Emissions tests that carmakers cannot cheat show almost all diesels sold in Europe since the 2015 “dieselgate” scandal remain highly polluting.
The assessment uses a beam of light to analyse the exhaust from passing cars and registration-plate recognition to link the pollution to a specific model.
More than 370,000 measurements taken in the European Union have been published in new rating system called the Real Urban Emissions Initiative (True).
The analysis shows that new diesels released in 2016 were on average more than five times above the EU’s official baseline limit of 0.08mg of nitrogen oxide per kilometre. The 2017 models were a little cleaner, but still nearly four times above the limit.
The mayors of Brussels, Madrid and Paris last month asked the European Court of Justice to reject the 2017 EU regulation that sets caps for diesel engine emissions.
A 110-per-cent tolerance margin in the emissions of nitrogen oxide by new cars on road tests is twice the limit set for laboratory tests, arguably allowing carmakers more scope to pollute.
A ruling is expected by the year’s end.
In Europe, more than a third of deaths each year linked to toxic particulate matter, which is associated with unlawful diesel emissions exceeding the EU limits, live in about 100 urban areas, which account for nearly 100 million Europeans.
The conurbations are mainly in Italy, France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.
Between 1,500 to 2,000 premature deaths are blamed on excess diesel emissions in these areas.
A study published last September by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MetNorway) of the EU, Norway and Switzerland, warned that nearly 5,000 people died prematurely every year due to excess emissions that manufacturers should have avoided by law.
North Milan and Monza had the most deaths in Europe.
Italy has more than 40 per cent of the top 100 worst regions and 50 per cent of all deaths, making it the worst affected country for diesel pollution.
Diesel engines are associated with two powerful pollutants: fine dust or particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.
The “dieselgate” scandal revealed that nitrogen oxide volumes far exceeded the measures established in laboratories for environmental certification and EU limits.
Nitrogen oxide emissions mix in the atmosphere with other harmful substances, creating even more particulate matter.
Once inhaled, these microscopic compounds, with a diameter of less than 2.5 micro-metres, can penetrate the lungs and blood, causing or aggravating respiratory and cardiovascular dysfunctions, tumours and other issues.
Italy has Europe’s most critical pollution issues. Picture credit: Pixabay