By on December 5, 2014

VW XL1

The European test cycle for fuel economy and emissions may need to be taken out back, based on findings by policy group Transport and Environment.

According to Ward’s Auto, T&E proclaimed the New European Driving Cycle “is not fit for purpose,” finding the laboratory results reported by automakers and those uncovered in real-world scenarios have a gulf between them, one that has widened over time: 8 percent difference in 2001, 31 percent in 2013, and a predicted 50 percent by 2020 if no action is taken.

Per the group, the NEDC is “obsolete, unrepresentative of modern cars and driving styles, and full of loopholes that car makers exploit to produce better test results,” as the lab results fail to account for external factors.

A replacement is in the works: the AECA is helping to develop the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure, meant to replicate the real-world conditions the NEDC fails to account. The European Union would like the WLTP ready by 2017, but T&E clean-vehicles chief Greg Archer wants to see it sooner so that automakers can be stopped from “exploiting the flexibilities” in the current procedure.

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31 Comments on “T&E: European Test Cycle ‘Not Fit For Purpose’...”


  • avatar
    Scott_314

    My rental in Italy had an advertised rating of 74mpg, I kid you not. It got good mileage though, around 40.

    • 0 avatar
      Occam

      It’s always inflated by 20%, owing to the difference between American customary measurements and imperial measurements.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s an issue when comparing window stickers. When filling up in the country in question it’s already accounted for, as the pumps (and cars’ trip computers) are calibrated to the imperial unit.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Not just that; even when using metric, European measures grossly inaccurate.

        Remember this when people talk about magic European diesels beating the Prius. Also, remember to check the Prius’ rating on European charts; it’s much, much more optimistic than the North American rankings.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “It’s always inflated by 20%”

        It’s not a conversion issue. The tests are different; the EPA test is more conservative.

        (And only the Brits use imperial gallons. Liter per 100 km is the standard used on the continent.)

    • 0 avatar
      piro

      My car (although it’s to be sold now), a diesel Astra estate, was rated for 57 mpg combined (European cycle, Imperial gallons), but I averaged 50 mpg, with a real world 612 mile run best of 60.4 mpg (motorway speeds).

      So actually pretty realistic. But it’s a 2007 car, maybe they’ve just kept making the figures more and more out of touch with reality.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I think the whole fuel economy rating thing should be overhauled everywhere.

    Maybe this is overkill but I’d be down to get a graph of minimum and maximum consumption at all speeds below ~85 MPH. Then the cost of A/C, passengers, positive/negative grades, etc. Finally I’d be OK with summary numbers, but they’d have to integrate over the surface formed by the speed/load/consumption data and have some kind of explanation for it. No more tricks or BS

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Sounds great, but good luck getting all that data onto a window sticker or in the small print at the bottom of a magazine advert.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        They can just whittle it down to the same “city/highway” numbers. I just prefer a more thorough and transparent process to get to them as well as more info if I want it.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Sporty asks for too much info: max/min, grades, etc. Unless you are reprogramming the ECU, that info isn’t useful, and even then I doubt it.

        I have long supported the idea of supplying a graph of mpg v. speed instead of a “highway” number. Just one plot for STP, steady speed, zero grade, no wind, predefined list of accessories, etc., is plenty adequate. I’d be fine with a curve for each gear since that goes into shift logic and it’s also a roundabout way of seeing gear ratios & allowable speeds in each gear, e.g., those Chryslers that won’t shift into their top gear until you’re over 80 mph.

        One thing that the graph would not indicate is the effects of weight. More mass equals lower mpg, and IMO, the city cycle does a decent job capturing that because of the starts & stops. However, I would like to see more idling added to that test.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I’ll go you one better: get the government out of fuel economy measures and CAFE standards altogether. Let competing private entities come up with a better system for measuring fuel economy, let still other private entities rate the ratings, and let the buying public decide what they want. Government functionaries just end up writing ever more arcane rules and regulations, increasing costs and reducing choices. Before long, they’ll start thinking they can run your life better than you can, and start treating you like your parents did when you were an underage teen.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        That’s a terrible idea. What you suggest is exactly what happened on Wall Street that led to the Great Recession.

        Even if you hate govt, it’s hard to deny they are the best tool for creating/enforcing standards.

        • 0 avatar
          Roader

          Check out the history of Underwriters Laboratories for an efficient, non-governmental regulatory agency.

          http://ul.com/aboutul/history/

          “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
          Friedrich August von Hayek, The Fatal Conceit

          “So many things the government does are attempts to circumvent the bad things caused by something else they already do.”
          Russ Roberts, Cafe Hayek

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        This sounds like the typical conservative “solution” — invent a problem that doesn’t exist, then spawn a series of private bureaucracies that produce no value.

        There are already numerous car and consumer magazines that do their own fuel economy testing. If you prefer to use their findings instead of those produced by the EPA tests, then that’s your business — no one is putting a gun to your head to force you to look at the EPA test.

  • avatar
    Gadsden

    I’m all for accuracy, but wouldn’t this move exacerbate the problems caused by CAFE type regugarbage that I assume is at play there too?

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    I don’t care. It’s not like we’re titrating critical care drugs here.

    I just assume a 5-8% Lie Factor under my normal driving loads and speeds. I’ve never been outraged. Only once was I pleasantly surprised by an accurate sticker but that was for a Prius, aka sensory deprivation chamber, and I’d sooner buy a Camaro.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Wait, you mean someone did a study and concluded that the European fuel economy test cycles are complete bunk?

    NO! Who’d have thought!!!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The European test cycles allow on-road testing, which lends itself to gaming.

    The “real world” aspect is what is wrong with it. It makes more sense to limit testing to a lab for the sake of consistency.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      As long as the testing allows the tester to drive the Veyron like it was a Prius, it will never be any more than silly. To be even remotely realistic, the test has to make allowance for full output to be used at least some of the time. Say, run the test loop at max efficient speeds, then race pace, then 3 evenly spaced speeds in between those two. And just average it out. Or something.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “To be even remotely realistic, the test has to make allowance for full output to be used at least some of the time.”

        That is neither realistic nor the point of these tests.

        The purpose of these tests is to create a means to compare vehicles directly with each other. The only way to do that is to have a test that is administered in a lab, conducted the same way each time, under consistent conditions.

  • avatar
    Occam

    In looking at European (UK) and American figures for the same cars, I found that Euro numbers tend to run 25-33% higher. This accounts for the 20% difference in the size of our gallons, as well as the more punishing EPA testing cycle.

    I believe the CAFE MPG and EPA MPG are calculated differently (CAFE is much less punishing, and weighted in the automakers favor), but I’ve never been able to find the actual difference.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “I believe the CAFE MPG and EPA MPG are calculated differently”

      They are. CAFE uses an older version of the test, which can be expected to produce higher numbers than the current version of the EPA test.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Instead of taking two years to develop their own test, why not work with the EPA to use that one? The EPA test might still be optimistic in some cases, but it’s generally close enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The US EPA test that is used for CAFE is the old one, and it is entrenched in CAFE. Likewise, the NEDC is likely entrenched in the European CO2 emission requirements. Both are way out of whack with reality.

      For replacing those tests, US driving conditions aren’t necessarily representative of European driving conditions.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        He was referring to the current test they use for the window sticker mpg, not CAFE mpg.

        It is far more realistic than the old test (used for CAFE) and the European test, with actual achievable numbers. You are right however that difference in typical driving conditions may affect how accurate the test would be for the market however.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I don’t see how US and Euro driving conditions are so different. There is a huge range in driving conditions on both continents. If the epa tests already cover everything from Montana highways to Manhattan, they can work for Europe too. These tests aren’t meant to precisely predict fuel efficiency for all drivers in all circumstances, only provide close enough estimates that are consistent enough to be be used to compare cars to each other.

        • 0 avatar
          Roader

          Driving conditions probably aren’t much different. There are other conditions, however that trump driving conditions. Specifically, mortgage payment conditions. Both US and EU regulators have separate and high mortgage payments. Homologating emissions regulations could result in fewer regulators, resulting in fewer bureaucrats making their mortgage payments.

          The means justify the ends.

          • 0 avatar
            Brian P

            For the highway figure, I’d be quite content knowing what the consumption is at a steady 120 km/h with some reasonable averaging of uphill or downhill at some reasonable slope.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          @burgersandbeer

          How dare you come here with your reasonableness!

          I don’t care what the numbers are, as long as they are comparable between different cars.

          FWIW, I usually get pretty much what the current EPA figures are with anything I drive. And usually beat them on any sort of longer trip.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I suggest that there is just a simple test on the accuracy of the car’s trip computer and that these figures get onto the internet and collated over time. This gives average, real world numbers. It would be exciting to watch for the first few months after release of a new model.

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