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Joe Howick's blog: Will car manufacturers follow PSA Group's lead on real-world fuel economy tests?

Date: 27 March 2017

I have the utmost respect for businesses that lead by example and PSA Group have done exactly that recently, by publishing the results of real-world fuel economy tests for thousands of its cars.

It's a bold move that aims to reinforce consumer confidence in their Peugeot, Citroën and DS brands in the aftermath of Dieselgate and brings trust and transparency back into the testing process. As you might expect, the real-world consumption figures are significantly lower than those obtained via the industry-standard New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) testing procedure.

For example, the NEDC fuel consumption figure quoted in the brochure for a Citroën C4 Picasso, with BlueHDi 120 diesel engine, states an impressively efficient 80.7mpg (extra urban). When compared to PSA's estimated real-world measurement of 49.6mpg it highlights a huge deficit of 31.1mpg or 38.5%, a difference that would leave company car drivers and car buyers feeling frustrated and short-changed.

Since its inception in 1970, the NEDC assessment has been used by all car manufacturers to ensure the fuel economy and emissions of their product range compares accurately with the competition. However, the NEDC figures published by manufacturers have never truly reflected the performance gained by driving those vehicles in real-world conditions.

The tests are often conducted under laboratory conditions on a rolling road using modified vehicles with components removed, over-inflated tyres and power-draining systems such as air con and lights switched off to improve consumption figures.

Thankfully the current NEDC method is due to be replaced in September this year with a more accurate method of testing known as the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).

This new testing regime is a joint venture between the European Commission and the United Nations and will be much more representative of on-road driving, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However, there is some scepticism about the accuracy of the new WLTP test since vehicles are still being tested under laboratory conditions. Nick Molden, chief executive of Emissions Analytics predicts that while current NEDC figures show fuel consumption to be on average 29 percent higher than the true figure, the new WLTP tests will still be out by almost 15 percent.

The automotive testing company has developed its own set of tests, available at www.equaindex.com which aim to showcase more accurate on-road emissions and fuel consumption figures for more than 66,500 cars.

These are positive steps towards regaining the trust of motorists and giving them a more accurate picture of their impact on the environment and the expected fuel costs for their chosen vehicles.

Joe Howick is chief operating officer at FleetEurope.



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