RAC Cars News


Auto manufacturers under fire over fuel test figures

By raccars Published

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Not for the first time, car manufacturers are being accused of overstating fuel economy figures, this time by as much as 25%. The Transport & Environment pressure group of Brussels claims that the official figures stated by manufacturers are nowhere near achievable in real life.

EU reports suggest that manufacturer engineering has helped to cut official CO2 emissions averages last year to 127g/km, putting them ahead of the programmed aim of 130g/km by 2015. 127g/km is about equivalent to 56.5mpg, versus the T&E's estimation of a real life 45mpg. However, these statistics are allegedly achieved by cheating the system, using fuel test criteria that fail to emulate real life driving conditions and offer misleadingly optimistic results.

Auto manufacturers have defended themselves by pointing out that laboratory tests offer a controlled base for consumers to compare models more effectively than real world driving conditions, but the T&E is unconvinced.

Loopholes manufacturers take advantage of, that are unavailable to car owners in the real world, include applying tape to panel gaps to improve aerodynamics, angled wheels to reduce tyre contact with the road and filling the engine and gearbox with ultra low friction oils.

Such complaints are nothing new, so the European Commission has developed a new, global test standard to be introduced in 2017, which is designed to offer a more accurate replication of real life driving conditions. Car manufacturers are opposing the move, requesting its implementation to be delayed until 2021. This is the same year that manufacturers will be obliged to reduce average CO2 emissions to 95g/km, or risk being heavily fined.

One counter move by manufacturers is to increase the number of electric cars they sell, which with zero CO2 emissions, can be used to offset the higher figures produced by combustion engines to maintain an average complying with regulations. This is believed to be one of the motivating factors behind car makers' enthusiasm for expensive electric vehicle development programmes, despite relatively poor public uptake.

In 2013 the European Environment Agency reported the average level of CO2 emissions of cars sold in the UK was 128.3g/km. A study of new cars sold Europe wide in 2013 revealed a 119bhp average power output and a 1.6 litre average engine capacity - 1.8 litre for diesels and 1.4 for petrol. According to figures released by manufacturers, new car emissions have dropped by 17% from 1990-2012.

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