A European Parliament committee has voted to overhaul the bloc’s rules for safety and environmental testing of cars and to strengthen the bloc’s oversight of vehicles already on the road. This is said to be an effort aimed at avoiding a repeat of the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. The draft bill – which passed the internal market committee by a 33-4 vote – would require EU member countries’ market surveillance programs to be approved by the European Commission. The Commission would also be empowered to compel countries to test specific vehicle makes or to conduct the tests itself. European Parliament member Daniel Dalton said in a statement:
With today’s vote the Internal Market Committee has sent a clear signal to national governments and consumers that it is about time we addressed the weaknesses that allowed the emissions scandal to take place. We agreed that the key to rebuilding consumer trust in the motor vehicle approval system is more rigorous and systematic oversight at every stage.
Under the proposal, carmakers that fake test results or violate other rules can be fined up to €30,000, or about $32,000, per vehicle. And if a member country isn’t willing to levy a fine, the Commission will. Those penalties should be directed to supporting market surveillance, recompense affected consumers and for environmental protection if appropriate, according to the statement. The proposal will be voted on by a full house in an upcoming plenary session, according to the statement.
Recently, the European Parliament upheld by a narrow margin a new vehicle emissions plan from the bloc’s executive authority that, if finalized, will temporarily raise limits while requiring real-world testing outside a lab. On Feb. 3, members voted 323-317, with 61 abstaining, not to veto the European Commission’s proposal to temporarily double nitrogen oxide emission limits from the current 80 mg per kilometer. The limit would eventually be set at 120 mg/km by 2020 in order to ensure automotive manufacturers can actually meet the more difficult to hit real-world limits, according to the parliament announcement. The vote follows promises from the Commission – made up of one Commissioner from each of the bloc’s 28 member countries – to implement a review clause for the new requirements.
If implemented, Europe will be the only region in the world to require such testing. Real driving emissions (RDE) testing is thought to be more difficult to fool. However, Parliament cited the Commission as arguing that relaxed limits are necessary because of “technical uncertainties” with the Portable Emission Measurement Systems device and the fact that the on-the-road limits are more difficult to meet than limits tested for in a lab.
It’s rather interesting – and actually disturbing – that while European countries are getting tougher on regulation, the United States is heading in another direction. Hopefully, consumer advocates will be able to turn the tide and make safety a real priority for U.S. Regulatory agencies.
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