The European Commission is set to accept new emissions rules after a protest against their leniency was rejected by lawmakers.
Earlier this year, members of the European Parliament had rebuffed a proposal to require on-road emissions testing for new vehicles, because it also allowed carmakers to exceed emissions limits.
While that protest against the proposed rules--announced in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel scandal--gained some momentum, there weren't enough votes in Parliament to sustain it.
The draft motion for a resolution that would alter the proposed rules was rejected by 323 votes to 317, with 61 abstentions.
The new rules may be flawed, but lawmakers believe they will at least provide some greater regulation of emissions testing, said Giovanni La Via--chair of the EU's Envrionment Committee--in a statement.
"A proposal for a long-term reform of the EU approval regime for cars is also on the table, as requested by Parliament," he noted.
The rules will require carmakers to conduct on-road emissions testing alongside laboratory tests, making it harder for them to cheat as Volkswagen did with "defeat device" software in its diesel engines to let engines behave very differently in real-world conditions.
But manufacturers will also get leeway to exceed existing legal limits of nitrogen oxides (NOx) on the new tests into the 2020s.
That's because the revised regulations allow for discrepancies in testing--fairly large ones.
Beginning in September 2017, automakers will only be required to bring down that discrepancy to a "conformity factor" of 2.1--or 110 percent of the legal limit.
This rule will also apply to every new vehicle certified two years later.
In January 2020, the conformity factor will be tightened to 1.5--50 percent above the legal limit--applying to all new vehicles starting in January 2021.
2015 Peugeot 208 with textured paint finish
EU officials say this leniency is necessary because of "technical uncertainties" related to the more widespread use of Portable Emissions Measurement System (PEMS) devices for the on-road testing.
A PEMS device is essentially a scaled-down version of the equipment used to monitor emissions in laboratory testing. It's small enough to be mounted on a vehicle for on-road testing.
These devices are already in use in both Europe and the U.S., but generally only as a backup to confirm laboratory tests in specific cases.
Since Volkswagen's "defeat device" software allowed cars to detect that a laboratory test was underway and temporarily alter performance, there's been a push for more on-road testing.
Now that the challenge to the proposed rules has been silenced, the next step is for the Environment Committee to hold a public hearing on the proposed emissions-testing rules. That hearing will take place February 23.
Separately, the EU is also seeking to increase its power over national car regulations.
2016 Opel Astra Sports Tourer
A new plan would empower the EU to demand spot checks on vehicles, start recalls, and fine carmakers, even if a member state does not take action, according to Reuters.
The proposal would also provide a funding pool for individual national testing agencies, and would let the EU fine testing bodies it deems too lax--or even suspend their licenses.
Lawmakers believe this will help eliminate any unethical relationships between testing agencies and carmakers.
But the proposal is expected to be met with significant opposition from countries, which view simply view it as a power grab by the EU government.