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Porsche 718 Boxster S

Porsche vindicated? 718 Boxster S scores top ‘A’ rating for NOx emissions

Porsche 718 Boxster S
Porsche engineers may be breathing a clean-air sigh of relief as the results from the independent EQUA Index NOx tests show the new four-cylinder 718 Boxster S has achieved a best-possible A-rating for its low emissions.

It’s an excellent result for a sports car – although enthusiasts may still be questioning Porsche’s four-cylinder turbo move: the (admittedly much more expensive) Porsche 911 Carrera S Coupe was also given an A-rating for NOx emissions…

New EQUA ‘NCAP for NOx emissions’ test ranks real-world car pollution

Other new cars tested that gained the top A rating this month were the Ford Focus RS and Audi TT 1.8 TFSI Sport; indeed, nine of the 10 petrol cars tested this month scored the top A rating.

In contrast, the best-ranked diesel models tested only scored a C-rating; they were the BMW 320d ED, Volkswagen CC 2.0 TDI and Skoda Superb 1.6 TDI. Other diesels performed worse still.

This, says Emissions Analytics – the organisation behind the EQUA Index testing regime – proves that petrol-powered sports cars are capable of lower NOx emissions than regular diesel-powered saloon cars.

A C-rated car meets the Euro 5 limit for diesels, rather than the current Euro 6 standard, and is similar to the generous 2.1 conformity factor for Euro 6 diesels under the forthcoming new European ‘real world’ drive cycle tests.

An A-rated car, in contrast, meets Euro 6 emissions with ease; NOx emissions are almost non-existent. Whether enthusiasts consider that enough to justify a four-cylinder turbo Porsche is another matter…

2.0-litre TDI engine

Volkswagen yet to fix ANY emissions scandal cars in Britain claims minister

2.0-litre TDI engineVolkswagen has not yet fixed any British cars involved in the emissions scandal, a junior minister at the Department for Transport has told the Transport Select Committee.

“They haven’t fixed any cars yet, I’m disappointed to announce,” Robert Goodwill MP said. “And they will need to have their fix approved by us before they do it.”

The news, reports Reuters, contrasts with Volkswagen’s confirmation last week that a recall of 2,000 Amarok pick-ups had begun in January, and that rectification for some Audi and SEAT vehicles is now underway.

Which? Executive director Richard Lloyd called it “outrageous” that UK consumers are still being left in the dark on the VW scandal – and the organisation is calling upon the government to take immediate and urgent action.

“It is completely unacceptable that 7 months after this was first reported, following further testing and investigations, VW’s customers still remain in the dark on what the fix will be, what the impact will be on their car, and therefore whether they are entitled to compensation.”

Volkswagen’s decision to offer compensation to U.S. owners but not UK ones was also criticised. “Separate to the legal debate about compensation claims, people simply cannot understand why VW have offered US consumers a goodwill payment whilst refusing to provide this for their UK customers affected by the very same issue.

“VW seem to have put UK consumers at the back of the queue.

“The U.S. government has acted quickly to hold VW to account. In the UK progress to date has been woefully slow. The transport secretary must now intervene and stand up for UK consumers.”

Goodwill told the Transport Select Committee that the Serious Fraud Office is looking into the issue of compensation for UK Volkswagen Group vehicle owners.

Fiat 500X

Fiat joins car emissions row after ‘pollution timer’ found

Fiat 500XSome Fiat diesel models produce higher levels of exhaust pollution if they run for longer than 22 minutes, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports testers have discovered.

The official NEDC fuel economy and emissions test runs for around 20 minutes.

This could indicate that Fiat is using software to pass official emissions tests without using expensive aftermarket exhaust filters. Authorities are now investigating, and are carrying out further tests on Fiat models.

Fiat has so far declined to comment.

German test body the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KPA) made the discovery during testing following the Volkswagen ‘defeat device’ scandal, although it added this system is not necessarily illegal.

Car manufacturers are allowed to alter emissions management systems to protect the engine from damage – it’s a so-called ‘thermal window’ that limits the operation of exhaust filters.

The use of such systems helps improve performance and extent service intervals, although it’s a practice that both regulators and environmental groups have criticised. Many are now calling for clarification at an European level on how such systems can be used.

Fiat 500X

Fiat joins car emissions row after 'pollution timer’ found

Fiat 500XSome Fiat diesel models produce higher levels of exhaust pollution if they run for longer than 22 minutes, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports testers have discovered.

The official NEDC fuel economy and emissions test runs for around 20 minutes.

This could indicate that Fiat is using software to pass official emissions tests without using expensive aftermarket exhaust filters. Authorities are now investigating, and are carrying out further tests on Fiat models.

Fiat has so far declined to comment.

German test body the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KPA) made the discovery during testing following the Volkswagen ‘defeat device’ scandal, although it added this system is not necessarily illegal.

Car manufacturers are allowed to alter emissions management systems to protect the engine from damage – it’s a so-called ‘thermal window’ that limits the operation of exhaust filters.

The use of such systems helps improve performance and extent service intervals, although it’s a practice that both regulators and environmental groups have criticised. Many are now calling for clarification at an European level on how such systems can be used.

Volkswagen Group

Volkswagen loses £1.4 billion in 2015 due to emissions scandal

Volkswagen GroupThe dieselgate emissions crisis has led the normally-profitable Volkswagen Group crashing into a significant loss for the 2015 financial year: the company has revealed a massive operating loss of €4.1 billion – that’s £3.2 billion.

A massive €16.2 billion write-down hit due to the emissions crisis has caused the huge turnaround in Volkswagen Group finances.

Even a strong result from its Chinese operations could not stop the firm recording a consolidated post-tax loss of €1.4 billion (£1.1 billion).

The full scale of the loss is revealed by results from the 2014 financial year: Volkswagen AG then posted an operating profit of €12.7 billion.

In other words, the emissions crisis has cost it €16.9 billion in a single financial year.

This is despite Volkswagen Group being profitable: sales profits were actually up 5.4% to €213 billion.

It’s of course the special write-downs totalling €16.9 billion that cost it dearly: the €16.2 billion emissions-related write-down is related to fixing items such as technical modifications to customer cars and global legal risks.

This write-down is up significantly on Volkswagen’s earlier €6.7 billion allowance to cover the dieselgate emissions scandal.

“The Volkswagen Group’s operations are in great shape, as the figures before special items for the past fiscal year clearly show,” said a surprisingly upbeat Volkswagen AG chairman Matthias Müller. “Were it not for the sizeable provisions we made for all repercussions of the emissions issue that are now quantifiable, we would be reporting on yet another successful year overall.

“The current crisis – as the figures presented today also reveal – is having a huge impact on Volkswagen’s financial position. Yet we have the firm intention and the means to handle the difficult situation we are in using our own resources,” Müller added.

The holding company of Porsche first revealed the financial details: it holds a 30.8% stake in Volkswagen AG so is directly affected by the VW results. Porsche SE’s pre-tax loss is expected to be €456 million; tax refunds will cut this to €273 million.

Ironically though, Porsche SE is likely still to be profitable in the 2015 financial year, reporting gains of around €870 million – courtesy of dividends received from Volkswagen AG for the 2014 financial year.

Emissions testing

German carmakers ordered to recall cars for emissions fix

Emissions testingThe German government has instructed Daimler, Opel and Volkswagen Group to recall 630,000 cars so emissions systems can be adjusted to remove temperature-dependant devices, according to reports in Bild newspaper.

German government engineers have been probing car manufacturers since the Volkswagen defeat device emissions crisis emerged in September. 56 models have been tested.

The device in question here is a system that only engages the particulate filter at certain temperatures. Daimler is one car maker that’s admitted such a device is fitted – insisting it’s a perfectly legal system designed to protect the engine when cold.

They may be legal, Stefan Bratzel from the Centre of Automotive Management at Germany’s University of Applied Sciences said, but they’re not legitimate. It “shines a negative light on the industry as a whole,” he told Bloomberg. “This isn’t a good sign.”

The NEDC fuel economy and emissions test cycle is conducted from a cold start, meaning the system would be active for at least part of it while the engine warmed up.

Experts did, however, stress that the only unquestionably illegal ‘defeat device’ found to date is that on Volkswagen diesel cars. This system could sense when the engine was being put through an official test cycle and emissions controls were adjusted to help it pass strict NOx limits without expensive aftertreatment tech.

Volkswagen Passat diesel

Volkswagen to buy back half a million dieselgate cars

Volkswagen Passat dieselVolkswagen will offer to buy back diesel cars fitted with defeat device emissions cheat software as part of a deal agreed in principal with the US authorities.

The firm has reached the agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Californian Air Resources Board (CARB). The deal is expected to be made binding in the next few weeks.

The final terms of the deal have not been revealed – they’re still subject to negotiations with US authorities – but it is already believed to be significantly more costly to Volkswagen than the firm initially predicted when news of the ‘dieselgate’ defeat device scandal first emerged.

The initial €6.7 billion Volkswagen set aside has already risen to €15 billion.

“Volkswagen is committed to earning back the trust of its customers, dealers, regulators and the American public,” it said in a brief statement.

“These agreements in principal are an important step on the road to making things right.”

Mercedes-Benz E 250 BLUETEC

Daimler asked to ‘review exhaust emissions certification’ by US authorities

Mercedes-Benz E 250 BLUETECDaimler, parent of Mercedes-Benz, is to review how it certifies and administers exhaust emissions in the United States following a request by the US Department of Justice.

The request, which is subject to strict confidentiality, will see Daimler AG conduct an internal investigation in association with the Department of Justice.

The firm says it will “investigate possible indications of irregularities and of course take all necessary actions”.

The matter is believed to be related to class actions taken out in February by Mercedes-Benz owners in the US. Owners of Bluetec diesel models allege that pollution control technology turns off at cooler temperatures, resulting in NOx emissions far higher than those stated in the US Clean Air Act.

Daimler insists “the class actions are considered to be without merit and Daimler will defend itself against them with all available legal means”.

The surprise news from Daimler follows Volkswagen’s confirmation it will offer to buy back almost half a million US diesel cars as part of an agreement with authorities to settle the ‘dieselgate’ issue.

It has also since emerged that Mitsubishi offices in Japan were raided by Japanese officials investigating the firm’s admission of ‘misconduct’ in testing fuel economy for some of its city car models.

EQUA Air Quality Index Audi A3

New EQUA ‘NCAP for NOx emissions’ test ranks real-world car pollution

EQUA Air Quality Index Audi A3Emissions Analytics has launched the first fully independent index-based NOx emissions standard for cars and the UK firm claims the new EQUA Index provides a level playing field “to help clear the confusion over real world NOx emissions”.

The new EQUA Air Quality Index has been developed from Emissions Analytics’ existing real-world car economy test. Purely assessing NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions, it gives a simple score from A to H for all cars tested.

An A rating means a car meets current NOx limits for diesel and petrol cars: an H rating is worse than even the very oldest Euro emissions standard – equivalent to 12 times the current Euro 6 limit. The ratings are explained in full below.

Alarmingly, more than 50 older Euro 5 diesels scored an ultra-dirty H rating, along with three current-standard Euro 6 cars – and a supposedly-green diesel-hybrid model, the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4, was also given a worst-possible H rating.

The EQUA Air Quality Index has been launched with ratings for 440 vehicles and the firm has vowed to test 200-400 new cars each year to ensure the rankings are as up-to-date as possible.

> Search the EQUA Index database

Nick Molden, CEO and founder of Emissions Analytics, said: “There’s a great deal of confusion among car buyers on the subject of pollutant emissions, but we’re able to deliver impartial and precise information to help them buy better.

“We’re also looking forward to working with the industry as a whole to highlight the best vehicles available.”

EQUA Air Quality Index: the winners and losers

Volkswagen Group cars are the big winner of the EQUA Air Quality Index tests. A batch of its latest Euro 6 diesels have been tested – and of the six cars assessed, all six have achieved the very cleanest A-rating, suggesting tailpipe NOx emissions are exactly what Volkswagen claims in real-world use.

Proof that no defeat devices are active on the latest models..?

The BMW 3 Series also achieved an A-rating for real-world Euro 6 diesel emissions – the only other Euro 6 diesel to do so: of the 62 latest-spec cars tested, three scored B-ratings, 9 were rated C, 13 were rated D, a worrying 20 were rated E, five scored F, two G and three the very worst H rating.

These models were the Fiat 500X 1.6-litre diesel SsangYong Korando 2.2-litre diesel, plus the 2013 Audi A8 3.0-litre diesel that’s no longer on sale (an indication that defeat device systems could be active on in-market Volkswagen Group cars?).

In contrast, all but four of the 45 Euro 6 petrol cars tested were rated A, suggesting the latest diesel models in particular have an issue with hitting Euro 6 NOx targets in real world use. All diesels, that is, except Volkswagen Group diesels…

Every single Euro 6 hybrid vehicle also achieved an A-rating.

As for Euro 5 diesels (which were applicable for new cars in showrooms up until September 2014 for newly-launched models and September 2015 for existing on-sale in-market motors), things are far worse.

Not a single Euro 5 diesel car scored an A-rating, or a B-rating: the best model was the Skoda Octavia 1.6-litre TDI, with a C-rating. Then it was five D-rated cars (proving Euro 5 cars can only meet Euro 4 limits), followed by a staggering number of E, F, G and H-rated cars.

Such H-rated models include best-sellers such as the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa and, yes, the 1.6-litre Volkswagen Passat.

However, all but eight of more than 100 older Euro 5 petrol cars tested failed to score the very lowest A-rating for NOx emissions. Does this mean air quality campaigners are right to focus on getting older diesel models off Britain’s roads?

EQUA Air Quality Index table

MPs call for Low Emission Zones in cities

EU agrees to cut real-world car emissions – but green groups are not happy

MPs call for Low Emission Zones in citiesThe European Parliament has voted not to block the introduction of Real Driving Emissions testing from 2017, meaning that new cars will be tested for emissions such as NOx in real life conditions, not in regulated labs.

And who was trying to block this apparent good move for air quality? Not the car makers, but MEPs – because they think the exemptions car makers have been granted are too generous.

Huh?

In 2007, it was agreed that European regulations would demand cars emit no more than 80mg/km of NOx under the Euro 6 limit currently in force.

Vehicles are homologated in laboratory conditions to prove that they meet this limit, as part of the NEDC fuel consumption test.

However, on-road testing has found that many vehicles exceed this NOx limit in real world use, sometimes by 4-500% or more. The Real Driving Emissions test – RDE – has been under development for several years to try and overcome this.

And then came dieselgate

The Volkswagen emissions scandal accelerated its rollout: it was agreed in October 2015 that it would come into force from 2017 – first for all newly-introduced models, and then for all new cars sold.

There’s a ‘but’, though. Because car makers were basing their developments on the existing lab test – which critics argue is easier to fool (indeed, this is exactly what Volkswagen’s ‘dieselgate’ cheat was based upon) – they sought an exemption that would relax the limits for a couple of years.

They won one.

In September 2017, new models to market would be allowed to emit up to 2.1 times (110%) the 80mg/km limit, which would extend to all cars on sale by September 2019.

This discrepancy would be reduced to 1.5 times (50%) by January 2020 for new models, and by January 2021 for all cars sold. This leniency would remain in place going forward – to account for margins of error in the testing kit (called Portable Emissions Measurement Systems, or PEMS).

A date when the variance from the norm will become zero – meaning vehicles would have to emit the 80mg/km limit set back in 2007 – has not yet been agreed.

‘Good day for dirty deals’?

Still with us? Good – because today’s vote was one of the final hurdles against the introduction of this. MEPs were trying to block the introduction of RDE because they argue these exemptions are too kind on car makers – particularly the 50% margin of error. They say the actual margin of error is more like 20%.

“Today was a good day for dirty deals but a bad day for cleaner air,” said Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder.

However, the RAC’s Steve Gooding said the vote was “a step in the right direction” as it would cut NOx from today’s spiralling emissions to two times the limit, and then 1.5 times – without delay.

A rejection of the decision already made by EU member states “would delay improvements to air quality, particularly in cities,” said European automotive industry body the ACEA.

The car makers say…

RDE will introduce a completely new testing method for vehicles on the road. Europe is the first and only region in the world to introduce such a system, which will lead to major progress in improving air quality.

While the current proposal takes into account error margins in the new measuring equipment, vehicle manufacturers will have to aim well below the legal limit to ensure compliance. Moreover, the error margin will be reviewed and, as the equipment improves in precision, the conformity factor will be tightened.

– ACEA

The environmental campaigners say…

The European Parliament today caved in to pressure from car-producing countries and agreed to weaken the limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from new diesel cars. The effective new ‘Euro 6’ limit, 168mg of NOx per km, is more than double that agreed in 2007 (80mg/km). From 2020, all new cars will still be allowed to emit 120mg/km.

Despite public outcry, EU governments have pressured national MEPs to accept the weakening of the legal limits that was agreed via the backdoor of comitology in October of last year. The decision will undermine efforts to clean up Europe’s air and improve public health.

– Transport & Environment

What do you think of today’s vote? Share your thoughts of which side you’re on below…