Plan to catch diesel pollution cheats

Summary

Drivers who remove the soot traps from their diesel-fuelled cars to avoid costly replacements or repairs will soon be caught by inspection centres

Keep it clean

Flanders is taking steps to identify drivers who illegally remove the soot filters from diesel cars, or who fail to maintain them properly. Diesel particulate filters are required by law, but if not serviced regularly can reduce vehicle performance or result in hefty repair or replacement bills.

Some motorists get around this by removing the filters, or carry on driving regardless. They are rarely caught because the tests used in vehicle inspection centres are not up to the job. So the first part of the government campaign will be to find new methods that are more effective.

Opacity meters, infra-red heat cameras, and on-board diagnostics have all been found wanting. Now the choice is between counting and weighing the particles in the exhaust.

Random testing

Up to now, these methods have only been tested in the laboratory, and little is known about how they perform in long-term, practical use. The trial announced on Monday will evaluate them side-by-side in vehicle inspection centres across the country.

“At least one inspection centre in each region will be able to experiment, in real working conditions, with prototypes of the most accurate measuring devices currently being developed,” explained Flemish transport minister Ben Weyts. Naturally the inspection centres where these techniques will be tested is being kept a secret.

“Over six months, we aim to check 10,000 vehicles” Weyts went on. “After an evaluation, the regions can then purchase the most suitable devices in larger numbers and make them available to all the inspection centres.”

A budget of €340,000 has been given to vehicle testing association Goca to carry out the trial.

Photo: Mobility minister Ben Weyts tests new methods of detecting the absence of a soot filter
©Benoit Doppagne/BELGA