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Report shows most EU countries failed to prevent car manufacturers from cheating emissions tests

A final report by European Parliament’s inquiry committee investigating the car emissions scandal shows that the European Commission and most EU countries failed to prevent car manufacturers from cheating emissions tests. In some cases, cars would emit up to 40 times more pollutants than during tests.

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The report on the car emissions scandal was set up in December 2015, a few months after Volkswagen admitted to falsifying test results in their diesel cars. MEPs recently adopted the report and proposed a set of measures to prevent dishonest practices by car manufacturers in the future. They propose that tests are carried out under varied real-life conditions and involve a random element to make cheating harder. MEPs also want stricter European oversight of the car industry with clearly defined responsibilities. Also, the manufacturers at fault should reimburse consumers affected by the scandal, MEPs say.

“The member states were very, very weak in their implementation of European law. They were more interested in focusing on the interest of national car industries than the interest of normal citizens and air quality,” Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, author of the final report, said.

The report shows that, with the exception of a few Member States, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark and Spain, the vast majority did not participate in the “Real Driving Emissions – Light Duty Vehicles” (RDE-LDV) working group. Also, according to the report, some Member States acted on several occasions to delay the adoption process of the RDE tests and to favour less stringent testing methods. In addition, several Member States (Italy, Spain, France, the Slovak Republic, Romania and Hungary) prevented the formation of a qualified majority in the Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles, resulting in a postponement of the vote on the first RDE package, and therefore a delay in the whole RDE process, which is still not completed today.

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Discrepancies between real-life conditions and tests in the laboratory were not a secret, and the use of defeat devices had already been banned before the scandal, but the authorities involved, both at the national level and at EU level, neglected their responsibility to further investigate the issue.

Volkswagen and other manufacturers re believed to have used computer software called defeat devices to cheat the tests. They were able to identify when a car was being tested and temporarily limit its engine power and thus the amount of greenhouse gases produced.

The Volkswagen emissions scandal – or “dieselgate” – started on 18 September 2015, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to German automaker Volkswagen Group. The agency had found that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate certain emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing. The programming caused the vehicles’ NOx output to meet US standards during regulatory testing but emit up to 40 times more NOx in real-world driving.

John Beckett