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Diesel engine pollution: a problem and not just at Volkswagen. The alert had been given

EngineDieselVolkswagen@VW(B2) The services of the European Commission were aware of a clear problem which arose in measuring the pollution of Volkswagen diesel engines, but not only that. Which suggests that the fraud is more widespread than announced. This is revealed in a note published on October 22 by the union U4U (Union for Unity) of the European civil service.

A discrepancy between laboratory and road detected in 2011!

The Commission's research center (JRC) had already denounced the ineffectiveness of vehicle pollution measures. In a 2011 article, European officials and scientists from the JRC had already noted: “ Emissions from carbon dioxide on road. exceed from 21 +/- 9% emission levels laboratory. Cwhich suggests that emissions tests laboratory current do not manage to enter with precision the road vehicle emissions de Light vehicles. » These results provide « a base empirical for the European Commission to establish a procedure emissions test complementary recommended the researchers of the JRC (1).

A huge gap denounces the Environment Commissioner

The Commission's Directorate General (DG) Environment also sounded the alarm. And the Commissioner at the time, the Slovenian, Janez Potočnik, said it, as early as March 2011, in a rather intelligible way. “ A problem worth mentioning is certainly also the gap between what we call “real world emissions” and the emissions within the framework of the standards. In recent years, there has been growing evidence that diesel-powered cars, vans, buses and trucks have higher emissions under real-world driving conditions than those mandated by law. This is valid for new vehicles with EUROV/5 standards as well as those operating according to (old) EURO III and IV standards. »

The gain of a new standard completely erased

These differences can be enormous alerted the commissioner. " In some cases up to 500% of the limit value. (And) we expect the same to happen again for the EUROVI/6 standard (…) at the point that much of the air quality improvements anticipated by the introduction (of this new standard) would simply be wiped out. »

Reform proposals stalled

The Commission was aware of these problems and proposed measures. In the communication on clean and energy-efficient cars of April 2010, the Commissioner for Industry and Business Antonio Tajani proposed the development of a new, and more realistic, test cycle, with the introduction of additional tests and anti-tampering provisions. For heavy vehicles, these additional tests have been introduced into the EUROVI legislation. For cars, it was much more difficult. “ I am working closely with Vice President Tajani to ensure that the necessary technical developments are completed in 2013 » said Potočnik. In fact, at the end of 2013, the Commissioner and his Health colleague, Tonio Borg, had proposed a package of measures to improve air quality. But the file was “ blocked by the General Secretariat (of the Commission), the College under the Barroso Presidency and the Council ” specifies the European union which intends to denounce the agreed silence which surrounded this decision.

…to protect the automotive industry

« European leaders, by failing to act on this report, participated in deceiving the public, who could feel protected by environmental standards and indicators. The myth of "clean diesel" was born from these misleading indicators. Undoubtedly, the desire to “protect” the European automobile industry played a role, but ultimately the media damage will undoubtedly lead to a loss of public confidence in European policy for a clean planet. An opportunity was also lost to promote the European civil service explains U4U. And to conclude. The Volkswagen Affair must encourage us to reflect more broadly on the functioning of the European institutions and the mechanisms of democratic control, to make them more effective and to establish the credibility of the European institutions on a solid basis write the European trade unionists not without reason.


(1) “On-road carbon dioxide emissions surpass laboratory emission levels by 21 ± 9%, suggesting that the current laboratory emissions testing fails to accurately capture the on-road emissions of light-duty vehicles. Our findings provide the empirical foundation for the European Commission to establish a complementary emissions test procedure for light-duty vehicles.”

(2) I said I also wanted to talk about urban air quality. The reasons for poor air quality in our cities are well known. There are more of them, than I could cover in one speech. The short version is that the main culprits are industry, transport, energy production, agriculture and households. Particulate Matter, Nitrogen dioxide and ozone are the main causes of concern with regard to health. (…) One problem worth mentioning is certainly also the discrepancy between what we call “real world emissions” and the emissions under the standards. In recent years, there is increasing evidence that diesel cars, vans, buses and lorries have higher emissions under real driving conditions than those prescribed by legislation. This applies to newer EUROV/5 vehicles as well as to EURO III and IV. These differences can be enormous – in some cases up to 500% of the limit value in the type approval. We anticipate that the same will be the case for EUROVI/6 should we not be able to resolve this gap between the objective in the legislation and the amount emitted in reality. The result would be that a big part of the predicted air quality improvements expected through its introduction would be simply wiped out. (…) The Commission has recognized these problems and has already taken some action. In the Communication on Clean and Energy Efficient Cars, from April 2010, my colleague Antonio Tajani proposed how we could rectify this situation. This included the development of a new, global, and more realistic test cycle, the introduction of additional off-cycle tests, so-called portable emission measurement systems, and the introduction of anti-tampering provisions. For heavy-duty vehicles, these are now part of the type-approval legislation for EUROVI. For cars, I am working closely with Vice-President Tajani to ensure that the necessary technical developments are completed by 2013

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).