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New Laws in Europe to Crack Down On Diesel Vehicles

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The European Commission has proposed new laws to ensure vehicle compliance with emissions standards. After the Volkswagen (VW) scandal, the commission is looking at ways to gain more power to make sure that other automakers don’t get away with polluting the air.

The proposed rules would require that independent parties, rather than entities connected to automakers, conduct emissions tests on vehicles. They would also allow for spot checks on the road, and stricter compliance regulations.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has questioned the new laws, stating that they could result in newer small diesel cars having to be modified or withdrawn from the market.

How Valuable are Diesel Vehicles to the Environment?

At issue is the technology required to make a car comply with the new emissions standards. The ACEA says that it adds weight and cost to vehicles, which could spell the end for some smaller vehicles. According to Reuters, Paul Greening, the ACEA emissions and fuel director, about 5 percent of diesel models could be withdrawn or modified.

“It may be the case that manufacturers will have to look very carefully at their portfolio of smaller diesel vehicles because the additional costs of that technology and the ability to package that technology within a smaller platform is a big challenge,” he said.

There are concerns about diesel vehicles being pushed out, since they produce less carbon dioxide than regular gas engines. Diesel vehicles do, however, tend to create higher nitric oxide emissions, and more black carbon—important factors in global warming. Environmental proponents are likely to advocate moving to hybrid and electric vehicles, instead.

Other Vehicles Also Found to Emit High Levels of Nitric Oxide

The argument that Europe needs stricter laws on emissions seemed to get a boost in January, when reports indicated that some Renault vehicles were emitting nitrogen oxide at 25 times the levels allowed by the European Union. According to Bloomberg, testing by a watchdog group revealed the problem: French investigators were checking to see if Renault may be guilty of installing emissions “cheating devices” as well.

VW admitted in September 2015 that they had installed such devices on its diesel vehicles. The devices sensed when the vehicle was going through an emissions test, and turned on appropriate systems to comply with regulations. When the vehicle returned to normal driving operation, however, some of those systems were turned off to increase acceleration and fuel efficiency, allowing emissions to rise higher than allowed by law.

Later reports stated there was no sign of a Renault cheating device, but the problem of the high emissions remains. The investigation into what’s causing the high levels is ongoing.

New Laws To Go Into Effect in 2017

Right now, new testing procedures are scheduled to be introduced in Europe in 2017. They would include an additional “real world” driving emissions test, which would be conducted on the road instead of in a lab.

The new rules also lower the permitted level of nitric oxide for diesel cars from 180 mg/km to 80 mg/km.