ICCT Says BMW Exaggerates Fuel Efficiency The Most, Toyota Least.
Car Makers Hide Behind E.U. Rules; Media Keeps Quiet.
“Some lazy/corrupt media operatives drive around for free in their press fleet test cars handing them back when they are close to empty”
BMW of Germany is the most shameless manufacturer when it comes to fuel consumption claims, exaggerating by an average 30 per cent the miles per gallon drivers of its cars can expect to get. Relatively virtuous Toyota of Japan is the most honest, “only” inflating its economy claims by an average of 15 per cent.
That is according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and comments by Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E).
If you’re wondering how and why this happens, it’s because car makers hide behind E.U regulations to show their vehicles in the best possible light regardless of real world driving conditions. On the test bed, they turn off the heating, air conditioning, satnav and radio and make sure there’s no traffic and no hills and use a computer to simulate journeys. No lardo passengers allowed, only a notional driver weighing as much as a refugee from an African famine.
“But that isn’t fair and gives you no useful information,” protesters cry.
Hang on, say the car manufacturers, this will show you exactly and precisely how each car model compares with the other. True, but useless, but not for the manufacturers who are happy for these “figures” to be used to bamboozle car buyers, and by the taxman to calculate individuals’ tax liabilities for their company cars. You would think that the tax authorities must have been asleep at the switch to allow this to happen.
Car makers are allowed to get away with this because of some at best lazy and at worst corrupt media operatives drive around for free in their press fleet test cars, handing them back when they are close to empty and rarely testing the fuel consumption claims via their own pockets. They meekly recite the statistics offered by the manufacturers to their readers without question, or if they are feeling really aggressive, quote the onboard computer’s fuel consumption readouts. And of course these are calibrated to make the manufacturer look good.
Last month in Paris, Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment’s (T&E) Greg Archer described BMW as the “Lance Armstrong of manufacturers.” For those who’ve been on Mars for a few years, (presumably manufacturers like Skoda who sponsor the Tour) Lance Armstrong won serial Tour de France cycle races while using drugs, and effectively covered up his ingestion of illegal substances which boosted his performance. BMW replied to this devastating insult by saying it complied fully with all government regulations in the countries in which it operates.
Discrepancy gets worse
This is not a new problem, and it is getting worse. The ICCT said 10 years ago the average discrepancy was seven per cent. Now it is about 25 per cent.
(The ICCT describes itself as a non-profit organisation dedicated to garnering information for environment regulators. Principal funding comes from the Climate Works Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Energy Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. I’ve no idea who they are either, although I do spy a possible link with a well known IT equipment manufacturer. T&E is a classic environmental lobby group which believes the science about human induced global warming is settled and begs no contradiction. It says it has no political affiliations, although it is clearly standard lefty green, and seeks no profits. It gets a lot of its funding from the E.U; that means your taxes.)
This latest report comes as the E.U. Commission and European parliamentarians are calling for a new and more realistic testing regime, but some governments are trying to delay it.
The ICCT measured the discrepancy using several databases of real-world fuel consumption compiled by motorists across Europe. The ICCT analysis separates data by manufacturer and therefore makes it possible to compare the average performance of different car companies.
The worst offender is BMW. Its average gap between test and real-world emissions is 30 per cent, while at the other end of the scale, Toyota’s gap is half this at 15 per cent. In 2005, the average difference for BMW was just 12 per cent, with a 10 per cent gap for Toyota.
This suggests that the growing difference cannot be attributed to a change in driving style, but rather to further manipulation of test results by carmakers and use of technology that has a much bigger impact in the test than on the road, T&E said.
While BMW questioned whether the research was representative, the ICCT said its analysis was based on nearly 500,000 vehicles in Europe, both private and company cars. Data was taken from motorists’ websites in Germany and Great Britain, car drivers’ clubs in Germany and Switzerland, consumer magazines and leasing companies.
“Quite apart from the additional carbon emissions that car makers are legally obliged to limit from 2015, the discrepancy means the average car owner will spend around €300 more on fuel per year, compared with fuel consumption as stated in official data. Owners of BMW cars will have to fund about a third more fuel than is claimed in sales brochures,” said T&E.
New test coming
The current testing procedure is called the New European Driving Cycle and was developed in the 1980s. A new test, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), corrects many but not all the flaws in the existing test cycle, T&E said.
The E.U. Commission wants it to become law by 2017, and in April MEPs voted for it to be introduced then. But some national governments are seeking to delay its introduction until at least 2020, which makes the timing of this new ICCT report potentially significant, T&E said.
T&E said it has analysed the ICCT data to see how much of the improvement in emissions claimed by manufacturers between 2005 and 2011 has been delivered on the road. On average only about half – 55 per cent – of the improvement claimed in tests resulted in lower emissions and fuel consumption on the road, once again with substantial differences between car makers, according to T&E.
T&E’s clean vehicles manager Greg Archer, who made the “Lance Armstrong” remark, was also scathing about Europe’s car makers.
“Both car buyers and those fighting climate change need reliable fuel consumption figures, but many car makers aren’t delivering. Toyota, PSA (Peugeot-Citroen) and Renault show that it is entirely possible to achieve regulatory targets on the road without cheating but others are putting more effort into cheating than reducing emissions. Europe’s officials and politicians have sent the right signal with their support of the much improved test procedure. Now EU governments need to support them to stop drivers being cheated and efforts to tackle climate change being undermined,” Archer said.
(Good luck to those people “fighting climate change” or making efforts to “tackle climate change”, given that there is no direct evidence humans can change the climate or how they’d do it if they wanted too; only complicated and questionable algorithms purporting to forecast hot weather in 2100, when global temperatures have remained steady for about 15 years, contrary to these forecasts.)
The EU’s first obligatory rules on carbon emissions require carmakers to limit their average car to a maximum of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2015 (about 51 mpg), and 95g (close to 70 mpg) by 2020. The intention is to switch to the new WLTP cycle using a conversion factor to adjust the 2020 target so that it requires no additional effort from car manufacturers, but still reflects the stringency of the original target, T&E said.
This is developing into an interesting contest. I shall be reporting on developments.