Green NCAP: from safety to sustainability

Everyone knows Euro NCAP which assesses the safety of cars in the event of an accident. In the age of sustainability, this is who ranks the greenest cars

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It was created as a spin-off of Euro NCAP but it will quite likely gradually overcome it in terms of importance: Green NCAP is the consortium that aims to replicate the activities of the organisation created to assess the safety of cars in the environmental field. Euro NCAP has undoubtedly become the benchmark, with increasingly challenging standards which are in any case ever more difficult to achieve than the minimum standards set by the official homologation systems. Green NCAP wants to emulate it by testing the environmental performance of a car, in the form of a constantly evolving specification and independent test facilities, totally unrelated to the market.

Stars are used in this case too

Why is this becoming so important? Simple. Safety has definitely evolved, so much so that in the last sessions most cars have earned 5 stars, which is the top recognition, while the others still reached 4. The situation on the environmental front is very different, and the market still has problems in this respect. What's more, Green NCAP takes into account the entire life cycle of the vehicle, not just the atmospheric emissions associated with its use. These, however, constitute the most significant parameter to determine the final score. To give an overall assessment of environmental sustainability, three different indices have been defined: ‘Clean Air' (harmful emissions), ‘Energy efficiency' and ‘Greenhouse Gas' (climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions). Several tests are conducted for each index, both on the road and in the laboratory, so that various scores are obtained which, combined, determine the complete result of the car. The maximum score - just as for safety - is 5 stars out of 5.

ACI and CSI Automotive in the consortium

Green NCAP includes FIA – the International Car Federation - and several governmental and technical bodies as well as several motoring clubs. Italy's members include Aci and CSI Automotive. An essential factor: the cars chosen for the test are purchased incognito from normal dealerships to be sure they are the same cars that end up in the hands of regular customers. The tests are conducted in the laboratory and on the road using the WLTC standards as a starting point, but they are much more thorough. For those conducted in a lab, for instance, a reference temperature of 14 °C is used- but with the lights and the air conditioning on - and using a wider range of loads for the engine with speeds of up to 130 km/h and multiple accelerations from 80 to 130 km/h. The tests also assess the functionality of the systems by repeating the same procedure several times under different temperature conditions, and also changing the driving modes which can be set on board the vehicle.

From now until 2030

The road tests are even more probative. For starters, compared to those envisaged by the WLTC, the temperature range is from -7 to 35 °C instead of 0-30 °C and the range in height above sea level is 0-1,300 metres a.s.l. instead of 0-700 metres a.s.l. The measurements, just as in the RDE (Real Driving Emissions) tests envisaged by the WLTC, are conducted with the aid of a portable system called a PEMS (Portable Emissions Measurement System) and installed directly in the vehicle. Green NCAP is also responsible for measuring all forms of resistance that the vehicle has to overcome – mass, aerodynamics, mechanics (transmission) and rolling of tyres – to assess how much of the energy produced by the powertrain is actually transformed into motion. Standards, however, are constantly evolving, and the Green NCAP has already set a roadmap by 2030 that will culminate in a complete well-to-wheel assessment (never this thorough) which will require even more sophisticated tools and testing. The future, moreover, will be directly linked to the environment.