In response to revelations that the German car maker used software to cheat U.S. diesel pollution controls – a scandal that spotlighted the EU’s lax vehicle regulations – the European Commission proposed an overhaul of rules on how vehicles are licensed and tested across the bloc.
EU lawmakers voted 585 to 77 in favour of the draft bill, which would bolster EU oversight and allow Brussels to fine car makers up to 30,000 euros per vehicle.
The fact that diesel cars’ nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are much higher in real driving conditions than in laboratory tests was known to the EU member states and Commission over a decade ago. They should now act swiftly to improve tests and checks on new cars on EU roads, say MEPs in recommendations voted on Tuesday. In a separate vote, MEPs also amended EU “type approval” rules to make environmental and safety testing more independent, with stricter oversight of cars already on the road.
The non-binding recommendations to the Commission and the Council are based on a final report by the Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurement in the Automotive Sector (EMIS).
The final report of the enquiry committee states how following the evidence given it became amply clear that Dieselgate could have been avoided if the different Member States and the European Commission acted upon their legal and administrative responsibilities.
The ‘Dieselgate’ scandal saw the multinational company Volkswagen admitting it had intentionally programmed diesel engines to activate certain emission controls only during laboratory testing, which did not reflect the same emission levels in the real world. This scandal involved around 11 million vehicles sold worldwide between 2009 and 2015.
The key recommendations are that:
• all work on drafting on air quality and emissions legislation should be placed within the portfolio of a single Commissioner and Directorate-General, to improve oversight and focus,
• EU legislation on real driving emissions should be adopted swiftly, with tests covering a wide range of driving conditions, but also with non-predictable variations to detect illegal defeat devices,• car buyers affected by the scandal should be financially compensated by the car manufacturers involved. The Commission should also propose rules for a collective harmonised EU redress system, strengthening consumer protection, and
• new type approval rules should be adopted as quickly as possible, to introduce new EU oversight of the system, with clearly defined responsibilities.
Each year EU member states would have to test at least 20% of the car models placed on the market in their country in the previous year, and fines imposed by the Commission on car manufacturers who falsify test results could be of €30,000 per vehicle, says the text. Penalty revenue should be used to support market surveillance, benefit affected consumers or for environmental protection, it adds.