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As Dieselgate turns one year old, a new study by Transport & Environment (T&E) reveals that Volkswagen is currently selling the least polluting (Euro 6) diesel vehicles. Nonetheless, the marque caught cheating in the US also has the most grossly polluting Euro 5 vehicles on the road, which were sold between 2011 and 2015.
The better performance of Volkswagen Euro 6 cars has nothing to do with Dieselgate, but with better technology choices made before the scandal burst. The report Dieselgate: Who? Why? How? also found that not one single brand complies with the latest air pollution limits ('Euro 6') for diesel cars and vans in real-world driving.
T&E analysed emissions test data from around 230 diesel car models. Data were taken from the investigations conducted by the British, French and German governments, as well as a large public database. The carmakers' ranking was built with on-road performance figures mostly measured in real world driving. The key findings per car brand are: Fiat and Suzuki diesel cars on average pollute 15 times more than the legal NOx limit; Renault-Nissan vehicles exceed the limit more than 14 times; General Motors' brands Opel/Vauxhall pollute 10 times more while Volkswagen diesel cars pollute twice as much as the Euro 6 standard.
T&E's calculations also show that today 29 million diesel cars and vans are driving on Europe's roads that we classify as 'dirty', meaning that, for Euro 5 cars, they are at least 3 times over the relevant NOx limit. Only one in four diesel vehicles registered since 2011 achieve these modest thresholds. These vehicles were approved for sale by national type approval authorities, mainly in Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The largest number of 'dirty' diesels is found on French roads (5.5million), followed by Germany (5,3 million), the UK (4,3 million), Italy (3,1 million), Spain (1,9 million) and Belgium (1,4 million).
Cheating on environmental regulation is not a victimless crime. This causes premature deaths. The World Health Organisation has described worsening air pollution levels as a "public health emergency". Last year, the European Environment Agency said that NO2, mainly created by diesel engines in urban areas, is responsible for an estimated 72,000 premature deaths in Europe. The majority of NO2-related premature deaths occur in Italy (21,600); the UK (14,100); Germany (10,400); France (7,700); Spain (5,900) and Belgium (2,300).