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Top-selling cars under emissions microscope

Testing time: Toyota’s Corolla is one of about 30 vehicles being put through its paces on a road loop on Melbourne’s outskirts to check ‘real’ exhaust emissions.

AAA to check ‘real world’ emissions from 30 of Australia’s favourite cars

4 Aug 2016

ABOUT 30 of Australia’s top-selling vehicles will be subjected to independent real-world exhaust emissions tests in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal.

The first 10 vehicles are already in the process of being checked on the outskirts of Melbourne by Victorian-based engineering consultancy ABMARC under a $500,000 blitz commissioned by Australia’s peak motoring body, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), whose member organisations include motoring clubs such as the NRMA, RACV and RACQ.

Volkswagen diesel cars caught up in the dieselgate affair are on the list for testing, both before and after VW’s emissions software fix.

Volkswagen Group Australia corporate communications general manager Paul Pottinger responded to the announcement by saying: “As the AAA is very well aware, all of our vehicles meet the Euro 5 requirement, while the more recent ones meet the more stringent Euro 6 rules.” Headed by former Holden powertrain calibration engineer Natalie Roberts, the ABMARC team will compare its real-world results against conventional laboratory results from motor companies, using Australia’s only independent portable emissions measurement system compliant with United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and European Commission standards.

Described by the AAA as a “pilot test”, the first batch of vehicles – which includes the top-selling Toyota Corolla – is already about half done and due to be completed by the end of this month, with results to be revealed later this year.

While the primary purpose of the tests is to record exhaust emissions such as NOx, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, the engineers are taking the opportunity to also check real-world fuel consumption against official stated figures.

The AAA has not ruled out revealing these fuel figures too at some point.

Similar testing in Europe has shown wide differences between claimed fuel figures and the real-world results.

The emissions test is based on European protocols, incorporating real-world driving involving a loop comprising one third urban streets, one third outer-suburban roads and one third highway travel.

All cars are run around the same loop under similar driving conditions while emissions data is recorded in real time by on-board equipment hooked up to the exhaust pipe.

The tests are being overseen by AAA’s technical director, Craig Newland.

AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said the testing was being done on behalf of all Australians who cared about consumer rights and the environment.

“In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal and subsequent concerns raised about other vehicle makers and lab-based emissions testing, the AAA has decided to test the on-road emissions of a number of Australia’s top-selling vehicles,” he said.

“It’s fallen to the AAA to do this on behalf of Australian motorists because the Australian government does no testing to ensure car manufacturers comply with emissions regulations of the Australian Design Rules.

“And because our government relies on lab testing done internationally, we do not know the real-world level of emissions produced by most models sold in Australia.

“It’s very important vehicles deliver the fuel economy, environmental and performance outcomes promised. Where this hasn’t occurred we’ve seen Australians dealing with uncertainty, inconvenience, potential loss of vehicle values and cars which may cost more to run.” The AAA has renewed its call for Australian government emissions testing of new vehicles.

“Australians deserve to know the vehicles they drive have been independently tested in real driving conditions on Australian roads,” Mr Bradley said.

“The AAA has led the way in running this pilot but we now look to the Australian government to step up to protect Australian consumers and the environment.” AAA and its member organisations are also prime movers behind Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) crash testing of vehicles to hold motor companies to account on safety.

The engineering consultants doing the emissions tests in Australia, ABMARC, was founded in March 2011 to service a wide range of industries, including automotive and railways.

According to its website, ABMARC lists six motor companies – Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – among its clients, along with a number of petrol and gas suppliers.

A spokesperson for the AAA said the organisation did not regard this as a conflict of interest.

He said the testing was being overseen by an AAA engineer and all raw data was coming to the AAA for checking.

In 2014, ABMARC did real-world fuel consumption testing for Channel 7 on two Australian-built cars, the Ford Falcon XR6 and Holden Cruze, discovering that the Falcon chewed 9.1 per cent more fuel than claimed under official tests, while the 1.8-litre Cruze was 19.7 per cent thirstier.

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