Comparing US and EU Approaches to Regulating Automotive Emissions and Fuel Economy

Following Volkswagen’s admission of circumventing emissions requirements, discussions have taken place on both sides of the Atlantic regarding test improvements to address the gap between lab-based test values and real-world observations.



April 26, 2016


Thomas Klier and Joshua Linn


Issue Brief

Reading time

1 minute

Key findings

  • Historically, the United States and European Union have taken different approaches to regulating passenger vehicle fuel economy and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, affecting choices of vehicle engines and fuels.
  • The Volkswagen emissions testing scandal will likely have broader implications for the regulation of fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions of other pollutants.
  • The scandal has led to a tightening of US emissions testing procedures, whereas EU regulators have responded to widespread noncompliance with current emissions standards by providing manufactures more time to adjust to upcoming standards.
  • Some have suggested giving more weight to real-world testing—that is, measuring emissions and fuel consumption from vehicles while on the road, possibly over their lifetimes and not just at the time of certification.


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