I’m just back from a very interesting trip to the Hyundai Kia European Research and Development Centre. Based in Opel’s home town of Rüsselsheim, it’s home to a substantial powertrain development centre, as well as a big design studio.
We were shown around some of the centre’s test beds by Dr Joachim Hahn, including the lab where the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) fuel economy tests are replicated. Like most drivers, I’ve long been suspicious of the NEDC figures, which don’t seem to relate to the real world.
So I asked Dr Hahn about the NEDC and the conditions in which the test are carried out. Incredibly, cars are tested in ambient temperatures of 25degC (77degF) after being ‘pre-conditioned’, or warmed up. Of course, warm summer days are rather better for fuel consumption that freezing conditions, when oil is thicker and internal friction greater. Hahn said tests at -10degC showed real-world consumption was "much worse" than in normal conditions.
Dr Hahn also revealed that the car industry was currently in negotiations with the European authorities about changing the parameters for the NEDC, by "starting the test at a cooler temperature and making it more dynamic". Which, translated, means making the tests just a little more like real-world conditions.