Europe warns reducing car emissions won’t be easy

EU Auditors emissions

In the four years since the Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, legislation has tightened around car exhaust emissions.

The changes are positive, so says the European Court of Auditors, but challenges remain in the implementation and enforcement of these rules.

Dieselgate response

After Dieselgate, the European Parliament set up an inquiry into emissions data acquisition, while the European Commission said it was going to shore up emissions data banks and resources

Emissions checks were changed, too, with reviews now possible into type-approval authorities as well as test vehicles. There are also now powers to withdraw or suspend type-approvals and impose penalties.

Testing is mandatory for all cars sold in EU counties and they must be available for third-party testing at any time. CO2 and NOx-focused emissions tests have also been introduced.

New rules, new challenges

EU Auditors emissions

The European Court of Auditors admits these changes are still fresh and says trying to measure their efficacy so soon would be unfair. 

Nevertheless, its urges vigilance to avoid a repeat of the same mistakes and/or deception, saying all countries in the EU must be united in their approach.

It adds that while third-party testing should be another level of scrutiny for the car industry, we won’t know its efficacy until such tests are realised. 

EU Auditors emissions

“We welcome the fact that the actions have been taken, but it may take many years to improve inner-city air quality, given the large number of highly-polluting cars already on the roads,” said Samo Jereb of the European Court of Auditors.

“Even though more than 10 million vehicles have been recalled so far, the limited data available indicates that the impact on NOx emissions has been small.”

The Motoring Research view

The spotlight the Volkswagen Group’s transgressions brought on the motor industry isn’t going away. Dieselgate was a scandal and it may not be the last. The ECA is right to highlight that regulatory bodies should remain vigilant.

We suspect that in 15 years, when the car market is dominated by EVs, this will seem like the distant past. For now, though, legislators and manufacturers can’t be too careful.