I wish to inform the House that the government has now concluded the vehicle emissions testing programme and we have published our findings.
My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Transport informed the House on 10 November that we had established this important programme following the revelations that Volkswagen had been using software in their cars which caused the engines to behave differently during emissions tests, compared to real world driving. Not only has this caused disruption and distress to the 1.2 million Volkswagen Group users in the UK, it showed a lack of regard for the serious health consequences of nitrogen oxides (NOₓ) emissions and caused significant damage to the trust consumers have placed in car manufacturers across the country. It was vital that we immediately started a UK investigation into whether other manufacturers were using equivalent prohibited devices and more broadly to better understand why emissions results in the real world were significantly different from those tested under laboratory conditions.
Our testing programme was designed to test a range of the best-selling passenger diesel cars. We selected an independent and representative sample of vehicles to test in a variety of conditions using the latest technology. We appointed Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas, of Imperial College London, to provide independent academic oversight of the work.
Importantly, the tests have not detected evidence of test cycle manipulation strategies as used by the Volkswagen Group from other manufacturers. However, tests have found higher levels of NOₓ emissions in test track and real world driving conditions than in the laboratory for all vehicles, with results varying significantly between different makes and models.
Although the progressive tightening of European emissions standards has substantially reduced harmful pollutants from vehicles, existing laboratory tests designed to ensure these emissions limits are met have been shown to be inadequate. However we have already secured a tough new ‘real driving emissions’ test in EU legislation. From next year, vehicles will have to meet emissions limits in real driving conditions across a wide range of typical operating conditions. This will improve consumer confidence in manufacturers. The results from our testing programme further confirm that the UK was right to push for the early introduction of these tough new limits.
Even before the introduction of the new limits, we are urging manufacturers to introduce new technologies to reduce emissions sooner than the new EU regulations require. Some manufacturers have announced that they intend to make changes to vehicles already in use, to improve emissions, and will offer this to customers on a voluntary basis. We welcome this and encourage action from other manufacturers.
We will continue working to ensure that the new rules for real driving emissions and type approval are robust, deliver the expected outcomes and that manufacturers behave consistently. In addition, this year the Department for Transport will be establishing a new programme of market surveillance testing which will seek to ensure that products entering our markets fully comply with the law.
I am appearing at the Transport Select Committee’s enquiry into vehicle type approval this afternoon where I will be happy to explain these findings further.
I have placed copies of this report in the libraries of both Houses.