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AAA wants real-world emissions testing

Fuel for thought: AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said it was time to have a closer look at emissions reporting and “real-world” emissions testing.

Peak body will run on-road tests to see whether more manufacturers are cheating

7 Dec 2015

UPDATED: 08/12/2015THE automobile clubs of Australia, representing eight million motorists, have launched a study into new-car vehicle emissions to see whether the government should do its own independent testing of emissions claims.

Through their peak body, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), the clubs will conduct an 18-month research program to establish whether there is a gap between the emissions levels that car manufacturers claim and the vehicles’ real-world emissions.

The proposal is being discussed today in Sydney at a ministerial forum into vehicle emissions chaired by federal minister for major projects, territories and local government Paul Fletcher.

Other ministers in the forum include environment minister Greg Hunt and the minister for resources, energy and northern Australia Josh Frydenberg.

The AAA’s research will start with an initial six-month phase involving tests on 10 vehicles, while a further 20 vehicles will be tested over the following 12 months.

The 18-month research program could cost well over $100,000.

If the research finds that there are discrepancies, the clubs will ask the government to institute a thorough testing regime for all cars sold in Australia.

The study has been launched as a result of the Volkswagen Group emissions scandal, where the German giant used secret software in its engine control modules to give “clean” emissions readings when the vehicles were under test conditions.

Independent testing in the United States showed that, on the road, some diesel-powered VW vehicles were producing as much as 40 times the allowed level of nitrogen oxide in their exhausts.

“Action must be taken to test the emissions claims made by vehicle manufacturers and, as the leading consumer advocate for almost eight million Australian motorists, the AAA is willing to step up to the plate,” said AAA chief executive Michael Bradley.

“There is a debate emerging around the adequacy of Australia's current vehicle emission standards, but this debate risks being rendered meaningless unless a more relevant testing regime is put in place.”

He said the VW scandal has shown that regulators around the world needed to be testing vehicles in real-world conditions and not just accepting laboratory results from the manufacturers.

“The AAA is very concerned the government currently has no capacity to test, audit or enforce elements of its current vehicle emissions regulatory regime, which is why the AAA has commissioned an independent engineering firm to commence on-road testing of Australian vehicles in early 2016,” Mr Bradley said.

The research testing will involve vehicles available on the Australian market from a range of countries.

AAA spokesman Lindsay Hermes said the beauty of the research plan was that the association represents car buyers.

“We are a consumer advocacy body, we are the motorists themselves, so it will be independent and something the government can partner up with because it is a bottom-up proposal.”

Mr Hermes said the federal government established a Ministerial Forum in October to develop a whole-of-government approach to issues associated with the regulation of Australian vehicle emissions.

The forum will report on options for managing fuel quality standards, new measurement reporting standards for air pollutants, and new measures to deliver Australia’s 2030 climate change targets.

The AAA has engaged automotive engineering consultancy Abmarc to conduct the testing during the 18 month research program.

Abmarc principal Natalie Roberts was at the Ministerial Council emissions forum in Sydney this week and confirmed her firm’s involvement. Abmarc currently operates the only portable emissions testing equipment in Australia.

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