By on December 17, 2014

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The prevailing narrative seems to be that the United States lags behind Europe in addressing issues like fuel economy and emissions. U.S. regulatory standards are seen as not as rigorous as those used in the European Union. Cars sold in the European market get better gas/diesel mileage and put out less supposedly harmful carbon dioxide and other products of combustion. Now, the Economist is reporting that an environmental group is claiming that the Euro standards are a bit of a sham because the system in Europe allows automakers to game the testing procedures, resulting in poorer real-world performance than that indicated by testing.

Based on data compiled by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the special interest group Transport & Environment says that in 2013, actual fuel economy in Europe was, on average, 38% worse than advertised test results. Transport & Environment blamed out of date procedures and a system that permits some fudging. Prototypes, not production vehicles, are tested and they can be tested without standard equipment like infotainment systems to save weight. External mirrors, which contribute aero drag are also sometimes deleted in the test vehicles. Regular oil is replaced by advanced lubricants. Panel gaps are taped to improved aerodynamics and wheels are shod with low resistance tires filled with gases that supposedly perform better than regular compressed atmospheric air.

Transport & Environment also claims that the Euro test cycle favors gentle acceleration and relatively low speeds and testing is permitted at fairly high temperatures, 29 C / 84 F. Combustion engines are said to be more efficient at higher temps and it definitely helps with emissions. Engine control units supposedly can switch to special modes that produce better fuel economy and reduced pollution.

In the U.S., automakers do their own testing but the Environmental Protection Agency does its own testing to check the results that the automakers provide. Ford and Hyundai have both run afoul of U.S. regulators for overstating fuel economy claims. In Europe, testing is supervised by regulators in each country but the tests themselves are performed by firms under contract to the automakers. Those firms have to compete for business and tell potential customers how they can optimize conditions. One Spanish testing facility is favored because it’s specially smoothed paving can improve fuel economy by as much as 3%. Another selling point for that track is that is at high altitude where the thinner air creates less aero drag.

The tests are overseen by national regulators, but carmakers pay specialist firms to carry them out. These companies compete for business by promising to “optimise” conditions. One popular test track in Spain is at high altitude (the thinner air reduces aerodynamic drag) and has a surface so smooth that it alone improves efficiency by three percentage points.

The European Union is implementing some very strict carbon emissions targets but most automakers say they’ve met those targets well in advance of the deadlines. Transport & Environment claims that is at least partly a sham, that much of the progress reported comes from statistical manipulation, not improved technology.

The European Commission says that new procedures it wants to implement by 2017 will more closely model real world driving behavior, though the German and French auto industries are lobbying their national governments to stall those revised tests.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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46 Comments on “Environmentalists Says Euro MPG & Emissions Testing Allows Gaming By Automakers...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    “allows automakers to game the testing procedures, resulting in poorer real-world performance than that indicated by testing”
    Hasnt the same been said about the US as well. I know for a fact several hundred times its been mentioned on this site.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      IDK, you look on Fuelly, most cars are hitting their EPA combined estimates. For all the crying about US FE tests they seem to be relatively accurate.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Yup.

        The issue is less the gentle cycle… because you can match economy measured on a gentle drive cycle by driving… gently… but more that manufacturers are gaming the NEDC completely. Taped up seams, high altitude coast-down testing on billiard-table smooth tracks, optimum temperature, octane, etcetera… then there’s the plug-in cheat that basically gives you a free-pass for plug-in miles when calculating fuel economy.

        US EPA ratings may get lots of flak, but they’re easy to match and not too difficult to beat in the real world. And if you can’t beat them, you can get the EPA to audit the results and hand out hefty fines.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Hasnt the same been said about the US as well”

      Not like the European cycle. Compare cars with identical powertrain combinations in both Europe and North America: the European figures—even if you deal in L/100km instead of MPG to avoid the imperial/US discrepancy—are markedly more optimistic.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        That’s the same for most other countries, including Canada & Japan. Even here in the US, CAFE has those unrealistic numbers while the EPA matches the real world well. (Specifically, the city matches, IMO. The hwy number matches for lower hwy speeds, but not the higher speeds that continue to pop up.)

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yeah the fact that we have 70-80mph speed limits nowadays and the test was developed when the national speed limit was 55mph does have a factor in the hwy numbers.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            plus the fact that buying 400hp to drive at 55mph is silly enough even a tax feeder ought to realize some of his beliefs just may be a bit off…..

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Exactly the same goes on in the US. So what is the story here?

  • avatar
    turf3

    Editor! Editor! Over here! I’ve been wounded by a misplaced apostrophe!

    “…favored because it’s specially smoothed paving…” NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

    Correct to:

    “…favored because its specially smoothed paving…”

    Come on folks, let’s at least do basic fourth grade punctuation correctly.

  • avatar
    turf3

    Also, why did you write the same thing twice in slightly different words?

    Second half of paragraph 4:

    “In Europe, testing is supervised by regulators in each country but the tests themselves are performed by firms under contract to the automakers. Those firms have to compete for business and tell potential customers how they can optimize conditions. One Spanish testing facility is favored because it’s specially smoothed paving can improve fuel economy by as much as 3%. Another selling point for that track is that is at high altitude where the thinner air creates less aero drag.”

    And then immediately afterward in paragraph 5:

    “The tests are overseen by national regulators, but carmakers pay specialist firms to carry them out. These companies compete for business by promising to “optimise” conditions. One popular test track in Spain is at high altitude (the thinner air reduces aerodynamic drag) and has a surface so smooth that it alone improves efficiency by three percentage points.”

    Remember what Mr. Twain wrote:

    ESCHEW SURPLUSAGE

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      That happens to me when I’ve written something but have to go back and make another change which leads to rewriting that section again. Usually, the edits get made before deleting the original text, and if I miss deleting it, BAM! duplicate but not identical content.

  • avatar
    DukeMantee

    The’Anal’Grammarian’ Strike’s Again’,

    Ain’t you jes a spayshul snowFLAKE

    The “hole” idea is to game the system.
    Thats why our rent seeking politicians have set this scheme up.Its not about clean air,its about MONEY.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Yes I’m slightly biased, but the whole fuel economy rating system has flaws. It’s one of the reasons diesels generally exceed their EPA numbers.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      My theory:
      All cars can exceed their EPA numbers. Diesel drivers are obsessed with fuel economy, so they are even more likely to try to exceed EPA numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Don’t forget specialty applications–often people who buy diesels do so because they have the ideal commute for one (lots of steady hwy driving). Those in the city with gobs of idling probably don’t opt for the noisier engine.

        So, those who do get diesels probably would beat the EPA number regardless of vehicle, and regardless of their attempts to beat it.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yup that is one factor. If you purchase a vehicle in the name of saving fuel you are more likely to drive in a fuel saving manner. The other thing though is that pure gas powered vehicles, hybrids and diesels all need slightly or significantly different driving styles and conditions to maximize their MPG, since the drive cycle does not account for those differences there are differences in how they respond to real world driving.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Heavy handle, it depends how you define “highway” speed. I doubt most cars can exceed their highway rating at a steady 75 mph on flat terrain unless they have a tailwind. They come close, but their aerodynamics are not good enough. Drive at a steady 60 mph and the same car likely exceeds the fuel economy rating. The problem is driving 60 mph on a rural interstate in the Great Plains or Mountain West causes an unsafe speed differential between you and other drivers. Ideally the highway fuel economy test cycle would be changed to something more useful for comparing vehicles like steady-state fuel economy at 70 mph.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Yes using 70mph for the hwy portion would better reflect current conditions. The problem is that CAFE is based on the test developed in the 70’s and if they changed the test w/o changing the standards the auto makers would cry foul and sue. If they change the standards then the current administration fears it would look like a push over. So we are stuck with this for the near future.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The EPA highway test is intended to be a country-road back road test, not an interstate cruising simulation. But it does go as high as 80 mph.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          There are outliers. My G8 GXP substantially exceeds its rating at a steady 75 mph. (Rated at 20, gets about 22.5-23 at a steady-state 75.) To get it down to 20 I have to go about 85-90.

          The car can’t even achieve its 13 rating in the city, so it comes out about even.

  • avatar
    shaker

    All I know is that any non-hybrid or non-EV is a massive “fail” in the “Shaker Driving Cycle”. But that’s only 3k/yr, so I don’t feel as bad. That’s a paradox that gas cars present to me – in order to get better MPG, I have to drive further and use more gas (minor head throbbing).

    Still want an EV, but can’t justify the purchase using pure economics.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Shocked…gambling…Rick’s

  • avatar
    50merc

    The joke in the Soviet Union was “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”. In the EU, it’s “they pretend CO2 targets are important, and we pretend to comply”.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’m not sure who other than maybe Big Al thinks that the euro cars have better mpg and lower emissions. Fact is that cars that meet euro emissions standards need to be cleaned up a little more to meet the US standards and vehicles sold with the same basic power train in the US always have significantly lower MPG ratings.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Now he’s going to show up and yell about the diesel engine in the B6 Ranger.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @Scoutdude,
      It is not just European standards US vehicles do not meet. US Diesels when they did meet the lower Euro 3 levels had worse MPG, than Euro Diesels in Australia Does not matter as they are illegal in their present configuration here

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Umm, you’ve got that backwards the euro vehicles as a whole do not meet the US regulations and need to be cleaned up. Yes there was a short time period where the euro diesels were cleaner than the US diesels. That was only because diesels got a pass in the US because they made up a relatively insignificant portion of the US fleet and they make up a huge portion of the euro fleet. Once the US committed to fully regulating diesel emissions that quickly changed.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Robert makes a point of being wrong at least once a day. (OK, so he’s an overachiever.)

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Scoutdude,
          Diesels configured to meet US Tier or Euro Regulations will not be “clean” in the others environment. US Diesels are not “clean” here.
          When their is a slight overlap in the regulations, then as you say they are “clean”

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            So how come it is legal to import a US emissions compliant gas or diesel powered vehicle into Europe or AU but it is not legal to import the euro spec vehicle into the US?

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Scoutdude,
            Diesel Pickups can be bought in under a quota system of 100 vehicles per importer. Non compliant other type of vehicles the same

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            This guy just doesn’t get it. Saying that he’s clueless would overstate how much of a clue that he has.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Pch101
            Your IQ tends to be inversely proportional to the many posts you make. Get a better researcher who can help you with facts Several on this board would agree, not just Aussies

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Be kind. He was kicked in the head by a kangaroo during his childhood, and hasn’t been the same since. (Not that I fault the kangaroo — undoubtedly, BAFO must have deserved it.)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I don’t bother arguing with those claiming “80 mpg” diesels hatchbacks of Europe.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Regarding diesels, I have driven a 1.3L supercharged Fiat Qubo diesel with 5 MT all over Italy and averaged 50 mpg combined cycle. Someday, I’ll get enough ambition to look up the advertised fuel consumption.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    Sounds possible to me, my recent Mondeo diesel wagon averaged 6.6 l/100km over the 15000 km I had it, which is about 36 mpgUS, and that includes towing a 3/4 ton trailer 30% of the time.

  • avatar
    CGHill

    My ride (a 15-year-old I30) gets pretty much the same 20/28 as advertised on the window sticker.

    The 2008 Fudge Factor dropped the official numbers to 17/25. The car, to my knowledge, didn’t notice.

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