LCV Pollution Test Claims a Mercedes 17 Times Worse than VW

A clean air lobby group claims LCV emissions testing is failing to distinguish between a Mercedes that is 17-times more polluting than an equivalent Volkswagen van.

The study run by the AIR Alliance for its periodic AIR Index suggests a 2019 Volkswagen Crafter CR35 LWB High Roof 2.0-liter emitted 53 mg/km NOx, 72 mg during its on the road testing, less than the large-van (Class III) laboratory-based legal limit of 125 mg/km.

However, a 2019 Mercedes Citan 109 Blue Dualiner 1.5-liter emitted 902 mg/km of NOx, more than eight times the (Class II) light-van laboratory-based legal limit of 105 mg/km. Yet both vehicles are rated as the same Euro 6 compliant products.

While calling for tighter testing protocols, the organization places the real-world discrepancies in the hands of the automakers. It claims the power to dramatically and rapidly to improve emissions from dirty vans lies within the hands of the manufacturers.

It says when it commissioned tests of the Mercedes Vito CDI 111 LWB 1.6-liter, a simple manufacturer-led update of the vehicle’s emissions management system halved the NOx emissions when tested again.

The AIR Alliance commissioned tests for ten of Europe’s best-selling diesel light commercial vehicles using scientifically robust, on-road vehicle testing according to the latest CWA17379 methodology to give each vehicle a simple A-E colour-coded AIR Index rating, showing the difference between clean and dirty vehicles.

Volkswagen’s 2018 Caddy C20 Highline TDI 2.0-liter and Peugeot’s 2019 Partner Asphalt 1.6-liter both get an ‘A’ rating, as their on-road emissions fall below the 80 mg/km laboratory-based light van limit.

Mercedes also props up the bottom of the AIR Index league table with the 2017 Mercedes Vito CDI 111 LWB 1.6-liter Euro 6 recording an D rating at 566 mg/km of Nox, while the slightly better D rating saw two slots occupied by the 2018 Citroën Relay L3H2 Enterprise Blue HDi 2.0-liter and the 2019 Vauxhall/Opel Vivaro CDTI 2900 1.6-liter recording 557 mg/km and 401 mg/km Nox respectively.

The Alliance points out that LCV emissions have a major and increasing impact on urban air quality simply because they are used far more than cars. The average parcel van travels between 20,000 and 30,000 miles a year, while grocery home delivery vans can cover up to 50,000 miles per annum.

Vans are also the fastest-growing traffic segment, accounting for 70% of the growth in road-miles over the last 20 years. As internet shopping continues to grow, so do light van sales and their use on our roads. Every day there are 65,000 unique LCV journeys into London alone and vans contribute 15% of London traffic – and a higher proportion of diesel vehicular traffic.

Massimo Fedeli, co-founder and operations director, AIR said: “Light commercial vehicles play a vital role in moving goods quickly and efficiently around our cities and beyond. With the growth in internet shopping and the general Amazonization of retail, they are an ever-increasing part of our transport network and it’s crucial that only the cleanest vans are allowed to enter urban areas.

“AIR is calling on cities to supplement the use of Euro 6 standards for low emission zone entry – such as London’s own ULEZ – with the AIR Index database of real-world emissions results, to identify the dirtiest vans which are otherwise slipping through the net. By doing so, we believe the AIR Index could very quickly bring most European cities in line with air quality targets.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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