EU energy & climate blog by @StollmeyerEU

On Tuesday 7 June, EU Transport Ministers will debate the urgent need to close legal loopholes that allow car emissions defeat devices under certain circumstances. The debate follows up on revelations that certain carmakers have used defeat devices to cheat emission tests and that NOx emissions are much higher on the road than in laboratory tests. From the Transport Council background brief:

‘While the use of defeat devices is formally banned in Europe, their use is allowed in three cases: to protect the engine, to start the engine and where emissions can be verified in the test procedure.

In practice, cars have built-in tools to reduce emissions, such as exhaust gas recirculation systems, but these are often shut down, for example under different ambient temperatures. As a result the pollution pumped out by cars on the road can be up to 600% higher than the level measured in laboratory tests.

European emissions standards are laid down in legislation on emission limits and type approval. At the Council, emission limits are dealt with by the Environment Council andtype approval legislation by the Competitiveness Council.

The regulations on type approval with respect to emissions from motor vehicles are currently being revised (the ‘Euro 5/6 proposal’). The discussions have reached the final stage, in which the Council and the Parliament negotiate the terms of the revised regulation. The EU is also developing a procedure to measure emissions in real-world conditions to address the current discrepancy (‘real driving emissions’ test). The questions proposed by the presidency do not, however, relate to the revision of the rules, but are rather aimed at clarifying the application of the current system.’

The EU Council Presidency has prepared a discussion note with questions to structure the debate.

Germany continues to protect its car industry

The German delegation is using this policy debate to pitch a suggestion for re-wording the current car type approval legislation:

‘The rule in the first and second sentences of Article 5(2) of Regulation (EC) 715/2007 should be reworded as soon as possible to read as follows (amendments in bold and italics):

“(2) The use of defeat devices that reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems shall be prohibited. The prohibition shall not apply where:

a) even if the best available technologies are included, no other technology is available to protect the engine against damage or accident and for safe operation of the vehicle:” ‘

However: saying that EU law is too vague is an easy way of trying to escape responsibility for not policing and enforcing the ban on defeat devices. And why did it take Germany 9 years to raise questions about the interpretation of this law?

Dieselgate being caused by a German car manufacturer, the German document is rather scandalous:

  1. It opens the door for car-manufacturers to not invest in R&D anymore. Many scientists actually say there is no link between engine protection and exhaust treatment as the latter happens much further down the process and is completely separate. So the German re-wording would mean car-manufacturers can rely on a perfect exception.
  2. It calls ‘on all the manufacturers concerned to take measures to limit the temperature window to the extent that is actually necessary’. And it says that in Germany, thistemperature window limitation is only based on a voluntary agreement. For many car types the temperature window disabling the exhaust treatment starts when temperatures drop below 17°C — while the average temparature in the EU is only 9°C, so almost permanently!

If the legal text remains unchanged, car manufacturers are cheating illegally. But if the German re-wording were to be accepted, this would enable carmakers to cheat legally. And instead of enforcing EU law, the German Ministry just relies on a voluntary agreement? Is this the value of law these days?

Dear EU Transport ministers, please do your job: stop blaming EU law definitions, stop protecting the car industry at the expense of European citizens, and take urgent and concrete action.


You can find the German document here. If this blog is the first place where you saw this document, then please use the original source when sharing it, that is: this blog. Many thanks!

Background reading

Dieselgate: how carmakers were allowed to bend the law

MEPs ask EU Member States to take urgent action on Dieselgate


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