The climate change situation is getting ever more serious, as experts warn that we only have a few years to mitigate the damage before the Earth becomes a much more difficult place to live. Conditions on our planet are already changing for the worse, with droughts, storms and wildfires becoming bigger, stronger, and more frequent. Carbon dioxide emissions must be curtailed if we want to have a chance at living in a hospitable world in the future.
Automobiles are a huge culprit in emissions, and with over a billion passenger cars currently on the streets across the world, strict regulations must be put into place to minimize, as much as possible, the CO2 these vehicles give off. In the 1980s, Europe implemented the New European Driving Cycle, an initiative meant to assess passenger cars’ emission levels and fuel economy.
As technology and driving conditions changed, however, the NEDC became outdated, and was replaced in 2017 by the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure, or WLTP. This new standard determines not only emission levels and energy consumption but has also expanded to include electric range from electric vehicles. Unlike the NEDC, which determined test values based on a theoretical driving profile, the WLTP cycle was developed using real driving data to better represent typical driving profiles.
WLTP introduced much more realistic testing conditions, including higher average and maximum speeds, a greater range of driving situations, longer test distances, and more dynamic and representative accelerations and decelerations. These and other improvements provide a much more accurate basis for calculating a vehicle’s emissions and fuel consumption, and ensure that laboratory measurements better reflect a car’s on-road performance.
Europe is taking the lead in the application of WLTP standards, with Japan close behind and India and China pledging to adopt them in coming years. Although WLTP won’t take full effect in Europe until 2020, the first phases are already in force, and are currently presenting significant challenges to vehicle manufactures as they make the change from NEDC. These new challenges, such as difficulty completing the required additional testing called for by WLTP for vehicle certification, are already causing significant delays in the release of new vehicles due to the updated regulations.
What does this mean for drivers and auto manufacturers? That depends on the country. Governments where the regulations will take place are being challenged to modify their tax codes so that fees do not drastically go up for automobile owners. If they do nothing, drivers will find themselves paying more as their fuel efficiency ratings change to reflect a more accurate reading.
The new, more rigorous testing does, however, provide extra motivation for automobile manufacturers to make their vehicles more fuel-efficient and overall greener. Consumers will be looking for more environmentally friendly cars to avoid paying more, as well as out of a general conscientiousness. This could accelerate the shift to electric and hybrid cars, although they aren’t exempt from the new standards either – electric cars’ range is expected to be revealed as lower under the WLTP testing.
Some discrepancy will still exist between emissions measured in laboratory settings and those produced in the real world, as lab conditions do not account for all possible weather, traffic or individual driving styles. WLTP, however, gives a far more accurate representation of a car’s fuel emissions and economy than the previous standards did. This should lead to efforts to further reduce emissions and improve economy, which is an important step in cutting back on CO2 and slowing climate change.