The AAA on-road emission testing pilot

The Volkswagen (VW) Emissions scandal of 2015 demonstrated the weakness in Australia’s emissions regulation system.

It highlighted that:

  • the Australian Government does no Australian-based independent emissions testing to ensure vehicles comply with the Australian Design Rules in relation to noxious emissions
  • it relies on testing conducted in overseas laboratories, sometimes by manufacturers
  • the current system is open to manipulation and as result Australian consumers and the environment are not being properly protected.

In the wake of the VW revelations the AAA decided to invest $500,000 in an 18-month pilot, on-road testing program. The program is measuring the emissions produced by 30 vehicles when driven on Australian roads using Australian fuels and is comparing these with the emissions limits for these vehicles when tested in the laboratories of the US, Europe and Asia.

The AAA released results of the first ten vehicles tested in December 2016.

Preliminary results

  • The real-world fuel consumption of vehicles tested was on average 20% higher than the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) results, with the highest measured being 35% greater.
  • Vehicle pollutant emissions were exceeded for the following:
    • CO by 4 times the legislated laboratory limit by one vehicle
    • NOx by nearly twice the limit on one vehicle and 3% on another

You can view the preliminary report by Melbourne Engineering Consultants, ABMARC


To date, the AAA pilot on-road emissions test program has determined that:

  • It may not be possible to rely on tests conducted in overseas jurisdictions to ensure the compliance of Australia’s light duty fleet, as many vehicles (or vehicle configurations) sold in Australia are not available in Europe.
  • It is not possible to meet all the requirements of the European Real Driving Emissions test schedule on Australian roads due to differing traffic and speed conditions. Therefore European Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedures may need to be adapted to Australian conditions (as they have been for this pilot program – see below).

Based on the above:

  • The AAA is of the view that with the Government actively considering the implementation of stricter standards for Australia’s vehicle emissions and fuel sectors through the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions, it is critical that real-world testing is also introduced to ensure motorists aren’t asked to pay more for regulation that fails to deliver environmental benefit.
  • The AAA notes that the European Union is currently transitioning away from relying solely on laboratory testing to improve the effectiveness of its emissions regulatory model and encourages the Australian Government to do likewise.

About the AAA pilot testing program

Consulting Engineers – ABMARC

The AAA engaged independent Melbourne-based engineering firm ABMARC to conduct the pilot program. ABMARC’s clients include vehicle manufacturers, motoring clubs, energy companies, media organisations and government agencies.

Test methodology

ABMARC consulted with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) to develop a test procedure based on European RDE standards, but adapted to Australian conditions.

Test equipment

ABMARC has Australia's only Portable Emissions Measurement System (PEMS) which complies with US EPA and European Commission standards. PEMS is being used in the AAA testing program. PEMS provides laboratory accuracy and repeatability to the measurement of particulates, gaseous emissions and fuel consumption from engines in the field. PEMS can be used to test diesel, petrol, natural gas and LPG engines.

Vehicle Selection

Vehicles have been selected to represent Australia’s new vehicle fleet. The first 10 test vehicles have been tested. Amongst the first 10, one vehicle was tested in two configurations (petrol and LPG), meaning 11 test sequences had been conducted to December 2016.

The 30 vehicles to be tested throughout the program have been selected to:

  • Maximise the representation of Australia’s new vehicle fleet
  • Cover a representative range of:
    • Manufacturers
    • Vehicle segments
    • Fuel types
    • Include vehicles of interest by:
      • Technology
      • Fuel type
      • Low volume, new market entries and models not sold into Europe or the USA

All vehicles tested were chosen based on the following criteria:

  • The current model is available in Australia
  • The vehicle tested has driven at least 2,000 km but no more than 50,000 km
  • The actual test vehicle is a 2014 year model or newer

Vehicles tested were taken from the general service fleet.

Test Procedure

The test route is based on the current draft Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test procedure developed by the JRC, and meets requirements specified by the draft RDE procedure and EC No 2016_427 Annex IIIA Part 6, modified to Australian roads and conditions and conducted in and around Melbourne, Victoria. The urban segment was completed in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs, with the rural and Freeway driving segments being completed on the Monash freeway between Melbourne and Dandenong.

In line with the European RDE procedure, the drive route consists of approximately one third urban, one third rural and one third freeway, with no less than 16 km distance travelled in each of the three segments, lasting between 90 and 120 minutes in duration. The actual trip distance was 83 km and duration of approximately 105 min. The test is conducted twice, bringing total measurement time to approximately 210 minutes, which is the equivalent of more than 10 laboratory tests using the New European Drive Cycle