Funded by a $14 million commitment from the government, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) had begun a “Real World Test” to evaluate with greater accuracy new vehicle performance on the nation’s roads.
“Overseas lab testing for fuel use and vehicle emissions doesn’t reflect the actual results of driving on Australian roads. And, often, the differences are substantial,” according to the AAA.
Cars sold in Australia aren’t necessarily the same as those sold in other markets, the group points out. “Australian driving conditions also differ. We have lower highway speeds; 50km/h rather than 30km/h urban speed limits; and a hotter climate.”
The real world program is designed to provide Australians businesses and households more precise information about the vehicles and their running costs, “to make more informed decisions about which new cars have the lowest impact on the environment and budgets,” says the AAA.
Fleet Managers to Play Big Role
Fleet managers will play in a big role in the program’s success, AAA Managing Director Michael Bradley told the Australasian Fleet Management Association (AfMA)
“Fleet managers are well-informed and influential in the market,” Bradley said. “We expect the testing program will influence their purchasing decisions. This will not only have a near-term impact on the new-vehicle market — within a few years it will make a big difference in the second-hand market.”
The AAA says several fleet managers have already shown interest in lending vehicles for testing, and it expects the sector’s participation to grow as the program progresses.
“More and more fleet managers are understanding how the program can benefit their organizations and Australia as a whole,” Bradley told AfMA. “They can see the payoffs from supporting real-world testing.”
Car-Mounted Testing Equipment Measures Fuel Consumption & Emissions
The program will use prescribed testing protocols based on the European Commission’s Real Driving Emissions test procedure, adapted for Australian driving conditions.
Testing is conducted on real public roads with a Portable Emissions Measurement System fitted to the vehicles to measure fuel consumption and tail-pipe emissions, such as greenhouse gases and pollutants affecting air quality, including solid particles and oxides of nitrogen.
An AAA pilot study found, on average, the cars tested in the real world used 23% more fuel than in lab tests. The worst result was 59% above the lab test. Only three out of 30 cars used the same amount of fuel on the road as they did in the lab. In addition, 11 out of 12 diesels tested were over the regulated lab limit for nitrogen oxide. One model’s emissions were seven times the legal lab limit.
The AAA will use test information to build a “comprehensive” database to encourage OEM response, envisioning a possible decline i“the divergence between laboratory and real-world performance.”
Initially focusing on evaluating 60 new-vehicle models annually, the test procedure can apply equally to electric vehicles. However, the program will initially focus on the best-selling vehicle models, which are generally fitted with internal combustion engines or hybrid technology.
More information and test results on evaluated vehicle makes and models are available by signing up for the AAA mailing list.