Real world emissions more than double official test limits

February 21, 2023

Alarming findings published by the DVSA at the beginning of the year show that over half of diesel cars and vans tested in 2019 exhibited real world Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions of more than double official test limits. The DVSA tested vehicles from 12 manufacturers, including VolkswagenFiat, Ford, and others.

Air pollution seriously affects people’s health and is responsible for up to 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK, and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in society. As demonstrated by this report it is not just one vehicle manufacturer responsible: multiple manufactures have been polluting above the legal limit for many years. The DVSA report outlines manufacturers that performed poorly and, where given, the manufacturer’s response.

From the DVSA report it appears that manufacturers have still been attempting to cheat the official tests as recently as 2019. Vehicles were put through both regulatory and non-regulatory tests, “to understand if the emissions behaviour of the vehicle changed significantly outside of the regulatory test, which might be an indication of prohibited emission strategies”, which was the case for a number of manufacturers. For example, a Fiat 500x Lounge and Suzuki Vitara registered significantly higher results in non-regulatory tests, which made the DVSA concerned about the vehicles’ NOx storage catalyst (NSC) and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). The DVSA contacted Fiat and Suzuki, who apparently implemented changes which addressed the concerns in relation to the NSC. However, for both vehicles the report concludes:

We continue to have concerns over the emissions strategy relating to EGR operation. Findings from testing relating to EGR operation have been shared with the granting type approval authority and discussions remain underway with [Fiat and Suzuki] to understand the justification for this strategy.

This conclusion is extremely significant given the deferential tone and procedure of the DVSA report and testing. For example, the DVSA put a Ford Kuga through the regulatory test four times and each time the vehicle failed the test. Following correspondence with Ford, the DVSA then pre-conditioned the vehicle and it passed the test on its fifth attempt. The DVSA then concluded that “we do not have reason to believe that the Ford Kuga tested was non-compliant with its legal emissions performance requirements.” Further, it appears that, between testing vehicles in 2019 and publishing the results in 2023, the DVSA entered into substantial correspondence with manufacturers, in order for them to provide explanations (which are not published). There is no evidence that the DVSA entered into similar correspondence with, for example, independent clean air experts or any other interested parties.

This report shows that emissions were much higher than previously assumed due to a lack of non-regulatory testing to discern levels of CO2 and NOx under real-world circumstances.

A lack of action

In an article published in November, Pogust Goodhead drew attention to the lack of action by the UK Government to tackle the serious consequence of air pollution on people’s health. More than seven years on from the Dieselgate scandal, the UK continues to fall behind countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, South Korea, and the US – who have all taken decisive measures to tackle the negative public health consequences of unclean air.

In the wake of Dieselgate, which first broke in September 2015, vehicle manufacturers across the globe were investigated for also cheating NOx emissions regulations. Pogust Goodhead is currently representing drivers who own cars from a range of manufactures. Our emissions cases, through My Diesel Claim, aim to hold vehicle manufacturers to account and work towards creating a greener, more sustainable future with cleaner air.

Numerous vehicle manufactures have yet to be held to account for misleading drivers as to the real level of emissions. Pogust Goodhead is committed to ensuring that drivers impacted receive appropriate redress and will work tirelessly to hold manufactures to account.

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