New cars consume 39 percent more than promised - economy

  • The real fuel consumption of new cars is well above the manufacturer's figures, according to a study by the independent organization ICCT.

  • For motorists this would result in average overspend on fuel of around € 400 per year.

  • However, the difference between real and promised consumption has fallen for the first time since measurements began.

From Markus Balser, Berlin

How to drive a really clean car? The automaker Volkswagen has its own idea. "Car wash always and everywhere," promises the company in an extra action on the website and praises discounts on car cleaning, and indeed "sustainable". Elsewhere, however, many clean-driving automakers still do not take very good care, according to experts.

When it comes to fuel consumption - and thus greenhouse gas emissions - there are still worlds between official figures and real values, a new study by the independent research organization International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has now revealed. The real fuel consumption of new cars is on average about 39 percent higher than the test specified by the vehicle manufacturers, said the organization, which was also involved in the detection of the VW scandal, on Thursday in Berlin.

The report is based on a statistical analysis of data for more than 1.3 million vehicles from a total of eight European countries. This is about new cars from the year 2017. The data is based on the information provided by major leasing companies. But also information from fuel consumption portals and specialist magazines flowed into the calculations. The consequences of the deviations are serious. On the one hand, the higher levels of CO₂ make the fight against climate change more difficult - the transport sector is lagging behind in reducing greenhouse gases anyway. On the other hand, according to the organization, this means that motorists spend an average of more than 400 euros per year on fuel.

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However, the auditors found in the statistics a slight but noticeable change. "For the first time since we started our annual fuel consumption data analysis in 2012, we see a slight decline in the gap between official and actual consumption," says Uwe Tietge, one of the ICCT researchers and co-author of the study. "Before, the deviation increased from year to year." Eleven years ago, real values ​​still deviated by 15 percent. In 2013, it was already 25 percent. Because fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of a vehicle are directly related, so only a part of the CO₂ reductions made on paper was actually realized.

Exactly how significant differences can arise in the case of final measurements, inspectors explain to a large extent with whitewashing. The main cause of the discrepancy sees ICCT Europe CEO Peter Mock in the fact that the auto companies had exploited loopholes in the regulation. For example, numerous cars used for the test bench were specifically optimized for the test situation. For example, manufacturers could prepare the tires of a vehicle specifically for the test. They would be fully inflated, hardened in the oven and the profile ground down, so that they hardly have any more friction. Brakes would be relaxed. Air conditioning and all other consumers could be turned off.

This is not prohibited by law. It just does not reflect the real driving behavior, warns Mock. On the road, the vehicles would have partly completely different consumption values. The ICCT researchers suggest that the increased public interest in real emissions from vehicles resulting from the diesel scandal has led to the decline in the deviation. The pressure on manufacturers will continue to rise in the coming years.

The researchers doubt whether the trickery really stops

At the end of December 2018, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU member states agreed on stricter CO₂ targets for new vehicles. Accordingly, the CO₂ emissions of new cars between 2021 and 2030 must fall by 37.5 percent. "Lawmakers have learned from past mistakes," says Mock. After 2021, manufacturers will now be required to record the real fuel consumption and real CO₂ emissions of their cars through consumption meters.

The automobile association VDA rejected the criticism. Emission values ​​of vehicles in the laboratory and on the road are fundamentally different. Conditions of real road traffic, such as weather, traffic conditions or topography, could simply not be tested. In addition, the individual driving style has a significant impact on fuel consumption. Meanwhile, more stringent testing procedures would reduce discrepancies. The consumer gets more reliability.

The ICCT has doubts about whether the trickery really stops. The environmentalists would continue to keep a "watchful eye" on the emissions measurements of the industry, announced Mock and demanded stricter rules. The European Commission should develop a method as soon as possible in order to penalize manufacturers who gain an advantage through unrealistically low data on consumption. Only then could it succeed to further reduce the deviation significantly.

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