Blog Archives

NZTA emissions project seeks test vehicles

The NZTA has embarked on an emissions testing project with two Auckland consultancies, and has made a call for diesel vehicles to take part.

A 2012 report for the NZTA found that harmful emissions from vehicles cause 256 premature deaths (with social costs of $934 million) annually in New Zealand.

The research is a joint effort between Emission Impossible Ltd and AirQuality Ltd, and will be using a portable emissions measurement system (PEMS) to test real-world fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions from vehicles – a first in New Zealand for on-road emissions testing.

The project is an NZ Transport Agency research project which aims to improve our understanding of real world emissions and fuel consumption in New Zealand.

The project is looking for vehicles built to a range of emission standards, including light duty petrol and diesel vehicles and to heavy duty trucks.

A list of the vehicle types the project is looking to test.

Testing is scheduled to be undertaken in Auckland over October and November this year.

The project is one of several NZTA initiatives that seeks to reduce emissions in, others including subsidies for electric vehicles, the emissions trading scheme and the Heavy Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Programme, launched 2012.

Interest in the emissions testing project can be expressed via phone or email to Gerda Kuschel at Emission Impossible on 09 629 1435, or email at gerda@emissionimpossible.co.nz.



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Bloomberg release EV outlook

By 2040, 54 per cent of new car sales and 33 per cent of the global car fleet will be electric, according to a report released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance earlier this week.

The Electric Vehicle Outlook report is published by Bloomberg each year, and aims to analyse and predict global trends of EV adoption. The report is ambitious in its scope, providing a look at how economics, technology, policy, and consumer behaviour will impact EV adoption between now and 2040.

The report’s key findings revise predictions of EV uptake upwards on the previous year’s predictions. Bloomberg attribute this to battery costs falling faster than expected and rising commitments from automakers. While a mass EV uptake isn’t expected for some time, the report predicts it will come within the next 10-15 years.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

“…by 2029 most [EVs] will have reached parity with comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Real mass market adoption only starts after this point in most markets” the report says, though it also predicts that some EVs will become price competitive on an unsubsidised basis by 2025.

The US Federal Government currently offers financial incentives to encourage EV uptake while the New Zealand government is currently involved in projects to subsidise and encourage the embrace of EV technology. In September 2016, the Road User Charges exemption for light electric vehicles was extended until 31 December 2021, and the government has committed $1 million annually to a nationwide electric vehicle information and promotion campaign over the next five years. A $6 million per year Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund has also been established, awarding funding for 15 projects in 2017.

The Bloomberg report also predicts that battery electric vehicles (EV) will make up the majority of EV sales after 2030, mostly replacing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). This is currently the case in New Zealand, with EVs making up around 78% of total light EV and PHEV registrations.

Source: NZ Ministry of Transport

Fossil fuel demand will be displaced by a growing fleet of EVs if the above predictions prove accurate. With the predicted 33 per cent of cars on the road by 2040 being EVs, around 8 million barrels of transportation fuel could be displaced per day.

New Zealand’s small level of carbon emissions relative to the rest of the world makes it difficult for the country to make meaningful contributions to curbing global climate change. If the predictions of the Bloomberg report come to pass it would be a positive development for New Zealand, being largely at the whim of the rest of the world’s decisions related to fossil fuel use and emissions policy.

The EV market in New Zealand also stands to benefit from increased global uptake, as economies of scale bring prices down. The government has ambitious plans to reach 64,000 EVs on the road by 2021, with the total New Zealand EV fleet currently sitting at about 4,200 cars.

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Carmakers agree to diesel filter

German carmakers have agreed to install software in 5.3 million cars to make exhaust filtering systems more effective.

The software will bring down the vehicles’ emissions of nitrogen oxide by 25-30 percent.

A statement from German industry body Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) said the software updates would be free for motorists and would be just as effective in cutting nitrogen oxide levels as bans on diesel vehicles would be.

The targeted diesel cars will be mainly in the Euro-5 category for car emissions and some in the Euro-6 category.

Meanwhile, the manufacturers will also offer incentives for consumers to trade in diesel cars that are 10 years old or older.

BMW will give a discount of up to €2,000 ($NZ 3,229.83) to drivers who exchange a Euro-4 category BMW when they buy a new diesel BMW, electric BMW or Mini.

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Mazda’s future emissions reduction

Mazda Motor Corporation aims to reduce corporate average carbon dioxide emissions and achieve a 90 per cent reduction by 2050.

The manufacturer’s vision – ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ will look towards the year 2030 and as part of the vision, the manufacturer will introduce a next-generation engine called SKYACTIV-X in 2019. 

“The first generation SKYACTIV engine really made its mark in New Zealand due to both its power and environmental performance. The exciting changes planned for the next-generation SKYACTIV-X will further highlight the company’s commitment to the environment while still delivering the thrill of driving great cars,” says managing director of Mazda New Zealand, David Hodge.

Mazda will expand measures for carbon dioxide reduction from a “well-to-wheel” perspective, considering emissions over the vehicle’s entire life cycle. Its aim is to reduce corporate average “well-to-wheel” carbon dioxide emissions to 50 percent of 2010 levels by 2030.

This will be achieved by prioritising efficiency improvements and measures for cleaner emissions that apply in the real world. 

From 2019, the company will start introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution.

More advanced safety technologies will also be developed under the Mazda Proactive Safety philosophy, working towards the goal of eliminating traffic accidents.

Testing will begin in 2020 of autonomous driving technologies currently being developed in line with Mazda’s human-centered Mazda Co-Pilot Concept with the aim to make the system standard on all models by 2025.


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German car makers in emissions deal

Emissions have reached toxic levels in many parts of Germany

Politicians and car makers in Germany have agreed to completely overhaul engine software on 5.3 million diesel vehicles in a bid to cut pollution, avoid a ban on diesels and repair the industry’s reputation in Europe.

Justice Minister Heiko Mass told the German newspaper Bild that the agreement was only the first step in an ongoing process, and bans on diesel vehicles in the future would not be ruled out.

“The legal requirements for clean air remain in effect,” he told journalists.

Air pollution has significantly decreased over the past decade, but is still breaching current standards.

In February, the EU Commission found limits for the deadly nitrogen dioxide pollution were exceeded 28 areas of Germany, and was responsible for 10,610 premature German deaths in 2013.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has come under increasing pressure for not doing enough to crack down on vehicle pollution, with Merkel’s close relationship to auto executives heavily criticised.  

However, ministers have been cautious about disrupting the auto industry, which provides 800,000 jobs, and is Germany’s biggest exporter.

“We expect a new culture of responsibility from carmakers,” Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, from the centre-left Social Democrats, said at a news conference.

“There is much to make good – to the environment, to people in cities, car owners and not least to the security of the car industry in Germany and its hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) said the software updates would cut nitrous oxide emissions by 25-30 per cent for the 5.3 million affected cars.

The software update is expected to cost Volkwagen, Daimler and BMW a combined $800 million.

The popularity of diesel vehicles in the EU’s largest market is falling as a result of the ongoing emissions scandal. German diesel car sales fell 12 per cent in July, and diesel now makes up 40.5 per cent of new car sales, down from 46 per cent in 2016.

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Mercedes to recall entire EU diesel fleet

Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche

Virtually Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicle sold in the EU since 2011 will be recalled, Daimler has announced.

The move comes after allegations that the Mercedes-Benz had faked emissions tests were published in a German newspaper last week, and an investigation into Daimler in May.

Daimler refuses to say the announcement is a recall, dubbing it a “service action” in a statement.

Owners of nearly every model produced since 2011 will be asked to return their cars to their local dealer so the engine can be adjusted to reduce emissions.

Altering the 3 million cars on European roads will cost the German car maker $346 million, the Telegraph reports. The recall includes popular C-Class and E-Class Mercedes vehicles.

“The public debate about diesel engines is creating uncertainty,” chief executive of Daimler Dieter Zetsche said in a statement.

“We have therefore decided on additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology.”’

The software update is expected to take approximately an hour, and will extend emissions controls on the engine so it will activate under wider conditions.

Zetsche said the action wasn’t the end of the diesel engine for Mercedes, and that the company is “convinced that diesel engines will continue to be a fixed element of the drive-system mix, not least due to their low CO2 emissions.”

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Mercedes-Benz under investigation

A German newspaper has reported that Mercedes-Benz is under investigation for possibly selling over a million cars with excess emissions in Europe and the US.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung, citing a search warrant issued by a court in Stuttgart, Germanny, says prosecutors were examining the possible use of illegal software to manipulate emissions test results in Mercedes-Benz vehicles between 2008 and 2016.

Both the prosecutor and Daimer, Mercedes’ parent company, declined to comment to Reuters regarding the report, but Daimler said the firm was fully cooperating with authorities and did not believe cars will lose certification.

“We take comfort from the fact that this is a European issue, not a US investigation. We also do not believe these Merc cars will lose their certification,” analysts from Bernstein Research told Reuters. “Our judgement is that Merc will be asked to recall these cars for a ‘software fix.’”

Bernstein estimated that if Daimler faced penalties at a similar per-car level to Volkswagen, the total fine would amount to $275 million to $400 million.

Stuttgart prosecutors conducted raids on 11 different sites in Germany as part of a wider probe into possible excess diesel emission from Daimler, and two employees are under investigation.

Mercedes-Benz has dropped plans to seek US approval to sell its 2017 diesel models, and investigations from the US Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are ongoing.

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VW faces legal action

A group representing 180,000 car owners in Europe is seeking a full refund of Volkswagen vehicles affected by the scandal at an estimated cost of $6.9 billion, the Financial Times has reported.

Patrick Haas of AKD, a law firm based in Rotterdam, is serving as legal counsel for the Stiching Volkswagen Car Claim Foundation, which was established in October 2015.

Despite the successful case against Volkswagen in the US, the German car maker has denied breaking any laws in Europe and has refused to offer buyers compensation.

Experts have said there is a slim chance of successful litigation after Germany’s transport ministry approved a recall last December to ensure all affected cars would meet legal requirements and emissions standards.

Haas, however, said this latest recall does not fix the emission issue, and there is “still a big gap between lab conditions and real road conditions.” The group hopes to bring the case to court this spring.

Another legal representative, Damon Parker from Harcus Sinclair in the UK, told the Financial Times that “VW is forcing everyone to launch claims in their own jurisdictions,” and the group was attempting to bypass this by creating a “pan-European alliance.”

“We do not see a legal basis for customer actions,” Volkswagen said in a statement. “All vehicles affected are and have been technically safe and roadworthy. They can be driven on roads without any limitations and can be sold without loss in residual value. The required authorisations remain valid.”

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Audi accused of more emissions cheating

The German government has accusing Audi of cheating emissions tests with its top-end models. It’s the first time Audi has been accused of emissions cheating in its home country.

The German transport ministry has asked Audi to recall around 24,000 A7 and A8 models built between 2009 and 2013, around half of which were sold in Germany, Reuters reports.

A ministry spokesman told Reuters that VW CEO Matthias Mueller was summoned to the transport ministry, but didn’t elaborate.

The ministry said that recalled Audi models which were supposedly Euro-5 emission standards but in fact emitted twice the legal limit of nitrogen oxide when the steering wheel is turned more than 15 degrees.

The ministry has also issued a deadline of June 12 for Audi to come up with a plan to refit the affected cars. Audi issued a recall for the affected cars on Thursday, and said software updates will start in July.

An Audi source told Reuters the discrepancy in emissions is due to a faulty interaction between transmission and engine control units, and a proposal for a fix has already been submitted to the KBA.

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Researchers find VW ‘defeat device’

A team of researchers from around the world have found the code buried deep in onboard software which enabled Volkswagen to circumvent American and European emissions tests for over six years before allegations of cheating surfaced in 2015.

The researchers, led by computer scientist Krill Levchenko from the University of California San Diego, obtained copies of Volkswagen onboard software from the company’s own maintenance website and from various forums online run by car enthusiasts, said the UC San Diego News Centre.

“We found evidence of the fraud right there in public view,” Levchenko said. “We found the system and how it was used.”

The code allowed the car’s onboard computer to determine the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test, and then activate emission-curbing systems to lower the pollutants emitted.

When a car is tested for emissions levels, it is placed on a chassis equipped with a dynamometer, which measures the engine’s power output. The test then begins a specific speed profile designed to imitate real-world urban driving with frequent stops.

Because the conditions for this test are standard across all stations, and publicly available, manufacturers are able to anticipate the exact conditions of the test. The code found in Volkswagen vehicles checks the speed, distance, and wheel position, and if it matches the conditions of the emissions test, the code will allow the onboard computer to activate the emissions-curbing system.

When the test was over, the onboard computer then deactivated these systems. Cars emitted up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide allowed under US regulations once the emissions-curbing software was deactivated.

 “The Volkswagen defeat device is arguably the most complex in automotive history,” Levchenko said.

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Judge OK’s 3-litre VW settlement

A federal judge has granted final approval on an agreement for embattled car maker Volkswagen to fix and buy back over 80,000 3.0-litre diesels in the United States, at an estimated cost of over $1.7 billion.

Owners of affected vehicles will be compensated between $10,000 and $23,000 if they chose to opt for fixes. Volkswagen could be forced to pay up to $5.8 billion if the fixes for 3.0-litre diesels are not approved by American regulators

The ruling is one of the final acts in the long-running emissions scandal, which began in October 2015 when it was revealed Volkswagen had fitted diesel vehicles with so-called ‘defeat devices’ to cheat emissions tests.

A separate settlement to fix or buy back 475,000 polluting 2.0-litre diesel vehicles was approved last spring.

Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan told Reuters the settlement “marks an important milestone for Volkswagen and means that a resolution is available to all of our customers.”

In total, Volkswagen has agreed to spend $36.33 billion on various settlements. Last month, the car maker was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to criminal charges, and agreed to broad reforms and independent oversight.

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