Dieselgate: Three-quarters of European diesel cars ‘likely’ to have emissions-cheating devices, study finds
Uncovered in the 2015 Dieselgate scandal, defeat devices allow cars to momentarily turn on their pollution controls while being tested.
Seventy-seven percent of European diesel-powered cars produce levels of emissions that indicate the presence of an emissions-cheating device, a report by the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found.
Using data from 1,400 official government tests under controlled settings, the study found that 77 percent of Euro 6 diesel cars (Euro 6 being the name of the current EU emissions rules) and 85 percent of the older Euro 5 vehicles have "suspicious" test results, showing excessive emissions.
The amounts of nitrogen oxide emitted by these cars during testing, the report says, indicates "the likely use of a prohibited defeat device" — i.e. software allowing cars to momentarily turn on their pollution controls while being tested.
"Extreme" emission levels were found in at least 40 percent of the tests, showing that the presence of a defeat device was "almost certain" in these cases, according to the NGO.
The report estimates that 19 million vehicles with "suspicious" emission levels — and 13 million with "extreme" levels — are currently in use in the European Union and the U.K.
"These results present a solid body of evidence for authorities to investigate and potentially take corrective action to address health risks posed by European diesel cars driven on our roads," said Peter Mock, ICCT’s Europe managing director.
The existence of so-called defeat devices was discovered in the 2015 Dieselgate scandal, when German carmaker Volkswagen admitted to cheating on emission tests on hundreds of thousands of cars in the U.S.
Other carmakers including Daimler, Renault and Fiat have since faced similar accusations.
Defeat devices were declared illegal by the Court of Justice of the European Union in December 2020.
In reaction to the ICCT study, three environmental NGOs have said they will take the French, British and German governments to court for their "incapacity to tackle the plague of illegal default devices," and force carmakers to pay for the recall costs of faulty diesel cars.