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Now Renault comes under emissions scrutiny

Testing times: A Renault Espace’s exhaust emissions are tested in a rolling dynamometer in Switzerland. Pictures: Holzmann / DUH.

Emissions accusations fly as independent tests snare Renault and Opel

25 Nov 2015

RENAULT has been caught up in allegations of diesel emissions irregularities, with independent tests in Switzerland on a 1.6-litre diesel Espace people-mover allegedly showing oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions at up to 25 times the legal limit.

The claims, revealed by a German environmental lobby group that commissioned the tests, follow hard on the heels of similar accusations against Opel’s diesel-powered Zafira.

Both companies have denied any breach of European emissions test rules, saying their vehicles fully comply with diesel emissions standards.

Neither vehicle is sold in Australia.

The tests, by Swiss lab Berner Fachhochschule, were done on behalf of the German Environmental Aid Association (Deutschen Umwelthilfe or DUH) in the wake of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal.

The independent assessor has started with the French and European brands, but says it has more tests of vehicles from other manufacturers to come.

The Renault Espace testing involved a Euro 6 1.6 dCi diesel with 12,300km on the odometer.

DUH said the vehicle had been chosen for testing because of reports of “frighteningly high real emissions” in other tests.

The Swiss test showed that when the vehicle’s engine was “pre-conditioned” at a low ambient temperature, the Espace passed the test.

But when the test was done with a warm engine, NOx emissions shot up, reaching a maximum 2061mg/km in one of the tests.

DUH said the Espace’s levels of NOx – a component of smog – were comparable with emissions from cars in the 1980s, before Euro emissions standards were introduced.

DUH federal managing director Jürgen Resch called on the German Transport Ministry to do its own investigations into the Espace and the Zafira.

Renault issued a statement, denying its Espace was in breach of regulations.

“As previously stated, Renault reiterates that Espace complies with applicable regulations, just as all its vehicles,” it said.

“The test procedures used by the University of Bern are not all compliant with European regulations.

“The report shows important variations in test findings which are not conclusive and require ‘additional measurements’. “Renault is endeavouring to fully understand the tests in detail especially in light of the findings published in August 2015 by the independent German institute ADAC which tested the Espace model and concluded that it complied with regulations.”

The testing of the Opel Zafira 1.6 CDTi with 6000km on the clock allegedly showed that the vehicle’s emissions complied with the NOx legal limit of 80mg per kilometre with only the front drive wheels turning on the dynamometer.

However, when the rear wheels rotated too, emissions were two to four times the legal limit.

As well, the test alleged showed that above 150km/h, emissions increased abruptly, DUH said in a statement.

“The behaviour could be explained by a shutdown of the AdBlue dosing,” it said, referring to the anti-pollution chemical injected into the exhaust system of Euro 6 vehicles.

Under certain conditions, emissions up to 17 times higher than the Euro 6 limit were recorded, DUH said, adding that the test data was being forwarded to German federal authorities.

In the UK, where the allegations were broadcast on the BBC’s Panorama program, Opel’s sister company, Vauxhall, released a statement denying the allegations.

“Vauxhall has clearly stated that its vehicles do not have any feature that detects that a vehicle is undergoing an emissions test, including any feature that would respond to wheels turning,” it said.

“Vauxhall products comply with all regulatory requirements, including the in-service emissions testing program, according to EU rules. These requirements are periodically audited by the approval authority.

“We suspect that the vehicle tested (Zafira 1.6 diesel) was not performing correctly and/or the test execution was not correctly set up.

“In order that Panorama did not potentially draw the wrong conclusions from their testing we requested full test reports and data from the testing including how the vehicle and test was set up, the technical state of the vehicle and details of the pre-conditioning of the vehicle, which is necessary to achieve a stabilised condition for the test.”

Vauxhall said it had done its own two- and four-wheel roller testing of Zafira according to official protocols and with independent supervisors, and the vehicle had met all legal emissions limits.

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