Dieselgate– the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal

Posted By on September 23, 2015

As a long time advocate for long running and efficient diesel engines, vwsymbolI’m appalled to hear Volkswagen purposely cheated on emissions testing. I’ve been someone who has taken pride in the huge advancements diesel engine manufacturers and fuel refineries have made in the past decade (kicking and screaming) and have regularly posted stories in this regard. This scandal is indeed a major setback, not only for VW and all who’s livelihood stems from the company, but also for those of us who herald the diesel engine for passenger vehicles and light trucks/SUVs here in the U.S. One can only conclude in seeing the obvious, “what were they thinking?”

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What happened?

Allegedly Volkswagen created software for their TDI diesel engines used in their Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Passat models (and used in Audi’s A3) that circumvented the “rolling road” (dynamometer) testing set-ups and helped the smaller diesel engines pass ICCT and EPA CARB tests permitting them to be sold in the U.S. Volkswagen even ran ad campaign touting their “clean diesels.” All was right with the diesel world since these highly efficient (40-50 mpg) vehicles were selling well and helping to make Volkswagen the number one vehicle manufacturer in the world.

In the meantime back in 2014, West Virginia University uncovered a discrepancy in NOx emissions between their dynamometer testing and real world driving. The “road test” was producing 15 to 35 times the legal limit on their Jetta TDI test vehicle. Similar for the Passat TDI; it was producing 5 to 20 times the legal limit. In December 2014, Volkswagen duplicated the flaws and “claimed it discovered the reason” and recalled 500,000 vehicles in order to fix them with a software update. After this recall “fix” … CARB still found the vehicles were not in compliance.  In May of 2015, the EPA and CARB opened an inquiry and demanded proof from VW that they solved these real-world emission issues before they would certify the new 2016 TDI models. VW gave excuses until they finally admitted that they installed a “defeat device” which “reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system.” (EPA description)  

Where are thing now?

So let’s be clear about this: our company was dishonest with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, and with all of you. [I]n my German words, we’ve totally screwed up. We must fix those cars, and prevent this from ever happening again, and we have to make things right—with the government, the public, our customers, our employees, and also very importantly our dealers.

You can be sure that we will continue not only to correct this TDI issue, and to straighten things out, and to pay what we have to pay, and we will continue to work very hard to make our story in the US for the customers and dealers and employees successful. (link)

Currently, Volkswagen’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn, has apologized publically and wants to correct the problem. Many have called for his head and suspect most expect him to resign, something he said he will not do (link) UPDATE: Resigning 4/23/2015. Shareholders, employees and the many affiliated industries (1 in 9 Europeans who jobs are tied to Volkswagen) are all on pins and needles. Currently Volkswagen is setting aside $7.3 BILLION dollars to resolve the issue. Who knows what the penalties for cheating will eventually cost – with 500,000 up to 11 million vehicles seeing fines up to $40,000/car (unrealistic) and class action liability suits already gathering steam … the sky (or perhaps space?) seems to be the limit.

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What does this mean for current VW TDIs and their future?

It all depends on the fix. If software alone is enough to satisfy, then the cost may be enough for Volkswagen to move forward. If every vehicle needs additional hardware, the cost will be much higher. Car owners most likely will be impacted to some degree, most likely fuel economy if it is software alone and additional maintenance if there is hardware involved – perhaps even an ongoing Diesel Exhaust Fluild (DEF or “Ad-Blue”)?

The long term impact for Volkswagen will most likely be felt for years, although we do tend to quickly forget scandals, mismanagement and bankruptcies others automakers have faced. Of bigger concern for diesel engine advocates, is that this will set back advancement of what we see as the most efficient internal combustion engine option for vehicles. Cheating aside, the emission standards in the U.S. in my opinion have been biased toward EV, hybrid and gasoline engines. The many measured pollutants determined by the EPA as acceptable based on what is realistically achievable by a gasoline powered vehicle (traditionally and the majority of U.S. cars) are not going t be the same for different fuel types. Matching gasoline number for number with a diesel, since the standards themselves were based on a gasoline internal combustion engine, is setting the curve again alternatives. Having the standards that take into account that each fuel source has pluses and minus might make for a better way to innovate.

Need information on Volkswagen TDIs? Check out the forums of the TDIClub.

This is sad … http://www.vw.com/features/clean-diesel/

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Comments

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.