Monday

18th Feb 2019

Focus

Sweden checked on-road emissions long before Dieselgate

  • On-road car emissions have been tested in Sweden since the 1980s. (Photo: Let Ideas Compete)

Few EU countries tested car emissions outside the laboratory before the Volkswagen Group scandal erupted in September 2015, but Sweden did.

“For Sweden it's important that vehicles perform well in reality,” said Per Ohlund of the Swedish Transport Agency during a recent presentation in Berlin.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But while his statement may seem common sense, the attitude did not convert into on-road checks in most EU member states.

In Europe, cars may only be sold if their model has been approved by a national authority.

The emphasis is on testing before the type approval is handed out. Post-sale market surveillance on cars is limited and EU legislation did not spell out how often on-road checks should occur.

In Sweden, an in-service test programme has existed since before the Nordic country became an EU member in 1995.

The programme has been in place since the late-80s, said Ohlund, last week, at the 4th International Real Driving Emissions conference.

“Over the years, we have tested more than 800 vehicles”, said Ohlund, who is responsible for emission regulation for passenger cars at the Swedish Transport Agency.

The programme originally ran as part of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency until 2004. It was then carried out by the Swedish Road Administration until Ohlund's agency took over in 2009.

What the agency did differently, from most of its European counterparts, was check the emissions performance of cars outside the scope of the legally required test.

EUobserver, the only press present at the Berlin conference, asked Ohlund why he thought other member states did not see the need for market surveillance programmes.

“Maybe it's not the need,” he said. “It's also a cost.”

Sweden spends around €2 million per year on the emissions programme, in which it tests around 75 vehicles, both passenger cars and trucks.

The source of the money: a €5 tax added to the price of every car in Sweden.

Other participants in the conference told EUobserver privately that one reason for the lack of market surveillance may be that authorities have little power over cars after they are approved.

Once a car is approved in one EU country, it is valid in the whole bloc. But only the authority which has approved the car can take action.

Since cars driving in Sweden received their certificates in another EU country, the only thing the Swedish agency could do was “ask the German authority nicely to have another look at it”, said a source who asked to remain anonymous.

The Germany Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) approves the most cars in all of Europe.

“That is how Europe works,” said the source. “The internal market is sacred: once a car is approved by the KBA, there is nothing left for us to do.”

In his presentation, Ohlund showed that already in 2012, the Swedes found test results from diesel cars of different types and brands that were emitting much more nitrogen oxides when they were tested in conditions different from the standard test.

“We have presented this to the Commission in various working groups for a long time,” said Per Ohlund.

But Ohlund, like other researchers in Europe, thought something was wrong with the official test method, not that carmakers had cheated.

“Maybe we did not see it as a kind of manipulation or defeat devices, but we saw it more that the regulation today is not fit for the job.”

Ohlund also takes part in discussions in the Technical Committee Motor Vehicles, an influential working group chaired by the EU commission which prepared legislation on a new on-road emissions test.

Ohlund noted that he used his agency's result to back up the claim that a new real world driving test was needed. He said the Swedish Transport Agency is already using equipment to carry out such tests.

“We will look more outside the boundary of the type approval test,” he said.

Investigation

EU told of possible emission cheating in 2012

The Joint Research Centre said in 2012 that a diesel vehicle was emitting much more nitrogen oxide (NOx) when the outside temperature was different from the laboratory parameters.

Investigation

EU states forsook oversight on car emissions

An EUobserver investigation and EU parliament testimony paint a gloomy picture of how EU national authorities neglected to implement clean air car laws.

Plastic pollution increasing at the top of the Earth

Marine plastic pollution, much of it garbage from the Asia-Pacific region but also from Europe, is pushed into the Arctic seas by global ocean currents. Scientists are also increasingly detecting microscopic plastic particles brought to the Arctic by long-range winds.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us