Renault sells over-polluting diesels in Europe, group claims

In the wake of VW's emissions scandal, a German environmental group says more automakers than originally thought may be skirting Europe's regulatory system.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
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Renault Espace
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Renault Espace

Renault's Espace is under scrutiny.


The world may be an even dirtier place than you think.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a German environmental-protection group, has released allegations that Renault's popular Espace midsize crossover emits well over the legal amount of diesel emissions. If true, this is bad news for Renault and possibly worse news for the European Union's diesel testing procedures.

The environmental group recently commissioned a series of tests at a Swiss lab. When running with a warm or hot engine -- as most engines are when they're on the road -- the Renault Espace emitted 25 times the legal amount of nitrous oxide emissions, the same kind of emissions that landed Volkswagen in hot water in September. The findings (PDF), which have not yet been independently verified, do not necessarily point to the same sort of overt "defeat devices" found in Volkswagen's vehicles.

According to Reuters, tweaks, such as running tests with a cold engine, are tacitly allowed under EU rules.

Renault spokeswoman Maya Vautier described the group's findings as "not conclusive."

"The test procedures used by the University of Bern are not all compliant with European regulations," according to a Renault statement shared by Vautier. "The report shows important variations in test findings which are not conclusive and require 'additional measurement.' Renault is endeavoring to fully understand the tests in detail especially in light of the findings published in August 2015 by the independent German institute ADAC which tested the Espace model and concluded that it complied with regulations."

Renault Espace Testing

Deutsche Umwelthilfe's test results will need to be verified by outside organizations.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe

This isn't Deutsche Umwelthilfe's first attempt to dig up dirt on automakers that produce diesel vehicles. The group previously claimed that General Motors' Opel division also produces vehicles that pollute above legal limits. GM rejected the group's findings based on its own tests, which were conducted under the supervision of Germany's sanctioning body in charge of vehicle inspections.

If anything, the lobbying group's findings may be an indictment of the EU's testing procedures in general. The European Union has attempted to create a stricter system that requires on-road testing in real-world environments, but Germany has stifled those plans during committee talks thus far. These controversies might make revisiting the current system all but inevitable.