Car manufacturers ‘manipulating’ tests to meet CO2 targets

Progress on reducing CO2 emissions in the car manufacturing industry is being undermined by the use of 'supercredits' and the manipulation of tests, according to a new report.

Conducted by Transport & Environment (T&E), the report finds that carmakers are using “loopholes” such as supercredits for selling electric vehicles and manipulating fuel efficiency tests to meet their CO2 limits.

It highlights a growing disparity between fuel economy measured in tests and that achieved by drivers on the road. On average for all carmakers, more than half of the progress on CO2 has not been replicated on the road.

For example, since 2006 BMW has achieved a 23% improvement in fuel efficiency in tests, though data shows its cars have only improved by 9% on the road.

T&E are pointing the finger at Germany, who, it claims, is undermining progress on reducing CO2 emissions from new cars after 2015 through its efforts to build into the 2020 regulation generous supercredits for selling electric cars.

Encouraged in particular by car brand, BMW, the German Government is calling for additional allowances that permit electric cars with no emissions to be counted multiple times.

The report found that supercredits awarded to Nissan for selling “just 2,800 electric cars in 2012” effectively reduced its target by 2g/km.

According to T&E, if the current trend of increasing sales of electric vehicles continues, supercredits would undermine the 95g/km target and result in it being met on paper but not on the road.

T&E clean vehicles manager Greg Archer said: “Some carmakers are choosing to meet their targets by manipulating official tests and fitting technology that delivers little benefit on the road. Yet the report shows other carmakers, like Peugeot-Citroën and Toyota, are making excellent progress in reducing emissions without resorting to these tricks.

“All carmakers should focus on making lower carbon, more efficient cars instead of relying on loopholes to meet their goals,” said Archer.

However, data shows that both premium and mainstream carmakers are on track to hit their 2015 and 2020 targets. The report finds that with appropriate planning CO2 targets can be achieved without resorting to “accountancy tricks”.

Archer added: “With appropriate planning Europe’s carmakers will meet their fuel efficiency targets without resorting to accountancy tricks like supercredits. The generous supercredits, that Germany is advocating, will increase both emissions and drivers’ fuel bills. European countries must hold firm on the 2020 deal struck in June.”

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie