WLTP standard: our experts explain

WLTP corporate fleet standard

The WLTP standard is having an impact on the purchasing process for both private individuals and companies. The new regulations on pollutant emissions are having an ever-increasing impact on the way we buy a vehicle. Pollutant emission levels are a condition for obtaining subsidies when the vehicle is "clean". On the other hand, additional costs are incurred when the vehicle is too polluting, according to criteria set by the government.

Drivers are also more concerned than they were 40 years ago about the environmental issues involved in using a vehicle. Fuel consumption and pollutant emission levels are therefore sometimes decisive factors in the vehicle purchasing process.

But how do manufacturers manage to obtain the figures they communicate on fuel consumption and pollutant emissions from their vehicles?

What's the impact on consumption and vehicle fleets?

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Vehicles are tested in what is known as an "automotive driving cycle". In other words, vehicles are tested under more or less realistic driving conditions on chassis dynamometers, as shown in the image below:

WLTP standard

In July 1973, a European directive introduced the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) cycle. Until 2018, this cycle was used to measure fuel consumption and pollutant emissions. The new WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure) standard began in March 2020. 

 

Before you start: What is the new WLTP standard?

The WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure) is a new standard for measuring fuel consumption and emissions of CO2 and other pollutants by vehicles. It replaces the old procedure, the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle), which has been in use since 1973 and is considered to be too far removed from actual vehicle CO2 emissions.

The WLTP standard has a dual purpose:

  1. Calculate a vehicle's fuel consumption and CO2 emissions
  2. To authorize its arrival on the automotive market. The vehicle must pass the procedure to be approved.

The results are closer to real-life use on the road. If the vehicle is not up to standard, it will not leave the factory and will have to be adapted.

 

How does a WLTP test work?

Like the NEDC, the WLTP protocol is carried out in a laboratory on a chassis dynamometer, but is much more precise than its predecessor.

However, the driving sequences differ to approximate actual vehicle operating conditions:

WLTP NEDC
Test duration
30 minutes
20 minutes
Distance covered
23.25 km
11 km
Average speed
46.5 km/h
34 km/h
Maximum speed
131 km/h
120 km/h
Drive type
Gear changes adapted to the vehicle
Similar gear changes for all vehicles
Driving location

52% urban
48% non-urban

66% urban
34% non-urban
Temperature
14°C at start then 23°C
14°C at start then 23°C
Other
Taking into account the weight of options
-

As the tests are different, the results differ between the NEDC and WLTP cycles, particularly in terms of CO2 emissions.

The more precise WLTP standard offers better environmental protection. CO2 emissions measured under WLTP are 24% to 31% higher, according to Challengesbut also much closer to reality.

What exactly is the old NEDC standard?

The NEDC is a driving cycle consisting of a 20-minute simulation (19 min and 40 seconds to be precise). It is divided into 2 parts, each consisting of acceleration and deceleration, and constant speed increments.

1. Driving in an urban environment

The urban cycle is divided into 4 identical sequences, each lasting exactly 3 minutes and 15 seconds. The vehicle performs 3 successive accelerations, the first from 0 to 15 km/h, the second from 0 to 32 km/h and the last from 0 to 50 km/h. These accelerations are therefore particularly low, especially when you consider the acceleration capabilities of today's vehicles and the acceleration of drivers in real-life conditions.

2. Driving in extra-urban environments

The extra-urban cycle follows the urban cycle. It also involves slow acceleration, but also the maintenance of specific speeds. This cycle lasts precisely 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Whereas in the urban cycle, only the first 3 gears are used, in the extra-urban cycle, 4ᵉ gear is used, notably for the 50 km/h stop, which this time lasts 70 seconds. Maximum speed is set at 120 km/h, which corresponds to the freeway speed limit in most European countries.

WLTP standard
Vehicle speed in different NEDC cycles

What are the limits of the NEDC?

As mentioned above, the NEDC test cycles do not really reflect the acceleration of vehicles during during use by drivers. The low level of acceleration contrasts with actual use by drivers. As a result, the simulation is inaccurate, particularly when it comes to fuel consumption.

What's more, the NEDC tests do not take into account the impact of vehicle equipment. In fact, equipment such as air conditioning, radio, headlights, heating, etc., all have an influence on the vehicle's actual fuel consumption. But when a driver uses his car, he also uses its equipment. So, once again, the simulation is not faithful to how the vehicle is used in real-life conditions.

Finally, the NEDC includes a number of stages where the vehicle runs at a stable speed. To optimize NEDC results, automakers simply need to optimize gear ratios at these stages. However, driving at steady speeds is very rare. Drivers are often forced to downshift, which increases the vehicle's fuel consumption. Once again, the NEDC simulation does not reflect actual vehicle use, and is therefore unable to provide relevant results on fuel consumption and pollutant emissions.

Because of the wide gap between laboratory results and actual fuel consumption and pollutant emissions, the European Union and other countries around the world, such as India and Japan, have decided to introduce two new test cycles that are more closely aligned with actual vehicle use: WLTP (World harmonized Light vehicle Tis Procedure) and RDE (Real Driving Emissions).

 
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What are the differences between the WLTP standard and the NEDC cycle?

To better reflect actual vehicle use, the WLTP standard differs from the NEDC standard on a number of points.

 

Longer test times

While the NEDC lasts just under 20 minutes, the WLTP lasts 30 minutes. In fact, the NEDC is divided into 2 phases, whereas the WLTP is divided into 4 more dynamic phases, with increased acceleration and deceleration. The split between urban and extra-urban driving is also more balanced.

Longer distances covered

Over the entire test cycle, the vehicle travels 11 km under the NEDC standard, compared with 23.25 km under the WLTP standard.

Reduced downtime

Of the total cycle time, time spent at a standstill accounted for 25% under the NEDC. This will fall to 13% under the WLTP standard.

Higher average speed

The vehicle's average driving speed under the NEDC was just 34km/h over 11km. With the WLTP standard, the average speed rises to 46.6 km/h over 23km.

Higher maximum speed

The maximum speed achieved by the vehicle under the NEDC was limited to 120km/h. Under the WLTP, this maximum speed is 131km/h.

Tests carried out under more realistic climatic conditions

Under the NEDC, measurements were taken at a temperature of between 20° and 30° throughout the test. Under the WLTP standard, measurements must be taken at 14° at start-up and then at 23°.

Gear changes adapted to vehicles

Whereas gear changes were similar for all vehicles under the NEDC, the new WLTP standard adapts gear changes to the vehicle under test. Driving situations are therefore extended (on freeways, expressways, urban and suburban driving, etc.).

Weight and equipment taken into account

Whereas the NEDC did not take into account the weight or impact of equipment such as air conditioning, heating or headlights on a vehicle's fuel consumption, the WLTP will, depending on the model, adjust the results by taking into account the influence of such equipment.

Main differences between the two test procedures.

 

 

NEDC

WLTP

Test cycle

Single test cycle

Dynamic test cycle more faithful to real-life vehicle use.

Test duration

20 minutes

30 minutes

Distance covered

11 km

23.25 km

Driving sequences

2 sequences: urban driving (66%) and extra-urban driving (34%)

4 sequences: freeway, expressway, urban, suburban. Urban driving 52%, extra-urban driving 48%.

Average speed

34 km/h

46.5 km/h

Maximum speed

120 km/h

131 km/h

Taking options into account

NEDC does not take into account options and their impact on pollutant emissions and fuel consumption

WLTP takes into account the different vehicle equipment that can influence pollutant emissions and fuel consumption.

Speed change

Gear changes are pre-determined and fixed

Passage points are determined by vehicle characteristics

Test temperature

Measurements are taken at temperatures ranging from 20° to 30°.

Measurements are taken at 23° and then corrected to 14° for CO2.

The RDE complements the WLTP standard

The WLTP standard is supplemented by the RDE (Real Driving Emissions). This consists of a test under real driving conditions to measure CO2 emissions. A measuring device is placed on the vehicle for the duration of the test.

The vehicle is driven for a maximum of 2 hours. The course is divided into 3 zones:

  • Urban. With a maximum speed of 60 km/h
  • Extra-Urban. With a maximum speed of 90 km/h
  • Highway. With a maximum speed of 145 km/h

For this test, the outside temperature must be between -7° and 35°, and the altitude must not exceed 1300m.

RDE 2 controls the rate of nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles.

 

Why are we talking about it today?

If the emissions measured for a vehicle are higher, then the consequences are manifold, particularly for professionals:

The calculation of the ecological bonus/malus varies according to the vehicle's CO2 emissions. The ecological malus is a tax imposed on the driver if he or she emits too much CO2 (grams per kilometer).

This calculation used to be based on NEDC results.
This changed on March 1, 2020 and is now done using WLTP results.

To date, vehicles emitting less than 138g/km have no environmental penalty.

Thereafter, it varies from €50 for 138g/km to €20,000 for 216g/km and over.

By switching to the WLTP standard, polluting vehicles will have a much higher ecological penalty than before.

The Taxe sur l'affectation des véhicules de tourisme à des fins économiques is an annual tax paid by all profit-making companies. These companies, having their registered office in France or an establishment in France, own, use or lease private cars (for passenger transport) or multipurpose vehicles (for passenger transport).

The tax is calculated on the basis of the vehicle's age, power rating and CO2 emissions.
By switching to the WLTP standard, the tax on the use of passenger vehicles for economic purposes will be much higher for professionals, and in particular for fleets of passenger vehicles.

SUV example: from 115 g/km (NDEC) to 145 g/km (WLTP): Tax on the use of passenger vehicles for economic purposes increases from €517 to €1,885.

By switching to the WLTP standard, the annual cost of a vehicle for a company increases by €1,747 per year.

 

What are the practical consequences for drivers?

The switch from NEDC to WLTP results in an increase of 34% increase in CO2 emissions. The is higher, which is problematic for drivers.

The WLTP standard is likely to persuade professionals and private individuals alike to switch to clean vehicles in the years to come, if the tax system doesn't adapt to the new results.

 

A soaring TCO

TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) is a very important piece of data for a company, enabling it to estimate the overall cost of a vehicle. TCO includes :

  • Financing (purchase, mileage allowance, long-term leasing, etc.),
  • Services (insurancetires, servicing, maintenance, telematics...),
  • Fuel and taxation (bonus/malus, benefits in kind, etc.),
  • Other expenses (repair costs, parking, company car tax, etc.).

By switching to the WLTP standard, a company's TCO for polluting vehicles rises sharply due to the increase in the ecological penalty and the tax on the use of passenger vehicles for economic purposes.

This has even greater consequences when you own a fleet of polluting vehicles.

Read the feature : TCO (Total cost of ownership): how to calculate and optimize it?

What's the right solution for my company?

The aim of switching to the WLTP standard is to provide more accuraterange, fuel consumption and emissions values, closer to reality.
The aim is also to renew the vehicle fleet by switching to low CO2 emission vehicles. The LOM law encourages fleet renewal by imposing several measures several measures toincrease the number of clean vehicles in corporate fleets fleets:

  • Those with a total fleet weight of less than 3.5 tonnes will have to acquire cleaner vehicles when renewing their fleets each year; with CO2 emissions below 60 g/km.
  • Companies with more than 100 vehicles must have 10% of their fleets equipped with electric vehicles by January 2022, 20% by January 2024, 35% by 2027 and 50% by 2030.


The main solution is to switch to low-emission vehicles, particularly electric vehicles, when renewing vehicles or fleets.
Don't forget that when buying a new vehicle, you need to think about its value at the time of resale. A polluting diesel-powered vehicle will be increasingly difficult to resell on the second-hand market, especially as diesel will be banned in France by 2030.

 
 

In a nutshell

The WLTP standard replaces the old NEDC vehicle homologation cycle. The latter was not faithful enough to actual vehicle use, and did not provide relevant measurements of fuel consumption and pollutant emissions, particularly CO2.

This new WLTP standard has an impact on vehicle TCO due to vehicle taxation, given the rise in CO2 emission figures.

Since 2021, with the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard, automakers have been obliged to innovate in favor of their customers by offering models with the right CO2 emission levels.

 
 

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Picture of Anaëlle Babled
Anaëlle Babled

By writing articles, I aim to help private individuals and professionals make the switch to electric vehicles and promote the development of soft mobility.

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