A new study has estimated the real cost to the public of car makers ‘gaming’ fuel efficiency tests in recent years – and it says they’ve cheated Britons out of £22billion since the turn of the century.
Transport and Environment said the total cost of unrepresentative fuel economy claims to European drivers since 2000 is a staggering €150billion.
And while this gulf between lab and real-world fuel economy is expected to shrink with the introduction of new testing standards this year, it warns that motorists will continue to have to foot the bill for extra fuel costs.
Fuel toll on motorists: This map shows how much each nation of drivers have had to spend in extra petrol and diesel bills since 2000. Only Germany has a higher fuel bill than Britain
T&E’s report blasted motor manufacturers for using underhand tactics to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles during the New European Driving Cycle as part of official tests, which has resulted in significant extra costs for motorists.
That’s because it has generated a huge gulf between claimed miles per gallon figures achieved in laboratory assessments – which produce the mpg figures car manufacturers publish – and the mpg drivers can actually achieve on the road.
According to the study, the average gap between test and real-world performance of cars was just nine per cent in 2000.
However, by 2016 the average disparity had increased to a shocking 42 per cent, mainly through car makers manipulating NEDC tests and fitting technology – such as start-stop systems – to deliver much bigger fuel savings in the assessment conditions.
As a result, European drivers in the last 18 years have had to pay an extra €149.6billion at the pumps compared to what car manufacturers told them they’d have to fork out.
In 2017 alone, the difference between claimed – or what manufacturers term ‘official’ – mpg and real-world mpg cost Europe’s motorists €23.4billion, which is slightly more than what all Swedes spent on food last year, according to T&E.
British motorists have been cheated out of £22bn since the turn of the century, T&E’s report said
Average difference between claimed and real-world mpg in 2016 was 42%. That means drivers have to fill up with fuel far more frequently than fuel economy figures led them to believe
A breakdown by country revealed that German drivers had been stung the most with additional fuel costs since 2000.
They had to fill up with €36billion in extra petrol and diesel, which was slightly ahead of British motorists who had €24.1billion (£21.8billion) higher fuel bills than they were led to believe.
French (€20.5billion), Italians (€16.4billion) and Spaniards (€12billion) completed the top five European nations of drivers ripped off by unrealistic fuel economy claims.
And the gaming of official tests hasn’t just taken a financial toll on motorists.
Since 2000 the manipulation of carbon dioxide examinations in labs has produced an additional 264million tonnes of CO2 – that’s more than the Netherlands as a whole emits every year.
Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at Transport & Environment, said manufacturers have been scamming the public with declarations of improved fuel economy.
Industry insiders hoped the introduction of a new official test standard would reduce the disparity between claimed and real mpg, though T&E warned that won’t be the case
‘Despite regulations to reduce emissions, there has been no real-world improvement in CO2 emissions for five years and just a 10 per cent improvement since 2000 – far less than the industry like to claim,’ he said.
‘The victims are citizens that have paid out €150billion for more fuel and are also suffering the consequences of unchecked climate change.’
Industry insiders and the public had hoped that the introduction of a new test – called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure – would fix the issue by bridging the gap between official fuel economy tests and rear-world driving.
However, new analysis by T&E, backed up by Commission’s own Joint Research Centre study, suggests it will simply introduce new loopholes.
The environmental campaigning group says there are effective fixes to prevent test manipulation available – such as the introduction of a real-world test or using data from consumption meters.
If these measures were in place, it would cut 108million tonnes of CO2 by 2030 and save European drivers €54billion in lower fuel bills.
Archer added: ‘The Commission’s inadequate proposal to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and vans after 2020 comes with a new licence for carmakers to keep gaming the system.
‘The result will be EU member states missing their climate targets and drivers continuing to fork out more for fuel.
‘Members of the European Parliament and the EU environment ministers now need to act to prevent car industry colluding to cheat the rules.’
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