On the way to “real-world” CO2 values: The European passenger car market in its first year after introducing the WLTP
More information, less emissions
Buying a car can be bothersome, especially with a tight budget. One can spend weeks on used car sites searching for offers that match certain criteria, while enduring the unpleasant feeling that scams are lurking everywhere. The fact that, in Europe, official fuel (or electricity) consumption values deviate significantly from what drivers experience on the road doesn’t make it any easier, especially considering that fuel costs are among the top three factors influencing the purchase decision in many countries. And, not to forget, a car’s environmental performance is becoming increasingly important to consumers. Fortunately, finding the right car or, more precisely, the truly most efficient, greenest car for one’s needs, is now easier thanks to the new independent informational website, MILE21.eu.
MILE21 is the result of cooperation between several European consumer organizations and research institutions (including ICCT) to provide consumers with real-world information on vehicle fuel and electricity consumption and, thus, compensate for the current shortcomings of official sources. With the motto “More Information, Less Emissions,” MILE21 aims to help car buyers make informed purchase decisions while encouraging them to choose more efficient, less polluting vehicle models. The platform, which is co-funded by the LIFE program of the European Commission, offers realistic consumption estimates for over 9,200 car models sold in the European market, with new models being regularly incorporated to the database. In addition, it allows registered users to track their own fuel consumption and provides information on how to improve it for their specific models and driving conditions.
The website is an important step towards empowering car buyers in Europe, where the Dieselgate scandal still resonates and many actions for collective redress have not yet succeeded. Ultimately, MILE21 attempts to fill the information gap resulting from the discrepancy between official fuel consumption figures and actual fuel use for new cars in Europe. This gap is well documented: The average deviation between official and real-world fuel consumption increased from approximately 8% for new cars registered in 2001 to around 39% for those registered in 2017. Although the switch to certification under the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure in 2018 narrowed the gap between official and real-world fuel consumption substantially, the new procedure remains vulnerable to distortions like those observed in the former New European Driving Cycle which led to the increasing deviation. Not only do the fluctuating values not allow for reliable comparisons between vehicle models and production years, but the discrepancies result in additional fuel expenses of about 400 EUR per year.
In contrast, the fuel and electricity consumption estimates used for the MILE21 site are based on analysis of real-world fuel and electricity consumption data for hundreds of thousands of vehicles and thousands of hours of on-road emission measurements. Statistical models, built by MILE21 partner TNO on this large real-world driving dataset, predict real-world consumption based on a combination of vehicle specifications, such as mass and engine power, and user-related input like average trip length or share of highway driving. In addition, TNO models are complemented by a physical model developed by the Laboratory of Applied Thermodynamics of Aristotle University Thessaloniki and the engineering company Emisia. Through the site’s fuel and electricity consumption logbook service, MILE21 also contributes to the collection of large-scale real-world data, which is needed to monitor discrepancies between official and on-road consumption figures and evaluate whether official CO2 emissions reduction targets are being met on the road, and not just on paper.
MILE21 is inspired by the website fueleconomy.gov, a service run by the U.S. government that stands out worldwide as a best-practice example of how to provide information to consumers. Until now, no similar official and comprehensive platform has existed in the European Union. MILE21 is an important step forward that, with adequate government support, including model-specific data collected by mandatory on-board monitoring devices, could establish itself as the much needed one-stop service for consumer information on cars’ efficiency in Europe.
MILE21 tools are currently embedded in the websites of four consumer organizations: Altroconsumo in Italy, OCU in Spain, DECO Proteste in Portugal, and Test-Achats in Belgium. Alternatively, they can also be accessed via mile21.eu, where all resources are available in English, French, and German. In addition, MILE21 can be accessed through the homepage of the Greek consumer organization KEPKA.
The project MILE21 is co-funded by the LIFE Program of the European Union: agreement number LIFE17 GIC/GR/000128.