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Real-World Emissions Tests Show European Diesels Still Way, Way Behind on Legal Limits

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The European Union has known for more than a year now that its old method of testing vehicle emissions was like testing the strength of a building’s foundations by repeatedly pelting it with rubber chickens—wholly inadequate to the task to a silly degree. As a result, the EU put away the rubber chickens and actually has gotten serious, coming up with the RDE test, or Real Driving Emissions test, to actually see what new vehicles were putting out.


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However, the looming crackdown that the RDE test represents had quite a bit of hang time—although it was developed and started being used in 2016, it didn’t actually legally come into effect until September 2017. This is because the RDE test needed a monitoring period to test methodologies and equipment, as well as to create a baseline for future development.

Meanwhile, the diesel-vehicle-selling automakers of Europe’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have been reeling from the PR disaster that is the VW Dieselgate scandal, and, in an attempt to regain at least a little of their tarnished dignity, have been marketing their new diesel vehicles as “the cleanest in history,” according to SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes.

However, as we look back on a history marked by vehicles that belch clouds of black smoke, it seems that achievement is setting the bar extremely low.

This seems to still be true despite the introduction of the RDE test, according to Greenpeace, which has said that it has gained access to RDE test data for 94 new diesels which were set to be released. Results were not promising.


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According to Greenpeace, more than half of the vehicles tested (which, remember, are the newest models) failed the emissions test. The worse, apparently, was the 1.6-liter Fiat Tipo, which in an urban environment dumped out emissions 4.5 times the legal limit—put another way, that’s 450% the legal limit imposed by the EU.

However, since this was just a monitoring period for the RDE test, until September vehicles like the Tipo were approved for sale, since they passed the far more lenient lab tests.

Hawes replied that this result was “no surprise.” He later pointed out that the tested vehicles weren’t required to meet RDE tests until September 2017.

Coming close on the heels of announcements from Germany and Rome that diesel car bans are all right and currently on the way, it seems that automakers are really doing themselves no favors.

News Sources: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, The Independent

  • Daniel SuscoEditor

    Daniel Susco is a native of the Dayton-Cincinnati area, and has written on a multitude of subjects. He can discuss Shakespeare, expound on Classical Mythology, and even make witty jokes about Pliny the Elder (More like “Pliny the Rounder,” right?). In his free time, Daniel enjoys reading, cooking, woodworking, and long walks on the beach (just kidding – sunburn is no joke). See more articles by Daniel.