By on September 28, 2015

Mercedes-Benz C250, AMG Line, Avantgarde, Diamantsilber metallic

An environmental group in Europe is saying most of the world’s automakers are lying about misreporting emissions and fuel economy on tests that are intentionally unclear and designed with several loopholes for carmakers to exploit.

“Like the air pollution test, the European system of testing cars to measure fuel economy and CO2 emissions is utterly discredited. The Volkswagen scandal was just the tip of the iceberg and what lies beneath is widespread abuse by carmakers of testing rules enabling cars to swallow more than 50 (percent) more fuel than is claimed,” Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at Transport and Environment, said in a statement.

Specifically, the Brussels-based group says that Mercedes A, C and E class and BMW’s 5 Series cars pollute up to 50 percent more than the automakers report. Emissions claims and real-world emissions for most cars could differ by up to 50 percent by 2020, the group says.

The 18-page report relies heavily on information gleaned from the International Council on Clean Transportation’s test that measured emissions from different worldwide vehicles — including Volkswagen’s diesel cars and BMW’s diesel X3.

In addition to polluting more than the automakers claim — up to 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, the group says that the additional fuel costs paid by drivers will add up to more than $1 trillion in 15 years.

Transport and Environment said automakers routinely game the emissions system tests by over-inflating tires to create lower rolling resistance, disconnecting the battery to reduce engine load, using unique (or illegal) engine management systems and under-reporting by 4 percent the emissions levels, which is allowable under guidelines.

Mind-the-gap

Both BMW and Mercedes (and others) have denied any wrongdoing.

Basically, it’s all made up, according to the group.

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46 Comments on “European Group Says Pretty Much Everyone is Lying About Efficiency...”


  • avatar
    scrubnick

    Say what you want about Consumer Reports but I really like their test methodology. In order to get a real number, you need a vehicle that is sold to the public that the manufacturer cannot doctor beforehand. You then need an independent party to conduct the test. The fact that manufacturers are allowed to perform their compliance testing in-house is absolutely absurd.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “The fact that manufacturers are allowed to perform their compliance testing in-house is absolutely absurd.”

      On the face of it, I agree.

      However, the current system is based upon two things:
      1. The resources to test and document every mfr’s vehicles for every possible permutation of engine/transmission/option would be astronomical.
      2. Violators should live in fear of being caught. VW was caught… eventually.

      If you apply the Ultimate Scrutiny Principle to drunk driving, we’d all have interlock devices fitted to our cars by government-owned shops, and a fleet of air/land/sea police squads looking for erratic/drunk drivers who managed to beat the interlock.

      In a (reasonably) free society, we can’t live like that.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      I believe in Europe compliance testing is handled by independent companies but they are selected on how well the car meets the requirements so say a company that over inflates the tires, disconnects the battery and test the vehicles from the top of hill leading down to their garage gets the contract.

      The US system isn’t much better but its administered by the government and there is a bit more compliance.

      On a positive note I can at least get a since of smug satisfaction the next time I hear “European car companies are so much better when it comes to mileage and emissions” and I can give’em ye ol’ Irish salute!

  • avatar
    pdl2dmtl

    Gee… it looks like all ICE equipped cars are suspects.

    What’s next? EVs? Who does not lie?

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Electrons do not produce emissions so EV’s are not lying.

      Of course there is the fact that you are shifting where the emissions are being produced with EVs to where the electricity is being created and whether it is “green” electricity or not.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “An environmental group in Europe is saying most of the world’s automakers are misreporting emissions and fuel economy on tests that are intentionally unclear and designed with several loopholes for carmakers to exploit.”

      In English, this means “the EU test regimen produces inaccurate results because it’s *designed* in a way that doesn’t match real-world results”.

      (Or, if we want to be cynical, the group that did the testing wants cars to look even worse, and ran an implausibly hard duty cycle.)

      Remember, this is a CO2 result, so “fuel used” is what they’re actually talking about, not pollution in any of the traditional senses of the word.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        Sigivald +1
        What they are complaining about is a test designed to give high results, not cheating. This had nothing to do with vw’s nox scandal. Tests like this are a result of politicians wanting to make a statement with their legislative pen that they don’t want to implement fully. There’s a difference between taking action on climate change and being the person blamed for taking our v8’s/trucks/amg’s, no successful politician can ignore it.

        The group does have a legitimate gripe with regards to inaccurate mileage in euro estimates. What they don’t have is an understanding that not enough people agree with them or the gripe wouldn’t exist in the first place. The real world economy they are looking for would force further compromises away from safety and performance. The car companies aren’t manufacturing customer preference for these traits. I’m basically talking about cafe at this point I believe.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      Its not stated, but I know each of those cars has a diesel engine option, I think they are still just pointing fingers at diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      This is more akin to the way manufacturers used to test gross horsepower with impractical optimizations: setting up a blueprinted engine on a stand with no accessories, external cooling loops, premium gas, hand-tuned carbs, etc.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    50% is not 1000% or 4000%.

    Target:
    **

    Mercedes:
    ***

    VW:
    ****************************************

  • avatar
    stroker49

    My car consumes 40% less than declared! I live in Sweden, Europe, and drives an American car. That car is set up to fool the US-test and performs extremely poorly in the European test.

    The government in Sweden taxes cars based on the official test results:-(

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    Before it’s all over we’ll find out that auto manufacturers have been bribing government officials to get these cars to pass emission tests all over the world.

    I’d bet it started with the EPA and then branched out to Europe.

    I’m guessing they’re like common shoplifters. If a shoplifter is successful they go tell their friends, who are also shoplifters. Maybe they have Saturday BBQs. Who knows? All I know is once your business is marked as “easy” you get shoplifted exponentially. These regulators from around the world probably call each other on a hotline party line once the first one gets a bribe.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Turbos are liars.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    The larger and more inclusive the emissions test gaming appears to be the less in the spotlight VW will appear to be when Mercedes, BMW, PSA, and others all are found to have been involved in one way or another.

  • avatar
    jonnyanalog

    This just reinforces a point I make all the time (not necessarily on here); whether Democrat or Republican the enemy is not each other but the POLITICIANS we elect. They look out for their own best interests and nothing more.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I still point back to letting the real world report how actual MPG will be versus the government reporting under lab conditions.
    The window sticker on my truck read:
    City MPG –
    Highway MPG –

    People reported between 9-13MPG, and that has truly been a realistic range. By setting up numbers, anyone that gets below those numbers will get pissy, and the rest just won’t pay attention to the fact that the small turbo car gets the same gas mileage as the N/A V6.

  • avatar
    NutellaBC

    2 things:
    Why are the Toyota hybrids (which are by far the worst offenders at close to 80%) not included ?

    Lot of additional equipment can drag down the real world average: are the vehicles automatic ? Fitted with AC or not ? Are the wheels the tiny steel wheels with narrow tires standard on most euro vehicles or the optional huge rims that most elect to pay extra for. Is the vehicle equipped with stop/start ?

    BTW, diesel cars tend to be closer to claimed MPG whereas hybrids tend to diverge the most.

    • 0 avatar
      night driver

      I disagree – the Toyota Prius is one of the few cars for which it is easy to achieve or exceed the claimed MPG.

      http://www.fuelly.com/car/toyota/prius/2015

      My car is in that list with an average MPG over 53.

      • 0 avatar
        epsilonkore

        I disagree as well. Close to 80% deviation in what test? (show me a link) Perhaps track racing a BMW M3 on a track with a Prius ala TopGear style, yes… it wont hit 45-55MPG, but most Prius owners I know do either slightly less or slightly better than their projected EPA numbers, in the real world. And dont get me started on emissions (which is what this article is ACTUALLY about). Who here, no matter how anti Prius “diesels for ever!” you may be, would choose to be locked in a garage (forcibly, obviously) with a VW/Merc/Peugoet diesel running vs a Prius… youd live far longer with the Prius, and give rescuers hours more time to find out what you are up to. (A bit of sarcasm there folks).

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Is it wrong of me to wish Brussels would be hit by a giant meteor?

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Either I missed it, or some clarity in this would be great.

    Is this pertaining to diesel only? I’m not sure how you word rig a test in a gas powered car. Seems to me the emissions are fairly constant unless you are the tool who cuts his cats out. If you are measuring by load and fuel used to calculate emissions than most every car in my area has been misrepresented. At a mile above sea level, less oxygen means less power, means we have to stand in it more to get the same result as someone at sea level. So I suppose we use more gas as well and don’t hit the EPA figures. Where and when would it end?

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      This article posits that European efficiency benchmarks and tests overstate the real-world efficiency of various gasoline and diesel powered cars. That means that the cars are consuming more fuel in the real world than the tests would indicate. If you want to say that carbon dioxide is a “tailpipe pollution” then more fuel burned means more “tailpipe pollution” emitted. So, by this logic: underperforming fuel economy standards means polluting more.

      I use quotation marks because carbon dioxide (and water vapor) are the desired result of burning fuel—that’s what’s supposed to happen. Here in the USA we usually only consider the other tailpipe emissions as pollution. Since nearly all the carbon in the fuel burned is converted into CO2, I think it makes more sense to use MPG as a proxy for CO2 “pollution” and let the word “pollution” refer to the various unintended and much worse compounds.

      Another note: a vehicle that gets 15 MPG only emits 3x more carbon dioxide per mile than a vehicle that gets 45 MPG. However, a car with a poorly operating (or removed!) emissions control system can easily emit 100x the amount of carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen, etc. That’s a practical reason to keep CO2 as a separate measure from other tailpipe “pollution.”

      On a side note, do you actually get worse mileage at higher elevation? I understand that you will get less power, but I would think that would be the extent of the problems with a modern car (assuming you have a modern car). My personal experience is that my trips to Yosemite are the best mileage I ever get, but that’s probably because of highway driving more than the benefits of less air resistance.

  • avatar
    srd275

    CO, NOX are pollutants.

    Carbon Dioxide is what we all breath out (in addition to the cars).

    IT IS NOT same thing, and it should have NEVER been allowed to be called a “pollutant”.

    IT IS PLANT FOOD!

    Enough already!

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      We discussed this before. Just because something is beneficial does not mean increasing that thing will be good. There are a lot of things a plant needs besides CO2 to live. But what should I know about plants, I’m only a farmer.

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-pollutant-advanced.htm

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Dihydrogen monoxide is plant good, too, but you can still drown in it.

      CO2’s a little different than water, but your argument is ignorant.

      Fortunately, ignorance can be fixed! Here is the FAQ entry which directly addresses your argument:
      http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-plant-food.htm
      It’s nuanced, complicated, and the article doesn’t try to explain all of climate science in a few paragraphs… But reality is like that.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      Whether a substance is a pollutant or not is not absolute, but contextual. What is vital in one situation may be harmful in others.

      Water is vital for human survival. In the desert, it’s a pollutant.

      And the C02 we’re spewing into the atmosphere that is measurably raising average global temperature is, in that context, very much a pollutant.

  • avatar
    Dr.Nick

    Just listened to Autoline After Hours from last week on the VW scandal. They maintained that the European test cycle (specifically what the car has to do during the test) is notoriously easy compared to the American EPA test cycle. A lot of these discrepancies are probably just how cars perform under real conditions compared to a relatively easy emissions test.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      They rarely are. Both my wife and I were born with a lead foot for the go pedal and we have NEVER even come close to the EPA mpg figures listed on the window sticker of ANY of our vehicles.

      When you’re cruising down the road at 85+mph, the emissions and pollution generated are far going to exceed those of a controlled test.

      I think it is all a crock and I think ALL automakers are fudging the numbers.

  • avatar
    matador

    That’s a good sign for the Twingo. But, can I drive it in a tunnel beneath Belfast?

    Seriously, that doesn’t look too bad for an estimate….

  • avatar
    balreadysaid

    pollution is a funny thing… When you have a vehicle consume a number of gallons of fuel and is equipped with an electric air pump to add air to the exhaust to dilute the particles per million (PPM)measured,it still produces a number much higher that what the reading out of the tailpipe. We now have direct injection gas engines that supposedly need catalyst reduction devices since they are now producing more toxins by nature of the burn. We also have diesels that produce ungodly amounts of soot that gets reburned through the EGR system… It still the same amount of soot it just gets trapped in the intake. More like plugged, slugged, Glued, packed.. ETC! This whole system that EPA and carb back is completely skewed! Pollution is created by battery makers for electric cars and i can tell you that some of the battery are made in china and they dump excess of anything they can into the ocean. Producing urea, catalytic converters, and any form of anti pollution device causes more pollution that it prevents. its a totally unthought of fact but all of the energy put into making it to transporting it is just added unneeded pollution. There is no reason the technology has followed in flawed direction. Its a bandaid that was improved upon. instead of a problem solved a new one was made. Money is to blame! too much of it is easily taken one way or another… Im really trying to open peoples eyes. cars are a overpriced JOKE, and have no right to be priced in the way they are when its the same damn thing repackaged as something new but made with less materials because weight is MPG LOL please stick a potato in your neighbors exhaust and cause some rukuss! We are beingbeaten over the head with bad policy from Gov’t and auto makers. Rant OVER

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Some of what you have said is fact and some of it is opinion, but all of it would be taken more seriously with proper grammar, punctuation, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        First of all, Doc…proper grammar and punctuation should never have any bearing on truth.
        I hope…
        If something is true, or false, how it is said should mean nothing. Nadda.
        Even the unskilled have minds. The elite of the intellectual world have nothing on the truth.
        Second, there is a point here. In this do-gooder(please give me a pass here) world, side effects are often ignored on purpose by the true believers.
        Often I wonder about the pollution caused by the new battery driven tech we are being sold.
        Or the pollution caused by electric cars at the power stations and out of view of the feel good greenie because all out of sight and out of mind, just swept under the rug.
        Or the innocent creatures who migrate blindly and killed by the humongous wind farms now crowding the farms along our countrysides.
        Or the actual cost and pollution caused by the ridiculous recycling factories around the world…and the actual financial losses (other than aluminum cans).
        So, yes, I am not very good at writing. But I am a world class skeptic and reader. And I think something is amiss here in PC eco-land.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Truth was never brought into question. But given the same words and two different speakers, the average listener is more likely to trust the one who sounds like they made it past the fifth grade.

          Very few EV owners are completely oblivious to the source of their electricity, unlike the strawman you constructed. But as someone else here more eloquently put it, electricity is “agnostic” in its source. It could just as easily be from a renewable source as a nonrenewable one, which is more than can be said for any ICE.

          The amount of bird deaths due to wind power is dwarfed by the amount killed by power lines at conventional power plants, flying into buildings, or by feral and domestic cats. If you really cared for the birds, you’d rail against cats and windows.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          >>> Often I wonder about the pollution caused by the new battery driven tech we are being sold. Or the pollution caused by electric cars at the power stations and out of view of the feel good greenie because all out of sight and out of mind, just swept under the rug.

          Maybe you should wonder about the computer you’re using as well. It’s using the same power source as an EV. It might even have the very same batteries inside. Do you think your hard drive is grown on some organic farm in the Chinese countryside? Then again, I suppose it’s possible that you have an arrangement with the editors and write your comments on organic hemp paper with gluten free ink and mail them in.

          Before I got my EV, I converted to LED lighting in my home, installed a super efficient HVAC system, more efficient appliances etc. Now I’m using less power than before I had the car.

          In my area, our power is somewhere around 6% coal, but the single plant remaining is scheduled to be closed. At the office, my car is charged by a solar farm and at some point I will probably install my own solar.

          As far as bird deaths from wind farms, you might want to look at the numbers killed by cell phone towers, radio towers, and cats.

          http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/15/wind-turbines-kill-fewer-birds-than-cell-towers-cats/15683843/

          Battery manufacturing is getting cleaner. New single step lithium-ion production techniques have been developed that use less materials. Current processes take a full day to make an electrode. The new processes take less than an hour using far less resources.

          Things might not be perfectly clean now, but progress is being made.

  • avatar
    George B

    It’s probably human nature to game the system to get the best possible results on any test. The problem is that wildly inflated test results really screw up the cost/benefit calculations. I came to the conclusion that EPA fuel efficiency numbers were close to useless in calculating even the relative efficiency of two cars. Fuelly provides a different set of less optimistic fuel efficiency numbers, but in the end I couldn’t calculate where fuel prices would have to be for the more expensive hybrid or diesel powertrain option to pay for itself. Glad I decided against paying extra for fuel efficiency assuming a $3.50/gallon price point considering the price I paid was half that for the last 2 fill-ups. Apparently the European test results are even more useless for estimating operating costs.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The use of the term “emissions” creates a lot of confusion around these parts.

    CO2 emissions = fuel economy. The European fuel economy cycles are extremely optimistic (compared to the EPA ratings, they are often 20-30% higher) and more prone to gaming (they use on-road testing to optimize results.) But just because automakers are playing to the test does not mean that they are cheating — the Europeans could fix this by revising the test.

    NOx is a different matter. NOx can be reduced with technology. VW’s failures are likely due to cost cutting — effective urea systems and better catalytic converters would have cost more money.

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