The latest diesel Land Rover Discovery 4×4 – a car demonised for being dirty – is actually 20 times less polluting than a Renault Clio mini hatchback (also with a diesel engine), radical new independent emissions tests have revealed.
Remarkably, the British-built Land Rover finishes with a top ranking A-grade in the new car Air Index eco-rating scale carried out in the UK – suggesting it is one of the cleanest and greenest vehicles on the road despite it’s hulk-like size and Chelsea Tractor image.
By contrast the French Renault Clio hatchback – once famed for its popular ‘Papa and Nicole’ adverts – has been awarded the worst E-grade for being one of the most polluting.
The study adds to the evidence piling up in favour of diesel cars after tests by German motoring association ADAC last week found that the latest Euro6 models were producing little to no harmful nitrogen oxide emissions during real-world measurements.
Cleaner than you think: A new independent emissions rating system found the large Land Rover Discovery diesel is one of the cleanest new vehicles on sale
Even the popular family Ford Focus can muster only a D-grade in the test making it, surprisingly, another big polluter.
That is the conclusion of the new and independent system of real-world testing by Air – which stands for Allow Independent Road-testing – of cars for harmful nitrogen oxide particulates known as NOx which is blamed for breathing problems and tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.
The tests measure the pollutants from cars as they are being driven using portable emissions testing units attached to the exhaust pipes.
The international scheme launched today in Britain and backed by leading experts – including the scientist who helped first uncover the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal – uses simple to understand colour-coded graphics, similar to those showing the energy ratings of white goods like washing machines and fridge freezers.
If the system had been around 15 years ago then the dieselgate scandal – which saw car bosses at Volkswagen and some other car-makers cheating on emissions – would not have happened, say academics.
The new emissions scale, produced using real-world testing conducted by Air Index, shows the British Discovery gets the cleanest A-grade rating
The small Renault Clio hatchback, which uses a much smaller diesel engine, was rated as being one of the dirtiest in the measurements
The Air Index test involves each vehicle having emissions measuring equipment attached to the exhaust pipe and cars being driven out on UK roads
The colour-coded A to E ratings – where a green A-rating is best and red E scored as the worst – shows the difference between clean and dirty vehicles and is endorsed by global air quality and vehicle emissions experts.
More specifically, the top A-grade is only awarded to vehicles which meet or exceed the current Euro6 compliance level for NOx – 80mg per kilometre or less for diesel cars. Petrol cars need to emit no more than 60mg/km.
The B is awarded to cars which fall between 80 and 168mg/km; C to NOx emissions between 168 and 270mg/km; D goes to those between 270 and 600mg/km, and the bottom E grade to those above 600mg/km.
A spokesman for the Air Index said: ‘The Renault Clio’s emissions of NOx were 20 times higher and therefore dirtier than that of the Land Rover Discovery.
‘People will not expect that. That is why these independent tests are so important.
‘Big 4x4s with modern diesel engines can be among the cleanest vehicles on the road.’
He added: ‘It will surprise many people, but the big-engined SUV is actually the cleanest vehicle, well below the official NOx limits.
‘By contrast, the small supermini is the dirtiest and many times worse than the official NOx limits.’
The grading scale is similar to that used for showing the energy ratings for white goods like fridge freezers and washing machines
AIR Index wants to become the new measure of vehicle emissions, similar to what EuroNCAP tests are to car safety standards
The test also provided other eye-opening results.
‘One of the cheapest cars available in the market- the Dacia Duster – is very poor,’ Air Index insiders said.
‘And one of the best-selling family cars – the Ford Focus – is also very poor, multiple times worse than the official NOx limits.’
The test also puts petrol-engined cars through the rigorous measurements.
Although the family-oriented Nissan Qashqai rates as a B (between 80 and 168mg/km of NOx), the figure it achieves is nevertheless ‘well above the official limit for NOx emissions’, as unleaded-fuelled models should all be aiming for the top-rated A grade for meet existing standards.
The new independent ratings scheme aims to overcome widespread suspicion of car-makers whose own results – particularly in the wake of the dieselgate scandal – consumers ‘do not trust’, say its creators.
Creators of the test want the measure to be the standard for car emissions like NCAP crash tests are to automotive safety – which has saved millions of lives over decades.
Their results call into question the controversial demonisation of diesel by politicians and green groups – and threatened with being banned from city centres – which has seen sales of cars using the fuel slump by about a third.
It follows similar tests carried out by independent body ADAC, which found that a new Euro6-rated diesel Mercedes family car produced zero NOx emissions during real-world tests, which a large BMW estate and Vauxhall Astra hatchback emitted barely any traces of the harmful pollutant.
Like the ADAC results, the AIR Index results show the actual NOx emissions for each vehicle tested.
It highlights that modern diesel 4x4s demonsised for being dirty can actually be among the cleanest vehicles on the road.
By contrast, small family hatchbacks, perceived to be more environmentally friendly, can be among the most polluting vehicles on the road.
Emissions are measured during the on-road tests so it is representative of how the vehicles will be used by owners daily
Tests are carried out in urban areas like London, where air pollution levels are under the most scrutiny
A spokesman for Air said: ‘From today the smog surrounding car emissions starts to clear. Comparable ratings provide clarity for car buyers.
‘Policy makers can now use accurate information to improve urban air quality in a fair way. Consumers are advised not to buy another car until they have checked the AIR Index.’
The AIR spokesman added: ‘The slump in diesel car sales shows that car buyers across the world are confused about petrol and diesel emissions following Dieselgate.
‘But until now have only been able to use the information provided by car makers’ own tests which they clearly don’t trust.’
Emissions expert Nick Molden, co-founder of Air and boss of Emissions Analytics, which pioneered on-road emissions testing using Portable Emissions Systems (PEMS) equipment fitted to the exhausts of moving cars, said their independent tests went further and were more effective than even the new official emissions tests.
‘In our testing, we have found a number of the newest Euro 6 cars still emit significantly more NOx on the road than in the laboratory test used for their type approval, and some higher than in Euro 3 laboratory tests in 2000,’ Mr Molden explained.
The new independent ratings scheme aims to overcome widespread suspicion of car-makers whose own results – particularly in the wake of the dieselgate scandal – consumers ‘do not trust’, say its creators
Academics believe that if the independent test had been around 15 years ago then the dieselgate scandal would not have happened
Massimo Fedeli, co-founder and operations director of Air added: ‘Our index is a game changer. It gives easy to understand, at-a-glance information on actual vehicle emissions in towns and cities.
‘It provides car buyers with the answers they need to make the right purchasing choices, it makes the industry accountable to produce cleaner cars and gives cities and policy makers the accurate data to create fair policies.’
Politicians can for the first time bring in air-improvement plans ‘without penalising consumers unfairly because the vehicle that they bought in good faith is dirtier, on the road, than they were led to believe’, he said.
How does your car compare in the pollution stakes? Find out in the Air Index.
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