Real-world emissions testing: is my car’s rating accurate?

We know that recent news stories have planted seeds of doubt in many people’s minds about emission ratings accuracy – and with EU regulations requiring all new car models to record a CO2 emission level lower than 95g/km by 2021, naturally car owners want to learn how the changes might affect them and how their current car stacks up.

In order to remove any loopholes in the testing system which could be used to manufacturers’ advantage, the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) – the method by which data is currently recorded and rated – is set to be fully replaced. But, what exactly should the current tests be measuring against to ensure that their findings are accurate?

One key factor in ensuring these ratings are accurate is the ability of manufacturers to replicate real-world driving conditions, rather than recording figures in an idealised setting. Ratings have, by and large, been accurate to date when set against a universal test lab benchmark. However, leading academics have now challenged whether this benchmark would then translate to a genuine driving experience.

What’s next for vehicle emissions testing?

So, with manufacturers working to regain buyer trust and develop new models ahead of the EU deadline, who steps in to fill the void in emissions testing?

Bath University have put themselves forward as a primary contender, investing £2.6 million in a brand new Centre for Low Emission Vehicle Research (CLEVeR). Here, cutting-edge technology has been developed to help replicate real-world conditions, collect data with a new level of accuracy and get around human intervention as a testing factor.

Those in the know are calling this the most advanced car efficiency testing lab in the world, though much of the lab is comprised of equipment that would be recognisable to mechanics and car enthusiasts, such as the dynamometer (rolling road) – a stationary driving platform with 48-foot circumference rollers that can be adjusted to accommodate almost any domestic vehicle. Climatic controls are then applied via heat exchangers and cooling fans, which can adjust temperatures from 10 – 50 degrees Celsius to help replicate genuine driving conditions.

Newly designed wheel adapters (costing £30,000 apiece) are applied to test models to remove tyre inflation and road resistance from results, giving a much more accurate picture of engine emissions in isolation. The most impressive addition to the lab is a specially designed self-learning robot. Coming in at around £200,000, the robot consistently delivers a more accurate real-world driving performance than even the most skilled of its human masters.

CLEVeR deputy director Professor Chris Brace believes that the robot helps set Bath University apart as a testing facility, stating: “Our robot is pretty good, but part of the research we are doing is improving the driver behaviour model to make it more human. Then we can adapt it to different human styles of driving… If you take all the features here, it makes it unique in the university sector, in Europe and probably among car manufacturers as well.”

Car companies are already on board

Manufacturers including Ford have been queuing up to trial their latest models in advance of EU legislation coming in to force – so much so that the facility is booked up for the foreseeable future. Prof. Brace has been inspired to consider the future, with the construction of a £50m dedicated global auto research facility in the pipeline at Bristol and Bath Science Park. Cheerfully accepting the challenge, he has left little wiggle room for delay, stating: “We want to build an institute in two to five years”. If he is successful in his mission, then you can expect a new level of accuracy in your car’s rating within just a few short years.

If you’re looking for a new car to help improve your eco credentials, why not contact one of our expert team or drop in for a chat at your local Perrys dealership today.