emissions

New EQUA Index reveals true pollutant emissions for car buyers

With Mitsubishi Motors the latest manufacturer to admit to impropriety in its testing procedures, the need for impartial real-world data has never been greater. Today Emissions Analytics is launching the new EQUA Index rating scheme to help bring transparency in the first instance to the issue of air quality.

The EQUA Air Quality Index is based on the level of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in grams per kilometre emitted during our real-world tests. The Index aligns the boundaries between ratings values as much as possible with recognisable points. See below:

apr-16-table.jpg

The EQUA Air Quality Index is intended to complement the forthcoming regulations for new vehicle certification, by monitoring vehicle performance when driven normally on roads; in effect keeping a watchful eye on the effectiveness of the new regulations.The problems with the existing test system, the NEDC, which have been the cause of so many of the issues covered by the media recently, are already being addressed by regulators in Europe. From 2017 the World Harmonised Light Duty Test Protocol (WLTP) will change the way CO2 is measured and Real Driving Emissions will address problems with NOx measurement.

The other great benefit of the EQUA Air Quality Index is to help car buyers. Designed to be clear and concise, the simple A to H rating allows manufacturers and retailers to show how different models compare in the showroom, whether diesel, petrol or hybrid. It is also ideal for car reviewers and publishers to include as new cars are reviewed. And because the scheme is independently financed and researched, consumers, companies and the wider automotive industry can have confidence in the impartiality of the data.

The EQUA Air Quality Index has been developed by Emissions Analytics in conjunction with a group of experts to guide, review the test and rating methodology, monitor the regulatory context, and provide input into the wider development of the index. The group includes:

The EQUA Air Quality Index has been developed by Emissions Analytics in conjunction with a group of experts to guide, review the test and rating methodology, monitor the regulatory context, and provide input into the wider development of the index. The group includes:

  • Professor Helen ApSimon – Air Pollution Studies, Imperial College London, UK
  • Dr Adam Boies – Department of Engineering, The University of Cambridge, UK
  • John German – Senior Fellow, The International Council on Clean Transportation, USA
  • Dr Marc Stettler – Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, UK
  • Professor Martin Williams – Air Quality Scientist, King’s College London, UK

There are almost 450 vehicles on the EQUA Air Quality Index now, so why not have a look?

New EQUA Index reveals true pollutant emissions for car buyers

With Mitsubishi Motors the latest manufacturer to admit to impropriety in its testing procedures, the need for impartial real-world data has never been greater. Today Emissions Analytics is launching the new EQUA Index rating scheme to help bring transparency in the first instance to the issue of air quality.

The EQUA Air Quality Index is based on the level of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in grams per kilometre emitted during our real-world tests. The Index aligns the boundaries between ratings values as much as possible with recognisable points. See below:

apr-16-table (1).jpg

The EQUA Air Quality Index is intended to complement the forthcoming regulations for new vehicle certification, by monitoring vehicle performance when driven normally on roads; in effect keeping a watchful eye on the effectiveness of the new regulations.The problems with the existing test system, the NEDC, which have been the cause of so many of the issues covered by the media recently, are already being addressed by regulators in Europe. From 2017 the World Harmonised Light Duty Test Protocol (WLTP) will change the way CO2 is measured and Real Driving Emissions will address problems with NOx measurement.

volkswagen-scirocco-diesel-2015-2.0litre-148bhp-2wd-manual-euro6-150x150.jpg

The other great benefit of the EQUA Air Quality Index is to help car buyers. Designed to be clear and concise, the simple A to H rating allows manufacturers and retailers to show how different models compare in the showroom, whether diesel, petrol or hybrid. It is also ideal for car reviewers and publishers to include as new cars are reviewed. And because the scheme is independently financed and researched, consumers, companies and the wider automotive industry can have confidence in the impartiality of the data.

The EQUA Air Quality Index has been developed by Emissions Analytics in conjunction with a group of experts to guide, review the test and rating methodology, monitor the regulatory context, and provide input into the wider development of the index. The group includes:

  • Professor Helen ApSimon – Air Pollution Studies, Imperial College London, UK
  • Dr Adam Boies – Department of Engineering, The University of Cambridge, UK
  • John German – Senior Fellow, The International Council on Clean Transportation, USA
  • Dr Marc Stettler – Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, UK
  • Professor Martin Williams – Air Quality Scientist, King’s College London, UK

There are almost 450 vehicles on the EQUA Air Quality Index now, so why not have a look?

Has fuel economy started to fall?

Average fuel economy has fallen for the first time since Emissions Analytics began its real-world test programme in 2011. Not only that but the ‘gap’ between official figures and our results did not widen last year. The reason for this appears to be intrinsically linked to the introduction of the Euro 6 emissions standards. This newsletter looks to explain what our data is showing and what this means for fuel economy and CO2 targets in the future.

MPG-jan-16.png

Evident in our recently published infographic, pictured above, fuel economy has dropped by 3.3 mpg in 2015 and the ‘gap’ has shrunk slightly from 21.5% in 2014 to 21.3% in 2015.

The explanation for this change is due to two main factors, around the mix of vehicles tested and the typical performance of the latest diesel engines.  As Emissions Analytics tests vehicles around the time they are launched, there is inevitable fluctuation in the types tested, and hence the mix.  This was made more notable with the introduction of the Euro 6 emissions regulations for all new vehicles sold from September 2015.

In the run-up to this deadline, the last of the Euro 5 vehicles had a strong bias towards larger, more powerful vehicles, with lower fuel economy.  Perhaps manufacturers were concentrating on releasing the Euro 6 versions of their high volume models first, leaving compliance for the lower-selling or harder-to-comply models until the end of the Euro 5 window.

At the same time as this mix effect, 2015 also saw a reduction in the average fuel economy of the Euro 6 diesel cars tested.  These were on average 5.4% less fuel efficient than the Euro 6 diesels tested in 2014. This is likely to be due to some combination of the mix of makes and models launched and in many cases the additional fuel requirement of the NOx abatement systems.  In contrast, Euro 6 petrol vehicles tested in 2015 saw a 5.8% improvement in fuel economy compared to those tested in 2014 – these vehicles did not have extra NOx after-treatment systems.

This led us to look at whether the conformity factor (ratio of emissions in real-world driving to the regulated emissions level) for Euro 6 NOx was improving over time and what we found was:

Year          Conformity Factor
2013          6.7
2014          2.7
2015          3.5

In 2013 we tested just five Euro 6 models, all early adopters of the new technology, which had showed a high average NOx conformity factor, and also a wide spread. In 2014, it appears that well-placed manufacturers brought mainstream Euro 6 models to market with low  conformity factors averaging just 2.7. By 1 September 2015, all models had to be Euro 6 compliant, so included model less well optimised after-treatment systems, perhaps driving the average conformity factor back up.

What can also be seen, however, is that the recently upheld Real Driving Emissions NOx Conformity Factor of 2.1 from 2017 is readily achievable for many, with 29% of models already meeting this level in real-world driving, according to Emissions Analytics’ database.

Real Driving Emissions – How REAL is it?

With the recent Volkswagen scandal focussing the world’s attention on the air quality problems associated with diesel cars, campaigners for clean air have expressed dismay over the EU’s decision not to impose stricter rules for testing new cars on the road. However, Emissions Analytics data shows that full compliance with the Euro 6 limits on oxides of nitrogen (NOx) is already being achieved by some vehicles, and thinks that the industry is on course to clean up dirty diesels.

What is interesting to note from the graph below is that of the 400+ vehicles tested by Emissions Analytics, only one Euro 5 car met the Euro 5 NOx limit, whereas four Euro 6 vehicles have already met the more challenging 0.08g/km Euro 6 regulation. The spread of NOx levels has also reduced in absolute terms with Euro 6, although proportionately the spread is similar to the Euro 5s before them. It is also abundantly clear that the majority of cars we have tested have failed to meet the regulations in real-world driving, with the average NOx levels four times more than they were certified as emitting.

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The introduction of a Real Driving Emissions test (RDE) is set to reduce this divergence between laboratory results and real-world driving. Yet the announcement of the Conformity Factors last week, which set the levels of NOx vehicles are permitted to achieve during RDE, have been criticised by many as being too lenient. Our data shows that 36% of Euro 6 diesels have already met the 0.168g/km implied by the 0.08g/km limit plus the Conformity Factor of 2.1 that will come in from 2017 onwards and apply until 2020/1. However, taking into account the test-to-test variability with portable testing, which the Joint Research Centre of the EU recently estimated at up to 30%, manufacturers will need aim for emissions below the 0.168g/km to avoid being caught out during the RDE test. Using that variability number would suggest manufacturers will need to target 0.129g/km. This means that the 0.08g/km limit will be exceeded by around 60% on average in real-world driving. Of the Euro 6 diesels we have tested, 29% already meet this limit, as well as all gasoline cars.

Finally, all models will not need to comply until September 2019, and therefore we conclude that the new regulations as currently proposed will prove easier to achieve than might have been expected, even though some manufacturers and models have a greater task than others. As ever, we will be monitoring the situation and will report back with an update soon.

Consumers being mislead on emissions – with or without illegal acts

We set up Emissions Analytics four years ago to understand the differences in emissions and fuel economy between the laboratory test and real-world driving conditions in Europe and the United States.  Over that time, Emissions Analytics has tested over 1000 cars in Europe and the United States, including over 200 European diesel passenger cars, and makes this data commercially available to many parts of the automotive industry to help bring about a better regulatory regime and help rebuild trust between car manufacturers and consumers.

The illegal action of one manufacturer in the United States threw light, in dramatic fashion last week, on a European situation of higher than expected real-world emissions generated wholly or largely through legal activities.  Even legal activity, where it gives rise to misleading results, can be enough to cast wrongful doubt on a whole industry.  Having robust, independent real-world emissions data that can sort good from bad is the future, and we plan to lead this.

To summarise the facts in the European market, we have found that real-world emissions of the regulated nitrogen oxides are four times above the official level, determined in the laboratory.  Real-world emissions of carbon dioxide are almost one-third above that suggested by official figures.  For car buyers, this means that fuel economy on average is one quarter worse than advertised.  This matters, even if no illegal activity is found.  These differences may well be explained by limitations in the official system, rather than through illegality.

Emissions Analytics has been highlighting these issues for some years now, along with many partners who have analysed our results as well as similar data from other sources.  In order to make our findings more accessible and useable to the market, we will be launching an independent accreditation initiative, and we invite all interested parties to participate.