Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

EU urges use of roadside sensors on car emissions

  • Roadside remote sensing can help detect emissions cheating (Photo: Markus Spiske)

The European Commission has called on national governments to use a measuring tool known as remote sensing to detect if cars driving on Europe's roads were emitting too many pollutants.

Panagiota Dilara, policy officer for motor vehicle emissions at the commission's industry directorate, told attendees of an event in the European Parliament on Thursday (28 September) that she was not aware of any member state using the roadside technology.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"Remote sensing is a powerful tool," said Dilara.

The concept is somewhat similar to using radar speed guns to determine if someone is driving too fast. Dilara said it was a way for authorities to identify car models that have suspiciously high emissions.

In the past two years it has emerged that the use of so-called defeat devices, which make a car appear cleaner during the official test than it actually was, was widespread in Europe.

The currently most often used method to spot dirty cars on-road is the portable emissions measurement equipment, or Pems, which is mounted on a single car to measure actual emissions.

Until the beginning of this month, all official tests were done only in a laboratory, but now cars coming on the road have to pass a Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test.

"We have to move on from the very dumb form of testing that we have at the moment, where we put a specially prepared vehicle into a laboratory," said clean transport campaigner Greg Archer, from the environmentalist organisation Transport & Environment.

"We run it for half an hour, we measure with enormous accuracy and massive reproducibility what the emissions are, and it bears no resemblance at all to how that car performs on the road. That's at the heart of our current scandal," he said.

Archer said the RDE test was "a massive step forward", and that remote sensing "is a really strong and complementary tool", that could be used in combination with Pems.

Deterrent

"It is clear that in most cases [of remote sensing] we need to do further testing to know what exactly went wrong for this vehicle," said Dilara.

"We think that together with our RDE legislation, if we apply things like remote sensing, it will be an appropriate deterrent to prevent both tampering and defeat devices," she added.

While defeat devices are typically put in cars by carmakers, for instance to cut costs, tampering with emissions filter technology is sometimes done by individual car owners, to boost performance or to save on fuel.

After the Dieselgate scandal, the EU parliament called on member states to "establish remote fleet monitoring schemes" by using roadside remote sensing equipment and/or on-board sensors.

Remote sensing is more prevalent in the United States, and several Americans attended Thursday's event in the parliament searching for business opportunities.

Only part of the puzzle

Vicente Franco, another policy officer at the EU commission, also supported the use of the tool, but warned against seeing it as a silver bullet.

Franco said the analogy with the radar speed gun only worked to an extent.

"If you register 70 kilometres per hour and the speed limit is 55, you can be pretty sure that that car was not in compliance and that you can fine that car," said Franco.

But the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are not as binary as going over the speed limit or not.

The NOx limits were measured in milligrams per kilometre, but they were sometimes clustered around "emission events" like acceleration, said Franco.

"If you happen to catch those events with remote sensing, it might look as if that car is very dirty, when actually it might just be a little bit unlucky," he said.

He said a "robust statistical analysis framework" was needed to be able to draw conclusions.

Additionally, even if remote sensing is deployed all across Europe, it is still up to national authorities to actually enforce the emissions legislation, something which, in the years before Dieselgate broke out, they neglected to do, and, even now, remain reluctant to do.

Investigation

Dieselgate: MEPs want to give EU more testing powers

EU Commission should have power to veto national car testing programmes, MEPs in lead committee agreed. Meanwhile EU commissioner Bienkowska says member states have learned little from emissions crisis.

News in Brief

  1. EU to Israel: Don't expect us to move embassies
  2. EU Commission condemns anti-semitic 'Jerusalem' protests
  3. Ministers have 'lots of questions' on new CAP plans
  4. Commission: Brexit agreement is 'deal between gentlemen'
  5. 25 EU states sign defence cooperation pact
  6. Netanyahu wants 'hardy' talks with EU on Jerusalem
  7. French centre-right elects new leader
  8. Germany and UK increase arms sales

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Alignment with EU is 'last resort', May tells MPs
  2. Iceland: further from EU membership than ever
  3. Israel presses Jerusalem claim in EU capital
  4. From dark coal toward a brighter future
  5. UK casts doubt on EU deal in 'bizarre' twist
  6. Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership
  7. Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants
  8. No chance of expanding EU warrant crime list

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level