EP inquiry committee unveils new information on defeat device emissions loopholes

Following yesterday's hearing of the European Parliament’s inquiry committee on the car emissions scandal, the S&D Group calls for the committee to further investigate the abuse of existing loopholes in EU legislation and confront manufacturers with its findings. This work will be crucial in ensuring a thorough revision of EU emissions laws and an end to the loopholes and unethical behaviour undertaken by car manufacturers.
After the Dieselgate scandal, new findings suggest that some car makers are using a legal loophole to circumvent EU laws on nitrogen and CO2 emission levels. Those companies would be abusing the legal possibility to switch off emission-control equipment under certain ambient temperatures, theoretically to protect the engine.
Seb Dance, S&D coordinator of the emission measurements in the automotive sector, said:
"After revelations from the Association for Emissions Control by Catalyst (AECC) - that emission control technologies, such as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and Lean-NOx Trap (LNT), can operate perfectly well in any outside temperatures - do not chime with what some car manufacturers have been claiming. It begs the question as to why so many car companies are setting up their cars to pass emission tests and then switching off emission controls when they are on the road.
"The defence that extreme outside temperatures necessitate this switching off has been rubbished by experts yesterday. It is astonishing that car manufacturers might exacerbate the risk to public health. More than 400,000 Europeans die prematurely each year due to toxic air pollution. They may well be playing by the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit of the law. We need clear answers from both the European Commission and car makers on this."
Kathleen van Brempt, S&D vice-president, said:
"In the US the same models by the same manufacturers with exactly the same hardware components emit much less pollutants and comply to more stringent requirements just because the software and motor management is using the exhaust gas treatment in a much broader range.
"It is unacceptable that car manufacturers are considering European citizens as second rate compared to their American counterparts. We must end the continuous switching off of fuel gas cleaning in the EU.
"We call for a thorough investigation of all potential cheating practices and a deep reform of existing rules and monitoring systems."
Note to the editors:
The definition of “low temperature” is 10°C or 17°C according to some of the car manufacturers suspected of cheating.  In theory, defeat devices are forbidden under Regulation 715/2007 but certain exemptions are permitted, namely "to protect the engine against damage or accident and for safe operation of the vehicle". This wording is being used as a loophole that manufacturers are exploiting, claiming that they have to protect the engines. Evidence from the first EMIS hearings including from several research institutes confirmed that emission control technologies can work in all ambient conditions. According to these findings, low outside temperatures do not have any influence on the functioning of the emission control system (even temperatures below zero). When the emission control technology is switched off at 17°C, it means that for 8 out of 12 months per year on average the car is emitting a huge amount of pollutants. Though it cannot be qualified as a clear violation of EU law given the vague definition of a defeat device in EU legislation, it is a highly unethical practice.