Tuesday

12th Nov 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.

Nordic PMs meet youth to close climate gap

Eager to engage with climate-engaged youth, eight Nordic prime ministers met with nine young political leaders in Stockholm for the first time this week. But did the youngsters take the bite?

News in Brief

  1. Farage's Brexit Party will not stand in Tory-held seats
  2. British founder of Syrian 'White Helmets' found dead
  3. Eight member states ask for EU aviation tax
  4. EU allocates €55m humanitarian aid to Sudan
  5. EU's climate contribution exceeds €20bn annually
  6. EU-Singapore trade deal enters into force this month
  7. Commission will not probe Borrell over Catalan tweet
  8. Frontex gets its European border police force

Nordic PMs meet youth to close climate gap

Eager to engage with climate-engaged youth, eight Nordic prime ministers met with nine young political leaders in Stockholm for the first time this week. But did the youngsters take the bite?

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. New hearings for the von der Leyen commission This WEEK
  2. Bosnia wants explanation for Macron's 'time-bomb' remark
  3. MEPs slam Commission over common charger delay
  4. Erdogan: refugees will enter Europe unless EU does more
  5. Cleaning up both the EU and Western Balkans
  6. Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?
  7. Up to 750 European children trapped in north-east Syria
  8. EU and China agree to defend 'gastronomic jewels'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us