EU bodies agree to tighten vehicle rules after dieselgate scandal

Published by Niall Sargent on

November 8th, 2017

The Council Presidency and European Parliament yesterday reached a provisional agreement to reform control tests on car emissions data and enhance market surveillance for motor vehicles.

The draft regulation will now be submitted to Member State representatives for endorsement, and will then go to the European Parliament for approval.

The regulation, brought about in response to the Dieselgate scandal, would give the Commission new powers to check all road vehicles and their parts and take action against carmakers as required.

Member states would also be handed down mandatory targets to check cars (one per every 40,000 new registrations) on their roads each year and given the power to take action against non-compliance issues.

Regular audits of national vehicle authorities by the EU Commission will have to take place every 5 years to ensure that rules are applied correctly.

There are also new powers to require upgrades or EU-wide recalls when irregularities are found, although the new system would only apply after September 2020.

Julia Poliscanova, clean vehicles manager at Brussels-based NGO Transport and Environment (T&E) said that the overdue decision to improve the system and “keep cheaters in check” was welcomed.

She said, however, that T&E was disappointed that EU countries rejected the Commission’s proposals to block carmakers from funding the work done by laboratories testing cars and vans.

She also criticised the rejected of a proposal to allow independent observers to join member states and the Commission in a new regulatory forum to oversee the car approval system.

“It’s a pity that EU governments led by the biggest car producing countries rejected wise proposals to allow independent members of the Forum overseeing the new system,” she added.

The Commission may invite third parties to be a part of the forum, something Ms Poliscanova said was “essential” to give the new system “credibility and transparency”.

“If the European Commission doesn’t keep a tight grip on national car regulators and check their work robustly and regularly, Dieselgate will happen again,” she warned.

Kadri Simson, President of the Council, said that the “balanced deal” will deliver the necessary reforms and help to restore the credibility of the car sector in Europe.

“It will set up a transparent system with proper supervision, improve coordination at different levels and harmonise the application of EU rules,” he added.

Dieselgate Impact

The ‘Dieselgate’ scandal revealed that Volkswagen and other car companies falsified emissions data to conceal that their diesel vehicles failed to comply with regulations.

In 2015, it was revealed that Volkswagen had used “defeat devices” to cheat emission tests on 11 million cars, including VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat diesel cars built between 2007 and 2015. This allowed vehicles to potentially emit up to 40 times the amount of permitted pollution.

Yesterday, Volkswagen’s former US environmental and engineering office, Oliver Schmidt, was sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the US’s Clean Air Act and conspiracy to defraud the US government.

A study published in Environmental Research Letters in September found that half of the estimated annual 10,000 deaths linked to pollution from light-duty diesel vehicles across Europe would have been avoided if real-world nitrogen oxides emissions matched lab readings.

A further study in the journal Nature earlier this year found that “excess” emissions from diesel vehicles were associated with 38,000 “premature” deaths across the world in 2015.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London