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Volkswagen Group orders external investigation of emissions testing violations, pledges full support to EPA and ARB

20 September 2015

On Friday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (ARB) charged that, based on ARB testing, Volkswagen and Audi passenger cars equipped with 2.0L diesels have used a software defeat device to cheat on the results of NOx testing, and thus have violated the US Clean Air Act. (Earlier post.)

On Sunday, Volkswagen Group CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn said that Volkswagen does “not and will not tolerate violations of any kind of our internal rules or of the law”, and said that the company “will cooperate fully with the responsible agencies, with transparency and urgency, to clearly, openly, and completely establish all of the facts of this case.” Volkswagen has ordered an external investigation as well.

The Board of Management at Volkswagen AG takes these findings very seriously. I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public.

The trust of our customers and the public is and continues to be our most important asset. We at Volkswagen will do everything that must be done in order to re-establish the trust that so many people have placed in us, and we will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused. This matter has first priority for me, personally, and for our entire Board of Management.

—Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn

EPA issued a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) alleging that Volkswagen and Audi cars from model years 2009-2015 equipped with 2.0-liter, four-cylinder diesels include software (a “defeat device”) that circumvents EPA emissions standards for NOx. California separately issued an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen, and EPA and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) have both initiated investigations based on Volkswagen’s alleged actions.

The agencies charged that the electronic control module (ECM) in the vehicles in question—roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars—sold in the US since 2008—contains software that detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing. Based on that ability, during EPA emission testing, the tainted ECM ran software which produced compliant emissions results under an unique ECM calibration. At all other times during normal vehicle operation, the vehicle ECM software ran a separate road calibration which reduced the effectiveness of the emission control system (specifically the selective catalytic reduction or the lean NOx trap).

As result, emissions of NOx increased by a factor of 10 to 40 times above the EPA compliant levels, depending on the the of drive cycle, the agencies charged.

VW may be liable for significant civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV, as well as the cost of recalling and correcting the vehicles.

September 20, 2015 in Diesel, Emissions, Regulations | Permalink | Comments (38)

Comments

Well, its a start.

I don't think the VW board should be allowed to get away with offering up some engineers as scape goats.

If the board did not know that the emissions were being fiddled, then they were guilty of gross negligence.

VW were turning out their 4 cylinder cars and claiming that they could hit emission targets without the use of urea.

No one on the board asked how they managed to do that, and the engineers simply felt that they fancied fiddling them instead on their own initiative?

That doesn't ring very true.

In fact it sounds like a bucket of tripe.

Release the spin doctors!

It is neither an error nor incompetence to have control software that can detect when an EPA test cycle for pollution measurement is in progress and subsequently activate engine controls that minimize this pollution and then turn it all off when the EPA test cycle is not in progress. This is very deliberate and it requires 1000s of lines of code made by a group of software engineers that have been ordered to make this software by their superiors probably lower level management acting on their own (by misguided judgement of what they think is good for VW). Software engineers do not accidently start spending hundreds of hours developing obviously illegal software. They do it because executives at VW ordered them to do so. VW as a company is therefore liable for this fraud that is causing up to 40 times increased air pollution from some 500,000 of VWs diesel cars in the US. That compares to the air pollution from up to 20 million compliant diesel cars for several years and god knows how many people who have fallen ill and died prematurely because of this. Winterkorn owes the American public an apology for polluting their air illegally at this scale. It is not enough to say sorry to VW customers as they are not the primary victims in this case. This will require severe punishment just like BP (Horizon) and Exxon (Valdez) has been punished for their pollution disasters caused by their deliberate non-compliance with safety legislation. A 18 billion USD fine will be appropriate in this case and ensure that VW and all others in the auto industry take this serious and deter them from trying to produce cars that pollute far more than permitted by the legislation. A small fine will just mean nobody cares and the fraud schemes will continue in some other form at a later point in time because it does not cost at lot to do so and the cars perform better in terms of hp and possibly also in terms of fuel economy when the pollution controls are deactivated.

A 3.2% drop in the VW share price means that investors probably think that VW will be more in slap on the wrist territory than being held to full account for their wilfully fraudulent conduct.

Judging by the way previous fiddling of heavy goods vehicles emissions were discounted they may be right.

More than likely they will hang some poor sap in middle management. I like the Navy's approach: The Captain of the ship is always responsible for anything that happens aboard the ship. In this case if Winterkorn didn't know the crime was going down, he should have and is still responsible. This behavior and aggression to make a profit seems wrong for a Worldwide car company; an oil company,...yes!; but, a European car maker...well, l'm shocked!

Captains carry the can, not the Admirals!
The Navy knows the same game too.

Dave:
Excellent! I like it.

The bigger question is what will be done to bring the affected cars into compliance.

Given the competitive nature of the auto industry & the amount of spying going on, there is a very high likelihood that other automakers have been doing the same thing as VW, but VW just happened to get caught ---- like doping in professional sports. They better do a review of EVERYONE and not just crucify VW.

Sounds like they are looking for some scape goat, not good, like Herik said it can' t something done unnoticed implementing such a sophisticated system on mass produced car, no way. On top of it it was also implemented in Audi A3 so it circulated well between the different sub diaries of the company. The CEO knew and approved it

Although the 2.0L TDI could probably pass EURO5 w/o diesel aftertreatment; I'm wondering if any vehicle applications of the engine were certified at EURO6, and if so the European regulators will be very interested if this "defeat device" was calibration on....

The European system is being routinely gamed by many of the makers who blatantly work to pass the test rather than in real road conditions.

That is why emissions for some of the vehicles, with it seems likely VW to the fore, are up to 7 times what they are supposed to be.

' On-road NOxemission levels of Euro 6 diesel cars in Europe are on average about seven times higher than the NOx limit set by the Euro 6 emission standard, according to a new report published in Berlin by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The study follows another recent ICCT report showing that the gap between official and real-world fuel-economy figures in Europe has risen to about 38%. (Earlier post.)

The latest study—the most comprehensive report on the real-world behavior of the latest generation of diesel cars published to date—found “remarkable” differences among individual vehicle models, indicating that technologies for real-world clean diesels already exist but are not being employed consistently by different vehicle manufacturers.'

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2014/10/20141012-icct.html

And:
'The European Commission is currently preparing to require on-road testing as part of the passenger car type-approval process in the EU. According to these plans, vehicle manufacturers from 2017 would have to test new vehicles not only under laboratory conditions but also on the road, using PEMS equipment.' (ibid)

This is very serious and VW are in big trouble.
They will have to reprogram the 500K machines with a firmware update, and this will probably have to run the cars in "EPA mode" all the time. Presumably this will reduce the performance or lifetime of the cars in question.
This will generate a class action from the VW owners who's cars will have dropped in value and performance - apart from what the EPA will do.
+ the name of VW has been sullied and the value of the brand will take a big dip.
This is not a silly thing like the "unintended acceleration" that killed Audi in the '80s - this is real.
As an indication of this, the VW share price is now down 20.8% - this is no "slap on the wrist".

(This is probably a good time to buy VW shares)

As EJJ says, how many other automakers have been doing this ?
All the big European companies could be in for it (except Mercedes, who use urea).
[ I have no real knowledge here, I am just surmising. ]

Were converging on bad environmental regulations that attempt to go along with fossil fuel corp wealth. Ask yourself why MPG rating? Of course high btu fuel will become a increasing popular under such regulations even though the fuel emits a higher level of pollution. Why rate the MPG of BEV per efficiency of an electric motor? These are two examples of EPA "forgetting" indirect pollution of fuel. The real actual emissions. Yet they assign a hypothetical pollution factor to ethanol, for example" to detract the fuel usefulness. Why? I'm thinking they want to go along with traditional fossil fuel barons of political wealth. It's not exactly all science driven, but a compromise to get along with politics. This is really exposed upon the diesel engine emission problems as opposed to E85 solution upon such high torque and high efficiency platforms that drastically lower emission stream.

All the more reason to push for electricification - the tailpipe emissions can not be fiddled, they are always zero. Continue the push for clean grid and transportation emissions can fall to zero.

Imagine a world without air pollution or global warming. Then agitate.

Electrification is poor method to disperse Btu's. Best to limit use of the grid per the extreme cost, upkeep, dynamic balancing, problem energy storage, low efficiency distribution, extreme cost to expand and update, etc. Natural gas via pipeline distribution is extremely efficient Btu distribution as compared. Here in Michigan as most of the country we can store an entire heating season of fuel in abandoned oil wells. My NG has never been down as opposed to electric going down for days. I can cook my food, dry clothes, heat house, and heat water for one half the cost as compared to electric. Ask why so much money invested in R&D to make the wind turbines into hydrogen generators with valuable energy storage? Why have the Japanese auto companies pivoted to fuel cell technology? Does it make sense to heat my hot water with grid power operating at 30% or less from coal power? It's going to take a generation or two to improve the grid, like what you envision.

This is interesting. How this plays out over the next decade will be fun to watch. I don't believe updating the SW in these vehicles will be the fix unless it can be done as not to impact accelaration as it relates to safty. The impacted Consumers will rebel and claim that their safty is jeopardized. The EPA has to be careful here too. VW may have to retrofit these vehicles with UREA injection and pay for the UREA refills for the life of the vehicle. UREA is already cheap, but will become less expensive when this story ends.

In many parts of the U.S. EVs just shift the tailpipe to the smokestack. It takes a train load of coal to keep a power plant running, then you have the sulfur, mercury and ash to deal with.

Emily. You make too much sense. Yes, the electrical grid is highly inefficient.

Emily, I've interviewd utility planners all over the country regarding electrification. The consensus is that no major distribution are upgrades required to support vehicle electrification until 2025, and with more onsite generation maybe not until later.

The argument for natural gas for transportation ignores the emissions and CO2 imperative, somehing we can not afford to do.

We're not talking about washing your clothes here, the issue at hand is transportation. Keeping millions of ICE cars in compliance over their serice life is difficult and expensive. For VW, apparently, it's too difficult even from day one.

But, you post the benefits of BEV as though the grid is Green. Hybrid technology and improved ICE will do most of the heavy lifting for environmental improvements. Especially when factoring in the highly polluting international grid power. But, to your point I can think of no better vehicle for metro areas as just a few minutes ago listened to a report that autonomous vehicles will quickly gain market share and be a dominate player within the decade. This would be a most favorable situation for electric vehicles whether battery or hydrogen cell. Vehicle weight will drop as safety becomes a software function. Car costs should drop as all competing metro public transport systems will become obsolete.

electric-car-insider. More localized generation will have minimal impact on overall distribution efficiency. Also, I don't believe ICE emissions compliance over the vehicle life is generally a factor when a consumer weighs the purchase of a vehicle. The buying decision is highly affected by belief, appeal/impulse and usage considerations, and to a lesser extent, the empirical or computed total cost of ownership.

Emily:
Heating water with solar energy is one of the best ways to save energy and has little to do with the complication of PVs or the grid. If people would install solar water heating; we could start closing down hydrocarbon power plants yesterday.

Solar and Wind energies are free and plentiful. Storage for 24/7 usage is (currently) a bit more costly but many affordable options exist.

REs are getting cheaper month after month and will soon constitute a much higher percentage of the energy we use. Extended range BEVs (with 125+ kWh batteries) and FCEVs with equivalent range are here to stay and multiply.

Fossil and bio-fuels usage will be progressively replaced by REs to lower GHG and pollution. A worldwide carbon fee or tax would help.

@Harvey: Solar and wind are plentiful but low-density, diffuse and intermittent. 'Free' they are not, as soon as you try to harvest them: you need lots of land, expensive infrastructure and (to be really practical) storage. Storage is not just 'a bit more costly', it is prohibitively costly compared with generation at need. You are dreaming the RE dream, but it is, in fact, an expensive fantasy.

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