Carmakers Give European Union New Emissions-Testing Headache

(Bloomberg) -- Regulators are scrambling to close a possible loophole in planned tougher European Union limits on carbon dioxide from cars, highlighting persistent worries about the reliability of emissions data from the industry.

The European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, said it has evidence that carmakers may declare inflated CO2 discharges in order to ease the impact of proposed stricter caps in 2025 and 2030.

The EU is currently switching to an emissions-measurement system known as the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure, or WLTP, and the proposed tighter CO2 curbs would be measured as a percentage decrease from average targets in 2021.

“Inflated WLTP emissions in 2020 would result in less strict WLTP CO2 emission targets applying in 2021,” Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete and Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said in a letter to EU lawmakers dated July 18 obtained Wednesday by Bloomberg News. “As the 2021 WLTP targets also act as the starting point for the 2025 and 2030 targets, such inflation would in turn lead to lower real-life emission reductions in the target years.”

The unease about the credibility of future EU caps on CO2 from cars offers a new twist in an emissions-testing saga that began in September 2015, when Volkswagen AG admitted it fitted diesel engines with software to cheat U.S. checks on smog-causing discharges of nitrogen-oxides.

While the NOx scandal has implications for urban air pollution in the EU, the European caps on CO2 from cars affect the bloc’s policy of fighting climate change -- an area where Europe is seeking to lead globally. The proposed tougher limits call for a 15 percent reduction in 2025 and a 30 percent cut in 2030 compared to 2021 figures.

Initial data collected by the EU’s Joint Research Centre indicate that the WLTP emission levels declared by carmakers exceed the actual levels measured by 4.5 percent on average, with discrepancies reaching as high as 13 percent, according to commission officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In their letter to EU lawmakers, Canete and Bienkowska proposed addressing the possible loophole in the legislation on the stricter CO2 caps by saying limits should be calculated on the basis of the values measured instead of what manufacturers declare.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.