Volkswagen of America temporarily withdraws application for US certification of MY 2016 vehicles; AECDs
In his prepared testimony for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing tomorrow (earlier post), Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, says that in discussions with EPA and the California ARB, Volkswagen said that its emissions control strategy also included a software feature that should be disclosed to and approved by the agencies as an auxiliary emissions control device (“AECD”) in connection with the certification process.
AECDs are allowed by the EPA, but they must be disclosed. As a result, Horn says, Volkswagen has withdrawn the application for certification of its model year 2016 vehicles. The company is working with the agencies to continue the certification process, he adds.
EPA defines an AECD as “any element of design that senses temperature, motive speed, engine RPM, transmission gear, or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying, or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission-control system.”
On electronically controlled engines, AECDs are calibrations—not devices or sensors; on a modern engine, the entire emissions control system is an AECD, EPA says.
An acceptable AECD is emphatically not a defeat device, according to EPA. Although almost all AECDs reduce the effectiveness of the emission control system (in most cases, increasing NOx as HC or PM is reduced), the reduced effectiveness may be allowed under certain conditions.
Typical AECDs include controls for:
- Cold temperature: cold coolant and/or cold intake air
- Engine overheat
- Extended idle
- Transient operation: air/fuel control during accelerations
- Altitude: air density; turbocharger protection
- EGR modulation: protect EGR valve or cooler; condensation protection
- Diesel particulate filter regeneration: automatic or manual
- SCR dosing control: dosing threshold; thermal management
- Sensor failure: how failure effects emission control
AECDs with dual maps—for example, city and highway maps—are allowed if both maps are substantially included in a test cycle.
The AECD to which Horn refers is distinct from the hidden software “defeat device” in the four-cylinder diesels from model years 2009-2015 that could recognize whether a vehicle was being operated in a test laboratory or on the road. That software, as revealed in September, allowed those diesels to emit higher levels of NOx when the vehicles were driven in actual road use than during laboratory testing. (Earlier post.)
In the prepared testimony, Horn says that in the spring of 2014 when the West Virginia University study that brought the emissions issue to the fore was published, he was told that there was a possible emissions non-compliance issue that could be remedied.
He says that he was also informed that EPA regulations included various penalties for non-compliance with the emissions standards and that the agencies can conduct engineering tests which could include “defeat device” testing or analysis. He says he was also informed that the company engineers would work with the agencies to resolve the issue. Later in 2014, he says he was informed that the technical teams had a specific plan for remedies to bring the vehicles into compliance and that the company was engaged with the agencies about the process.
These events are deeply troubling. I did not think that something like this was possible at the Volkswagen Group. We have broken the trust of our customers, dealerships, and employees, as well as the public and regulators. Let me be clear, we at Volkswagen take full responsibility for our actions and we are working with all relevant authorities in a cooperative way. I am here to offer the commitment of Volkswagen AG to work with this Committee to understand what happened, and how we will move forward. EPA, CARB, the US Department of Justice, State Attorneys General, as well as other authorities, are fulfilling their duties to investigate this matter.
We are determined to make things right. This includes accepting the consequences of our acts, providing a remedy, and beginning to restore the trust of our customers, dealerships, employees, the regulators, and the American public. We will rebuild the reputation of a company that more than two million people worldwide, including dealers and suppliers, rely upon for their livelihoods. Our immediate goal is to develop a remedy for our customers.—Prepared testimony of Michael Horn
Horn outlines 5 initial points:
Volkswagen is conducting investigations on a world-wide scale into how these matters happened. Responsible parties will be identified and held accountable. Thorough investigations have already begun, but any information developed at this stage is preliminary.
As the EPA has said, these vehicles do not present a safety hazard and remain safe and legal to drive.
Technical teams are working to develop remedies for each of the affected groups of vehicles. These solutions will be tested and validated, and then shared with the responsible authorities for approval. There are three groups of vehicles involved, each containing one of the three generations of the 2.0L diesel engine. Each will require a different remedy, but these remedies can only be the first step.
Volkswagen will examine its compliance, processes, and standards and adopt measures to make certain that something like this cannot happen again.
Volkswagen commits to regular and open communication with our customers, dealers, employees, and the public as we move forward. As first steps, Volkswagen of America has set up a designated service line and website to be a channel for this communication, and Horn has sent a letter to every affected customer.
Volkswagen Group has a deep commitment to preserving our environment. As one of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers, our commitment to the environment extends throughout every aspect of our business in the more than 150 countries in which we operate. For example, here in the United States, Volkswagen’s manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee serves as a model for Volkswagen plants around the world for increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions, water, and materials usage and waste. In recognition of the plant’s efficiency, Volkswagen Chattanooga received a platinum certification from the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”) program. The facility is the first and only automotive manufacturing plant in the world to receive the Platinum Certification. As environmental protection and sustainability are central to Volkswagen’s core values, these events have been particularly troubling. Our conduct in the events that bring us here today belittle the efforts of Volkswagen to lead in environmental responsibility.—Prepared testimony of Michael Horn