European Union crackdown on car emissions

The European Union (EU) has agreed to tougher penalties for carmakers that cheat emissions tests. The move follows the revelations in September 2015 that Volkswagen had installed software devices in 11m diesel-engine cars worldwide that reduced emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides when the vehicle was undergoing tests.

The European Council of 28 member states overrode the initial objections of Germany by agreeing new guidelines for approving vehicles in Europe. The draft regulations will now be presented to the European Commission (EC), the EU’s executive arm and the European Parliament (EP).

The draft rules propose reducing the power of national authorities and beefing up those of the EC to test and inspect vehicles to ensure compliance with emissions standards and respond to any irregularities.

“This will increase the independence and quality of the EU type-approval system,” the council stated. “The Commission could also impose fines for infringements on manufacturers and importers of up to €30,000 (US$33,400) per non-compliant vehicle.”

The proposed changes would also require every country to check emissions in one in every 50,000 new vehicles based on real driving conditions.

“Above all, the objective is building trust and credibility again in the European type-approval system,” said Chris Cardona, the economy minister of Malta, which holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.

The EC and EU member states have been criticised for allowing carmakers to justify a long list of exceptions and loopholes when being checked for pollutants. As early as 2013, the commission’s research unit detected discrepancies in emission testing results depending on whether they were conducted on laboratory simulators or on the road.

While the EU acknowledged that this indicated the possible use of illegal defeat devices, Brussels took no action on the basis that enforcement was the responsibility of national regulators.

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