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14th Aug 2020

EU science body did not suspect diesel cheating

  • Former EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso (r) visiting the JRC in Ispra (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission's in-house science service never investigated whether car makers were using illegal software to cheat on emissions tests because it was beyond its research mandate, its representative has told the European Parliament (EP).

A 2013 report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), whose mission is “to support EU policies with independent evidence throughout the whole policy cycle”, noted that there were significant gaps between emission levels in the lab and on the road.

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  • A special inquiry committee of the European Parliament is trying to find out what role the EU commission played in 'dieselgate' (Photo: Peter Teffer)

JRC's director of policy support Delilah Al Khudhairy spoke on Tuesday (19 April) at a hearing of the European Parliament's inquiry committee into the role of the commission and member states in the Volkswagen scandal.

She said that the JRC did not have the mandate to check for the illegal software, known as defeat devices.

But some MEPs did not understand why the JRC was not “curious” enough to investigate on its own.

According to Khudhairy, there was “no concern” and “no evidence” that car companies had installed defeat devices, as Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to having done in the US.

“The JRC did not have any concrete information that car manufacturers applied illegal defeat strategies at any point in time,” the JRC said in a written response to MEPs' questions.

“The on-road emission measurements reported by JRC did not allow to establish whether the elevated NOx emissions were due to insufficient emission control, just 'negligent' calibration thereof, or an intentional manipulation of vehicles,” it noted.

NOx stands for nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are toxic pollutants.

At the hearing, Khudhairy added that its research was public, indicating that national authorities could also have started investigations into defeat devices.

“It was not just our responsibility,” she said.

In the wake of the scandal, the EU commission now wants to change the rules around the approval of car types, giving the JRC more authority to check the certification process.

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Growing proof that EU suspected diesel fraud

EU Commission always maintained it had no indication VW cheated, but one EU researcher reportedly suspected the use of a cheating strategy in 2010.

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