Policy solutions to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions under real-world driving conditions

Published: 2015.10.01

Policymakers worldwide are looking for ways to address the challenge of controlling real-world emissions brought to forefront by the Volkswagen case. In this position brief, we propose a rapid and comprehensive policy response not only to deal with defeat devices but also to identify vehicle models with high real-world emissions relative to their test-cycle performance and to improve current compliance and enforcement programs. The ultimate goal of these suggested changes is to ensure that the policy objectives of reducing air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles are met not only in the laboratory during certification/type-approval testing but throughout the full useful life of vehicles across a wide range of operating conditions.

The VW defeat device scandal is among other things a reminder of the importance of strong in-use compliance and enforcement programs. Even though the defeat device in this case went unnoticed for several years in the United States, the regulatory agencies acted swiftly and decisively once the problem was brought to their attention. This was only possible because their compliance divisions have both strong technical teams and adequate legal authority and resources to enforce vehicle emission regulations. Governments that wish to reduce real-world vehicle emissions must allocate sufficient resources and authority to compliance and enforcement programs to improve the effectiveness of traditional efforts through adoption of more robust test cycles, effective in-use testing, and appropriate enforcement actions, including financial penalties and recall programs. The value of strong compliance programs in creating a level playing field for industry and earning consumer trust cannot be overstated.