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EU Wrangles with Lax Car Emissions Testing

EU policymakers are slowly realizing the bloc’s car emissions regulations aren’t good enough. The Volkswagen scandal brought global attention to carmakers’ ability effectively to game emissions testing, and perhaps as a result the EU’s environment committee is taking the problem more seriously. As Reuters reports, members of that committee have overwhelmingly opposed a new slate of testing rules they deemed too lenient:

The new rules agreed in a closed-door committee in October would allow vehicles to carry on spewing out more than twice official pollution limits, after many of the 28 member states demanded leeway to protect their car industries.

The committee’s vote of 40 to 9 against them sets the stage for a plenary ballot next month that could send the legislation back to the drawing board, but where cross-party support would be more difficult to achieve.

While Volkswagen circumvented rules by installing sophisticated software that could detect when one of its cars was being tested and drive accordingly, the EU has a longer history with lower-tech testing techniques that, if not outright cheating, certainly blur the line. Carmakers are allowed to prepare their vehicles for testing, and do they ever prepare them. Companies have done everything from removing side mirrors and radios from cars to save weight, to using specialized lubricants and test-specific tires to make vehicles run more efficiently, to taping up cracks between panels to reduce drag, to running the tests at specific temperatures to make engines more efficient.

EU members have to balance what’s best for their auto industries (lax testing) against the negative PR of being exposed as naked green hypocrites whose regulations allow companies to claim their products are much more eco-friendly than they actually are. This is, unsurprisingly, a contentious issue for the bloc.

Growing environmental awareness has created a cottage industry for unscrupulous companies willing to take advantage of customers’ desire to feel good about buying “green” without actually putting out eco-friendly products. There’s an incentive to spend enormous amounts of cash on eco-marketing, and, as we saw with Volkswagen, to find ways to rig testing. Without stringent regulations, we’re only going to see more scandals in the vein of VW’s brazen cheating.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Isn’t the preparation for testing which you describe “brazen cheating”? I suspect that when the dust settles we’ll sell that everybody’s doing it. Rigorous real-world testing is the answer.

    • Jim__L

      No, rigorous real-world testing would take basically every car off the road.

      Repealing stupid regulations is the real solution.

      • Blackbeard

        Exactly. The way the Greens defeated nuclear power was to pile regulation upon regulation until it became so expensive as to be impractical. Now they will do the same thing with private cars. There was a time when the left cared about blue collar workers but that time is ending.

        • Jim__L

          They will *try* to do the same thing with private cars.

          They do not realize that this is equivalent to *trying* to make Donald Trump president.

          Trump is the tip of a backlash to everything Lefty 10%ers hold dear. He is surfing a wave.

          10%ers are far too intellectually incestuous to realize this.

          • Blackbeard

            Sure, if they tried to outlaw cars tomorrow the backlash would sweep them all from office, but that’s not how it’s done. The way to do it is to layer regulation on top of regulation on top of carbon tax on top of parking restriction etc. until owning a private car becomes impractical for the average person. Cars will never be outlawed outright since the Al Gores of the world will still need their chauffeured limousines not to mention their private jets.

          • Jim__L

            There will come a tipping point where a politician can be elected on a platform of massive deregulation.

            History isn’t over.

      • Andrew Allison

        Agreed. I contemplated adding the real-world regulations would also be required but elected brevity.

  • Suzyqpie

    Europe is being invaded by international welfare predators, aka, Syrian refugees, yes the ones Pres Obama designated as widows and orphans. I’m not thinking the Europeans have car emissions on their mind as a, you know, real high priority…..

  • Boritz

    “…carmakers’ ability effectively to game…”

    And gaming the system is fine if it is covered by a crony relationship but not when it is done unilaterally.  Let that be the lesson.

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