Laboratory tests ensure that cars comply with EU limits for both CO2 and pollutant emissions, before they are put on the market in the EU. The lab test that is used today to measure car emissions is called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).
All conditions for vehicle set-up, testing and the handling of test results for cars are defined by EU law. This is important as it establishes a standard regulation that all car manufactures and other players must respect.
Additionally, it allows for a standardised and repeatable procedure which enables customers to compare emissions between different car models. As there is no ‘one’ real-world fuel consumption value, only figures measured in lab tests using standardised cycles allow customers to make comparisons between vehicles in terms of their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
Future Lab Test
Pollutant emission and CO2 values resulting from the lab tests conducted today, are in line with the existing regulatory requirements and have been verified by the national vehicle type-approval authorities in the member states. However, the industry recognises and has stated consistently that the current NEDC test cycle is outdated. As it was designed in the 1980s and deployed from the 1990s, NEDC does not account for many new technologies in today’s cars that have a strong effect on fuel consumption (for instance 4-wheel drive, air-conditioning, main beam headlamps, heated seats and other electrical devices), nor for the significant progress of vehicles and exhaust emission control systems.
Because of the shortcomings of the current car emission test, the automotive industry is actively contributing to the development of the new global test cycle, called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). This new test cycle will include higher speeds, more dynamic and representative accelerations and decelerations, and stricter vehicle set-up and measurement conditions than the NEDC. As all these elements will make the WLTP test more accurate than the current lab test, it will provide a better reflection of today’s situation.
The automobile industry welcomes the replacement of the current NEDC by the WLTP as the basis for future regulatory fuel consumption and CO2 information, as well as for measuring pollutant emissions.
Even though WLTP will be more accurate, it will not cover all the variations anywhere in the world – and certainly not every individual driving style. There will therefore still be a difference between emissions measured in lab test and the real world, as driving behaviour, traffic and weather conditions will continue to differ from one country to another.
In addition, a new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure will be introduced to complement the lab tests. RDE will ensure that vehicles deliver low pollutant emissions, not only in the laboratory but also on the road. RDE testing of cars on real roads under realistic driving conditions will be a new addition to the existing testing requirements, making Europe the only region in the world to implement such an on-the-road test.