The amount of harmful emissions released by cars has been a big news story over the last few years, fuelled by the various scandals over the last year that showed testing is not accurate. But now German scientists believe they have found a better testing method.

Every car releases a variety of chemicals into the environment, and lab testing simply doesn’t show how much is realised in genuine driving conditions. The new method developed by the German scientists aims to test cars as they move around the streets. Using a specially adapted van, they follow other cars around and ‘sniff’ out the emissions.

The air is taken in the front of the car and passed through a series of instruments located on the back seat of the van. GPS tacks the location, and a camera records the type of vehicle that is being measured. This provides a real world example of emissions and shows if the car’s technology is failing to reduce the amount of gasses released from the exhaust. The team has been driving around Mainz for two years testing this technology. And the findings have been extremely interesting. They took a special interest in oxides of nitrogen because these are the most harmful gasses released and in large volumes and constitute a serious health hazard. Showing huge variation in emissions, with some modern cars failing the high standards. This suggests that the computer systems have failed, which could be easily fixed in order to reduce emissions. However, in Mainz they discovered some of the worst offenders for nitrogen dioxide releases were busses.

They calculated that overall 7.6% of the city’s vehicles released more than 500 parts per billion. By simply removing these cars from the road it would lead to a reduction in emissions of 45%. In a world where we need to reduce the amount of gasses released into the environment, this would have a huge impact. This new testing method could have huge implications for the future of road travel. Being able to properly test emissions under real world conditions will demonstrate which vehicles are the worst offenders. Removing them will have a huge impact on the standard of air quality in our towns and cities; it will also be an incredibly positive move for the environment as a whole. Do you think testing vehicles like this will help reduce emissions? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.