Saturday 19 August 2017

Concerns new emissions test will push up road tax costs

  • Automakers want action now to avoid confusion

  • Department here says discussions 'ongoing'

New emissions tests will kick in in September
New emissions tests will kick in in September
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Motorists face a period of widespread confusion as a new emission test kicks in from September, a major group of automakers are warning.

The manufacturers want governments to make it clear that the changes, which will mean higher real-world emissions for cars, will not lead to higher Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) and road tax.

New cars have their road tax and VRT calculated on their level of emissions. Now this new test, which starts from September, will reflect more realistic levels of fuel consumption and C02 emissions.

That is because the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) puts cars through a tougher, more realistic test cycle and therefore produces higher CO2 and fuel consumption levels.

It takes over from the current outdated and discredited NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) test.

By September 2018, all new cars will have to have WLTP emission values. During the transition from NEDC to WLTP cars 'approved' before September this year will continue to have their CO2 values as measured under the current test.

Then after September, when a car is certified under the WLTP test, its official documents may carry emission figures from WLTP and NEDC.

So you could go into dealerships during the transitional period and find two different sets of values for the same model.

That's going to be confusing unless something is done, the manufacturers say.

They ask: which figures will the long-term taxation be based on?

One car might register 100gkm emissions under the outgoing NEDC test. That would mean 15pc VRT in the purchase price and €180 road tax. But the same model could be 120g/km (17pc VRT, €200 tax) at another dealership under the WLTP test.

The cars are the same, except one has the latest test results.

The automakers say: "It is quite clear which one the consumer would choose if a country's CO2-tax scheme were to remain unchanged.

"This would lead to an anti-competitive situation in the market and result in confusion for consumers."

Motors asked the Department of Finance what plans it had to deal with the change.

A spokesperson said: "Discussions are ongoing at EU level around the introduction of the new WLTP and the transition arrangements for Member States from NEDC to WLTP."

The spokesperson also said: "The Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles agreed a Commission proposal to make the new WLTP test mandatory for all new vehicle types from September 2017 and for all new vehicles from September 2018.

"It is the department's information that the CO2 emissions rates for the New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) will continue alongside the WLTP on the vehicle certificates of conformity/type approval in the mid-term in order to aid transition."

The automakers say governments need to ensure that CO2-based taxation will be fair. They want them to adapt their individual taxation systems.

They say: "If they fail to do so, the introduction of the new test procedure will increase the financial burden on consumers."

Let's be absolutely clear about this, however. WLTP will not increase your car's consumption, but it will more accurately reflect it.

Up to now, NEDC figures bordered on the ridiculous because they were totally skewed by tests in ideal conditions, reduced rolling-resistance tyres etc.

So what will WLTP do that is different?

For a start there will be a lot more testing in real-world conditions.

These include: More realistic driving; greater range of driving scenarios (urban, suburban, main road, motorway); higher average/ maximum speeds; longer test distances; driving in temperatures closer to the European average; higher average/maximum drive power; harsher acceleration and deceleration; and shorter stops etc.

All this should mean lab measurements better reflect the on-road performance as well.

Meantime the motor industry is pushing to start using WLTP-based results in sales brochures and websites. But they want only NEDC values used until the end of 2018 displayed in dealerships so consumers can compare like with like.

They expect (hope?) that national tax regulations will continue to be based on 'old' NEDC values and not higher WLTP figures.

WLTP was developed as a global test cycle so figures would be comparable worldwide.

However, the EU and other regions will apply the test in different ways.

And, of course, individual drivers impact on fuel consumption with their different driving styles.

As you know, the level of CO2 emissions is directly linked to the amount of fuel a car consumes.

In anticipation of WLTP, the PSA group, for example, has already carried out extensive real-world tests on several of their cars to give a more accurate indication of MPG.

Meantime, Real Driving Emission (RDE) tests will be important too. RDE tests measure pollutants, such as NOx, emitted when cars are driven on the road.

RDE will not replace laboratory tests, such as the current NEDC and future WLTP, but it will, however, be additional to them.

Driving conditions will include up-and down-hill driving, urban, rural roads and motorways.

Critically, the automakers say RDE could mean that many diesel vehicles might need to be fitted with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and, possibly, lean-NOx systems.

The automakers say: "This will imply additional costs for car manufacturers and smaller cars may not be able to accommodate the fitting of SCR equipment, while prospective owners may be turned away by the additional costs."

And so, in summary, from September 2018 all new cars will have to be certified according to the WLTP test and not NEDC.

From 1 January 2019, it is expected all cars in dealerships will only have WLTP fuel consumption and emission values to avoid confusion.

**I acknowledge substantial input from WLTPfacts.eu, a question-driven website to inform consumers about WLTP. It is an initiative of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, which represents the 15 Europe-based automakers.

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