South Korea to Introduce Real-World Diesel Emissions Tests

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By Elaine Ramirez

South Korea will implement a new on-the-road emissions test for new diesel passenger vehicles sold in the country later this year, replacing the type of laboratory tests that were at the heart of the global “dieselgate” scandal, and which have been found to consistently understate actual pollution.

The National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER), under the Ministry of Environment, said April 4 that it will begin using a portable diesel exhaust gas measurement device in September. The technology will analyze pollutants while testing on outdoor roads rather than at indoor laboratories.

The testing could be the first of its kind being used to determine a diesel vehicle model’s official emissions level, NIER said.

Diesel vehicles account for 29 percent of the sources of fine particulate matter (PM-2.5) pollution in Korean cities, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. And nearly 42 percent of all vehicles on South Korean roads are diesel-powered, the ministry said.

‘Dieselgate’ Fallout

Volkswagen’s global scandal of cheating emissions tests, which began in the U.S., led to Korean investigations into 23 foreign automakers last year.

The Ministry of Environment banned the sale of 10 models by Nissan Motor Co., BMW AG and Volkswagen AG’s Porsche in January when investigators said the automakers fabricated documents related to emission tests. Last August, it blocked sales of 80 Volkswagen models, saying the automaker fabricated documents related to emissions and noise-level tests.

A 2016 survey on diesel cars found nitrogen oxide emissions in actual road tests as much as seven times higher than the indoor certification standards, NIER said. Findings in the EU and by other governments also have shown wide discrepancies between laboratory and real-world diesel emissions.

September Start

South Korea’s system will be applied to diesel passenger vehicles that are introduced into the market, regardless of where they are manufactured, beginning in September. That will include new model-year versions of existing passenger vehicle models.

The emission standard for nitrogen oxides will be set at 0.168 grams per kilometer of driving compared to the current indoor-test certification of 0.08 grams per kilometer.

The less-stringent standard is an acknowledgment of the real-world versus laboratory discrepancy. It is still a 70 percent reduction from the average of 0.56 grams per kilometer detected in NIER’s 2016 road survey.

NIER has been running on-the-road emission evaluations around Seoul and neighboring Incheon since March in conjunction with six automakers—including GM Korea, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai Motor—and analyzing the combined test data.

“While the outdoor road test is promising, it is a new method, so cooperation between the government and automobile manufacturers is essential for successful introduction,” Kim Jeong-soo, director of the NIER’s Transportation Pollution Research Center, said in a statement. ”The reduction of nitrous oxides in diesel vehicles will significantly reduce the amount of fine dust.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elaine Ramirez in Seoul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The announcement is available, in Korean, at

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