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Europe Needs to Update Fuel Economy Test Cycles

Fuel economy and emissions testing, automakers and regulators have catching up to do in the EU.
Fuel economy and emissions testing, automakers and regulators have catching up to do in the EU.

Times, “they are a-changin’ but, at least according to some independent testing agencies, environmental regulations, such as those that govern transportation fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions, aren’t keeping up with them.

Fuel economy measurements are a big part of marketing green cars. Recently, Toyota announced pricing on the Toyota Prius c, which has the best fuel economy of any non-plug-in car. Similarly, sports car manufacturers tout how much more efficient their monstrous engines are, such as the 6.2 ℓ V8 powering the latest Corvette Stingray. Clearly, fuel economy is important, not only for calculating refueling costs, for commuter cars and monster trucks alike, but also with regards to the environment.

The US EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) for example, has set carbon dioxide emissions regulations for the transportation industry through the year 2025. Automakers are working to meet those regulations, at least on paper, and consumers have begun to notice discrepancies. Some hybrid vehicles, especially, have failed to meet the standards, sometimes by as much as ten miles per gallon, in the case of the Ford C-Max Hybrid. The EPA has conceded that maybe they have to actually test vehicle fuel economy instead of just relying on “the little black box.”

Seems like emissions regulators in the EU (European Union) have the same problem, according to T&E (Transport & Environment), a Brussels-based sustainable-transportation promoter. The New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) is way off of real-world (RW) fuel economy statistics, and the gap keeps getting wider. According to T&E, NEDC and RW fuel economy ratings were off, on average, by 8% in 2001. By 2013, that gap had widened to 31%! Basically, thanks to loopholes and the way that the NEDC is run, “only have of the improvement in [fuel economy and] emissions has been delivered on the road,” the rest being delivered on paper. Unless the NEDC is changed, T&E suggests that the gap might widen to 50% “better fuel economy” than RW drivers will ever get.

This might be just a paper problem, but I believe it goes deeper than just some poor calculations. I have been known to run bad numbers before my morning coffee kicks in, but this stinks of something else. The EU, like the US and other regions, has repeatedly stated that they want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the automotive sector, the best method being increasing fuel economy. Making half of those changes on paper, however, won’t make a bit of difference. Automakers and regulators have some catching up to do, at least getting a little close to reality.

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