The point of an emissions standards is to reduce emissions, but as a new report from The Guardian notes, the tests used to enforce those standards are doing next to nothing for keeping our air clean.

New real-world tests from the independent testing company Emissions Analytics found that four more carmakers (Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi) blew way more toxic NOx out of their tailpipes than the European Union’s emissions standards allow. Particularly damning is that all of these cars passed the EU’s official emissions tests.

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The EU’s tests (called the NEDC) are much like those in the United States: they are performed in a lab environment and they do not reflect how cars actually operate in our day-to-day lives.

None of these cars have ‘defeat devices’ like in Volkswagen’s dieselgate dramas; they seem to just have very particular tuning to operate better in the test than in the real world.

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The Guardian reached out for comment from all of the manufacturers and their answers are illuminating.

Mercedes: “Since real-world driving conditions do not generally reflect those in the laboratory, the consumption figures may differ from the standardised figures.”

Honda: “Honda tests vehicles in accordance with European legislation.”

Mazda: “In compliance with the law, Mazda works hard to ensure that every petrol and diesel engine it makes fully complies with the regulations.”

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Mitsubishi: “The NEDC was never intended to represent real-world driving.”

It’s not hard to see what they’re saying. Carmakers are passing the tests, it’s just that the tests aren’t actually doing much to clean any air outside of a dyno room.

As the EU and the U.S. push for stricter standards, it’s important to remember that it means little if the tests aren’t fixed, either.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (VW diesel exhaust pictured)


Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.