Following the controversy over diesel car emissions, new tests have begun this month to check real-world diesel emissions on the UK’s roads.The test results will be used to crack down on polluting vehicles across the country – cars that fail can’t be sold in the UK. The testing allows for completely accurate readings on all types of diesel cars currently sold in the UK. The new tests are to combat the manipulation of the shorter, lab-based tests that were the subject of the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal that emerged in 2015.
Replacing lab tests
The new tests, launched on 1 September, assess cars on both urban and rural roads, as well as motorways. They use a new piece of measuring equipment located on the exhaust system of the car. The test is conducted over a 90-minute time span. The idea is that it will replace the current lab-based test.
The emissions test will be conducted on all diesel cars that are going to be sold to the UK market, as well as on existing models that are on the road over the coming months. The government believes that the new tests are stricter than those they replace and hopes they will stop any lingering questions from the Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ scandal.
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The new, stricter tests will also help with the reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel cars as part of Europe-wide measures to tackle the problem. By focusing on cars with better results, the government believes that air quality can be improved, as manufacturers will test their cars with the new system rather than the old one.
Such real-world testing was behind the original discovery that a number of Euro 6 diesel cars were emitting some six times more NOx in real world conditions than in lab tests.
Fixing the results
Models that were involved in the scandal had been purposefully engineered to skew their CO2 and NOx outputs in order for the vehicles to be classed as low-emitting. Other cars show that, when tested for longer periods (usually more than 20 minutes), their results became much higher. This would mean that they would pass the lab test, but emit higher levels of pollutants thereafter.
Transport Minister Paul Maynard said that the new tests are aimed at improving air quality around the country. From 2020, councils will be given new powers to enforce tougher restrictions on vehicles shown to be the highest polluters. The tests will help to meet rigorous new standards on the roads before the new rules come into place.
The new tests come as more manufacturers report that they are offering scrappage schemes for their diesel models in an effort to deal with the problem for the public.
Hyundai is offering £1,500-5,000 off new vehicles to drivers who scrap Euro 1-4 emission rated vehicles registered before 31 December 2009. The vehicle must have been owned for at least 90 days. Fiat is offering up to £5,300 off any Fiat, Alfa Romeo or Jeep model as part of its scrappage scheme.
Other manufacturers to jump on the scrappage bandwagon include VW, Nissan, Renault, Audi, Toyota and Vauxhall. They are offering a range of different deals for diesel car owners. In addition to vague noises from the government about a scrappage scheme implemented by local councils, these offers may incentivise people to switch to hybrid or even electric vehicles in further efforts to reduce pollution on the roads.
The measures are all aimed at meeting the government plan to ban the sale of pure combustion engine cars from 2040, something that some car manufacturers believe is entirely unnecessary, as the market is already naturally heading that way.
Will live emissions testing on our roads lead to another diesel scandal? Are we doing enough to tackle air pollution? Leave a comment below to share your views.