Real World Emissions Testing

It‘s time to act

We need real-world emissions testing to protect Australians and the environment

The Volkswagen Group (VW) emissions scandal of 2015, in which the company used a ‘defeat device’ to cheat on international laboratory emissions testing, has uncovered weaknesses in Australia’s emissions regulation system.

The VW scandal showed:

  • the Australian Government does no Australian-based emissions testing to ensure vehicles comply with Australia‘s rules in relation to noxious emissions
  • our Government relies on testing conducted in overseas laboratories, sometimes by manufacturers
  • the current system is open to manipulation and as a result Australian consumers and the environment are not being properly protected.

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The AAA‘s real-world vehicle emissions test

In the wake of the VW scandal the AAA decided to invest $500,000 in an 18-month, on-road, pilot testing program. The program is measuring the emissions produced by 30 popular vehicles when driven on Australian roads using Australian fuels and is comparing these with the emissions limits for these vehicles when tested in the laboratories of the US, Europe and Asia.

The AAA asked respected Melbourne consultants ABMARC to conduct the testing. ABMARC has Australia’s only Portable Emissions Measurement System (PEMS) which complies with US and European Commission standards. PEMS is being used in the AAA testing program. PEMS provides laboratory accuracy for the measurement of particulates, gaseous emissions and fuel consumption from engines. PEMS can be used to test diesel, petrol, natural gas and LPG engines.

ABMARC consulted with advisers from the European Commission to design a testing procedure which is suited to Australian driving conditions, but based on the robust on-road testing increasingly being used in Europe.

The AAA released results of the first ten vehicles tested in December 2016.

Preliminary results

Our preliminary results show:

  • fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are up to 35 per cent higher than figures shown on the Fuel Consumption Label (which Government rules stipulate must be on new cars at the point of sale)
  • emissions of noxious gasses (such as Carbon Monoxide and various oxides of nitrogen) are up to four times higher than Australia‘s regulatory limits.

These results suggest that as emissions regulations around the world become more stringent, auto manufacturers are producing vehicles that limit emissions in the laboratory, but not necessarily in the real world.

For our emissions regulations to do their job, they clearly need to be properly enforced here in Australia.

What does this mean for Australians?

You may be misled.

Because the information regarding fuel use and greenhouse emissions displayed on the Government-mandated Fuel Consumption Label may not reflect the vehicle‘s performance when driven on Australian roads, you may use considerably more fuel than you would expect. This would not only cost you more, but also be worse for the environment.

New Government rules designed to help tackle climate change could cost you more but not protect the environment

The Australian Government is considering tough new rules aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the cars on Australia‘s roads. The regulations could mean new cars, which would have to include new emissions technology, could cost thousands more. Because cleaner fuels may also be required, the price of fuel may also rise.

But if the Government continues to rely on flawed laboratory testing conducted overseas and does not police its own new rules, there is a possibility that Australians like you could end up paying hundreds of dollars more every year to run their vehicles without necessarily achieving the expected benefits to the environment.

The AAA’s Transport Affordability Index shows the average Australian household already spends around $17,000 per year on transport costs, while AAA national polling shows ‘fuel efficiency’ is the top consideration for about a quarter of Australians when buying a car.

It‘s vital that any new rules imposed by the Government minimise the costs to Australian motorists and maximise the benefit to our environment. Only with accurate information can consumers encourage manufacturers to deliver cleaner vehicles into the Australian market.

And only with accurate information can the Government develop and police regulations delivering the maximum benefit to the environment at the least cost to Australian motorists.

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