Emissions testing: real world vs. controlled lab

NEW YORK (CNN) – After Volkswagen admitted that they cheated on emissions tests involving about 11 million diesel vehicles, there is more scrutiny than ever about emissions testing.

Governments worldwide rely on the car makers, to police themselves when it comes to emissions. CNN visited one independent test house who says its test results are far more accurate than those found in a lab.

“We can see on a second-by-second basis how the car’s performing as you’re driving through the mountains or driving down by the coast and see how that all impacts on the emissions,” said Stephen Hayton, Head of Testing, Emissions Analytics.

Emissions standards vary from country to country. According to an ICCT report, furing road tests, depending on climate and driving conditions, as well as the drivers themselves, CO2 emissions are 40 percent worse than lab results. And nitrogen oxide emissions are 7 times higher than the legal limit. Those numbers would violate world standards anywhere, making lab testing useless.

Emissions analytics contributed to that ICCT report. Their equipment will measure things that can drive up a car’s emissions, everything from speed bumps to temperature and humidity. All the emissions coming out of the exhaust is collected in this tube and coming into this gas analyzer. This will measure the composition of the gases, how much CO2 and how much nitrogen oxide this car is putting out.

While this equipment is the same as you would find in a lab, it’s designed to be mobile.

“As far as we’re concerned the way, that, uh, um, cars are monitored on the roads needs to be improved, whether that’s in America testing more of the vehicles that come off the production line, or in Europe testing cars as they’re driven on the road rather than just in a lab,” said Hayton.

What do higher nitrogen oxide, or NOX emissions mean for consumers and public health?

“It has a detrimental effect for health, particularly in urban areas, because NOX particularly NO2 is known to aggravate heart and lung conditions such as asthma,” said Hayton.

Poor testing is also bad for the consumer, resulting in worse gas mileage than advertised. As research found, the gap between the lab and real world driving conditions cost the average consumer an extra $500 per year.

For regulators and car companies, it’s still a long road ahead to cleaner emissions and better testing.

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