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AAA releases Real World emissions results

Emission commission: The AAA has found fuel and CO2 emissions to be on average 25 per cent higher than the results issued by government-mandated tests.

Initial Australian RDE testing highlights NEDC discrepancies

12 Dec 2016

THE Australian Automobile Association (AAA) has released a report suggesting that the current New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) by which all new vehicle fuel consumption and emissions performance is tested, can not be relied on for accurate figures.

The Real World Driving report was conducted by independent engineering research company ABMARC on behalf of the AAA following similar tests that were introduced in Europe as a result of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Even without a so-called defeat device installed, some test results have differed greatly between rolling road lab tests and actual on-road use, but the new real world program offers a more accurate perspective of fuel economy and emissions Down Under, says the AAA.

Preliminary results show that of the 10 vehicles analysed over six months, actual fuel consumption was on average 20 per cent higher than NEDC figures, while carbon monoxide emissions were up to four times greater than laboratory limits allow.

The test fleet was selected to represent a wide range of Australia’s new car fleet with diesel, LPG and petrol variants all under the microscope, as well as some models not sold in Europe or the United States.

Consultation with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) resulted in a bespoke test for Australia, which the AAA says is essential given the unique environmental and cultural differences experienced by drivers on local roads.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has weighed into the debate with a statement that welcomes AAA report, but raises concerns that it may confuse or mislead consumers.

While the AAA reports a 1.0 per cent or better repeatability for the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test, FCAI chief executive Tony Weber is not convinced.

“Our biggest concern is that the consumer may be confused about which emissions standard to believe: the non-mandated one which cannot be reliably repeated, or the one which is government mandated, conducted in controlled conditions, under very strict protocols, and is replicable time and again across different brands and models,” he said.

“The government’s mandated emission rating which appears on the windscreen of every new car sold in Australia is reasonably well understood. But it can only serve as a guide to consumers because of the huge number of variables which exist out on the public road.” Australia’s leading automotive industry body also believes the AAA report does not address other key factors in a strategy to reduce emissions in Australia, including local fuel quality.

FCAI communications manager Peter Brewer told GoAuto that generating discussion about emissions was positive but the adoption of 95 octane-rated fuel as the base level was essential for significant progress.

“It’s important that the AAA has started to talk about and bring the whole emissions debate into the public space, which we’ve been trying to do for a long time.” “To take the next step, fuel quality is fundamental,” he said. “Our 91 RON transport fuel with the sulphur levels it has at the moment is a poison for a catalyst. It’s all about getting good fuel in to get good outcomes.

“These are the things that really should be a part of what the AAA talks about.” Mr Brewer also pointed out that the report results indicate some positive performances by the test vehicles and that only one vehicle had exceeded the prescribed carbon monoxide limit and none had exceeded particulate standards.

In the case of the vehicle that exceeded CO limits, a figure four times the threshold was recorded. Nitrogen oxide levels were found to be nearly twice the limit on another vehicle.

Compared to fuel economy figures presented on windscreen stickers, fuel consumption was found to be significantly different and up to 35 per cent more than stated in one case.

Like the European system, vehicles are analysed with equipment installed to the vehicle exhaust system during a predetermined test route, but the report does not allow for a conformity factor as is being discussed for the Euro system.

The factor allows manufacturers time to gradually adapt to the radically different system when it is introduced, with a slightly higher acceptable emissions result, but would be phased out over time.

The AAA report says a conformity factor would reduce the relevance of the study as a comparison to lab tests, but the FCAI is likely to push for a conformity factor if RDE testing is officially adopted for local vehicles.

Local testing was conducted on a variety of roads in and around Melbourne and will continue with another 20 vehicles. The completed study will be presented to the government mid-2017 to assist in the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions review and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) new car retail study.

AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said the organisation would be pushing for the new system to become the Australian standard.

“Proponents of stricter regulations say higher vehicle and fuel costs passed on to motorists will over time be offset by fuel savings, but our results undermine such assurances as savings accrued only in a laboratory are of little use to consumers in the real world,” he said.

“With the government actively considering stricter standards for Australia’s vehicle and fuel sectors, it’s critical that real-world testing is introduced to ensure motorists aren’t asked to pay more for regulation that fails to deliver environmental benefit.

“The AAA notes that the European Union is currently transitioning away from relying solely on laboratory testing to improve the effectiveness of its emissions regulatory model and we encourage the Australian government to do likewise.” The report concludes that it is not possible to rely on tests conducted in overseas jurisdictions and recommends the adoption of Australian-specific real driving emissions testing.

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