the test.

diesel engineHowever, Volkswagen diesels had already fallen short of the pollution limits years before the company was caught installing the emissions software.

In fact, diesels across the industry had similar, if not worse problems making the cut. This is somewhat ironic considering that diesel drivers tend to feel like they’re doing their part¬†at the pump.

The European Union’s executive branch, the European Commission, performed a series of road tests on emissions from seven diesel cars dating back to 2007. However, it did not reveal what cars or manufacturers had been involved in the tests when it published the results later in 2011 and again in 2013.

Internal documents have since been obtained through the European equivalent of a Freedom of Information request, along with records made public more recently by the commission.

The tests were not conducted with the intention of identifying carmakers violating the rules, and instead were aimed at identifying the shortcomings of conducting pollution tests themselves. The researchers wanted to see if conducting pollution tests solely in laboratories would skew results and intended to assess the equipment used to test emissions on the road.

The researchers were all part of the Joint Research Center, a branch of the European Commission that bills itself as an “in-house science service” for the government. Spokeswoman for the JRC Nina Kajander had this to say about the models that were tested:

“It must be noted that the vehicles used for the research cannot be considered representative of the general level of emissions by the models in question.. There were scientific studies designed to compare different methodologies for measuring emissions in laboratories against those measured on the road.”

The test results led European policy makers to develop a plan to require mandatory tests to measure emissions not eh road with portable devices as opposed to conducting solely laboratory tests. The plan has since been approved by the European Parliament, though it was criticized after automakers lobbied successfully to weaken the tests.

diesel 3Unfortunately for the air breathers in the old country, European regulators have long had a rather accommodating relationship with the auto industry.

Although the testing was conducted with the intention of examining the efficacy of certain kinds of emissions testing equipment, the general results seemed to confirm what independent testing has claimed for a long time: Diesels are emitting far more nitrogen oxides on the road than in laboratory tests.

An excess of nitrogen oxide in the air can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, smog and acid rain, and even premature death for those who live in that environment for long periods of time. For this reason, European citizens may have some cause for concern.

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