Europeans sip gasoline while Americans guzzle it, or at least that’s how the story goes. But as the Economist reports, once you look under the hood, Europe’s fuel efficiency emissions standards are a little suspect:
Europe’s procedure is out of date and open to abuse. Carmakers send prototypes for testing. They are engineered to be as frugal as possible. Weighty extras such as the sound system and even wing mirrors are routinely jettisoned. Special lubricants make the engines run more smoothly. Tape on the cracks around panels and doors reduces drag. Low-resistance tyres filled with special gas add to the miles covered.
The cars are driven to a preset routine of gentle accelerations and low speeds, run at the highest permitted temperature of 29ºC (engines are more efficient in the heat). Modern electronics can even detect the pattern of the start of the test and switch into a special “economy mode” that makes for even lower emissions.
Contrast that with the U.S., which, under President Obama, has enacted some very strong fuel efficiency standards that are putting a sizable dent in our nation’s carbon footprint, even without the kinds of test fudging seen across the Atlantic. Europe likes to think itself a paragon of green policies, but with electricity costs spiraling and coal consumption rising, it looks like it’s having to resort to some fuzzy math to defend its eco-friendly status.