Common sense and cars don’t always mix

The EU, reasonably enough you might think, wants to cut emissions even further

Share

One of the most widespread fictions of our modern world is car fuel-economy numbers. We all know that it is almost impossible to reach the fuel consumption figures that cars advertise and with very good reason. The cars that are put into the EU tests have been prepared within an inch of their lives to get the lowest possible mileage and emissions results. So the manufacturers don’t just turn off the air-conditioning and retune the engines. They put specially thin oil in the engine, they tape over door handles to cut wind-resistance, they pump up the low-resistance tyres and even disconnect the alternator – everything to game the system.

You could say that since they all do it, this does not matter much. But now the EU, reasonably enough you might think, wants to cut emissions even further. The manufacturers are resisting it, again reasonably enough given their objectives. But shouldn’t the tests themselves be made more realistic? They date back to the 1970s, and if you genuinely want to improve efficiency and the environment the sensible thing is to have tests that reflect how people generally drive.

But of course this is not just a problem for the motor industry. It is a problem for just about every economic activity: if you set targets, you distort outcomes. You see this with hospital waiting lists, where GPs have to wait to get someone onto a waiting list. You see it with schools, which achieve higher grades for their students if they put them into “soft” subjects.

On the other hand, however, you have to measure if you want to manage, just as if you want to improve vehicle emissions you have to set limits. So what is the answer?

There is no simple one but there is perhaps a way forward. Part of that is to make tests more realistic; part is to align targets with what you really want to achieve; and part is to step back a little from the obsession with testing – and apply common sense instead.

h.mcrae@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'