– Combustion engines need much more fuel than claimed
Manufacturers like to advertise new engines that are cleaner. But the gap between laboratory values and real driving continues to widen.
Internal combustion engines are due to end in the EU in 2035, but until then millions of petrol and diesel cars will still emit carbon dioxide into the air. It's not that bad, as car manufacturers repeatedly claim, after all their engines have become cleaner and cleaner in recent years. Lower fuel economy has been a popular argument for years when a model gets a new version.
To ensure that these promises are actually kept, the EU introduced a new test procedure in 2017, the WLTP cycle. All new models must go through this in order to determine the official depreciation value. This then appears in advertisements advertising cars. The only problem is: according to a new study by the non-profit research organization the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the gap between values from the official measurement cycle and real consumption on the road is widening.
In 2022, the difference for cars registered in Germany was 14 percent on average, meaning that the values in real operation were 14 percent higher than those declared by the manufacturers. In 2018, the difference was 8% on average. ICCT experts analyzed official CO2 emissions data issued by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and compared it with real fuel consumption data for more than 160,000 vehicles. These are combustion engines whose owners have stored their consumption data on the Spritmonitor.de website.
Big, powerful cars are destroying climate successes
The results make the climate protection successes of recent years look much less than what is being sold by the EU Commission. Officially, CO2 emissions in transport fell by about 7.3 percent between 2018 and 2022, but in real operation, according to ICCT experts, only less than a third of this remains at 2.3 percent.
Last week, the European Court of Auditors also found that progress in reducing CO2 in transport is mainly due to increased registration of electric cars. Technical advances have made combustion engines more efficient, but this has been offset by increased weight and increased horsepower. “CO2 emissions from vehicles will only decline when the combustion engine loses its dominant position,” said Pietro Russo, the member of the Board of Auditors responsible for the report.
Who actually drives in economic mode in everyday life?
There is only speculation as to why the values continue to vary between the test cycle and normal use. One of these reasons, according to ICCT, is that there are still loopholes through which manufacturers can improve their cars for laboratory testing. For example, if a car is only driven in Eco mode, it will likely have little in common with the way the average driver later drives his car. However, there are still no studies that have examined the differences between laboratory and street in more detail.
According to ICCT experts, it would be more logical not only to rely on test values, but also to directly evaluate consumption data from vehicles. Each car now stores its fuel consumption and this information can be read without any problem. On this basis, a correction mechanism can then be established that adapts CO2 emissions to reality.