All car companies cheat on emissions tests—it’s just that most do it legally

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

E.P.A. to Bolster Testing Because of Volkswagen Scandal.

WASHINGTON — US environmental regulators will add more spot-checks to cars already on the road following Volkswagen’s (VW’s) admission that it fitted as many as 11-million diesel cars worldwide with software that rigged pollution tests. “We are upping our game,” said Christopher Grundler, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Transportation and Air Quality. That’s essentially the message the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just sent to manufacturers about its new, more stringent emissions testing just a week after charging Volkswagen with gaming diesel emissions tests by using a “defeating device.” Things have moved swiftly since then. The agency said Volkswagen had used a device programmed to fool emissions testers into thinking that the car was emitting much less pollution than it was during regular driving. “Manufacturers should expect that this additional testing may add time to the confirmatory test process,” the E.P.A. wrote in its brief letter.

The company’s CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Thursday after saying he would do no such thing on Tuesday and now other auto manufacturers are being dragging into the scandal. The hullabaloo also exposed flaws and gaps in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions testing practices that allowed Volkswagen to sell some 482,000 emissions skirting vehicles in the US over the course of seven years. The EPA, which also has something of a black eye from this whole mess, now says that it will be “adding to its confirmatory testing additional evaluations designed to look for potential defeat devices.” It’s worth noting that the agency does not single out diesel cars and instead implies that all emission standards for all kinds of fuel face new and more stringent scrutiny. The agency on Friday said it’s closing some of those gaps by adding real-world testing for all automakers. “Per the regulations of 40 CFR §86.1809, EPA may test or require testing on any vehicle at a designated location, using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device.

It already has on-road testing ability but it has only been used to check manufacturer’s petrol mileage estimates and diesel trucks, two situations in which they had uncovered emissions cheating in the past. Such testing can be expected in addition to the standard emissions test cycles when Emissions Data Vehicles (EDV), and Fuel Economy Data Vehicles (FEDV) are tested by EPA.” TL;DR? The company has not yet issued a formal recall for the vehicles that were affected, and the E.P.A. said such notice would come from the manufacturer and not the E.P.A. itself. The scandal now engulfing VW, which has admitted to outfitting cars with software designed to give false readings on emission tests, is unique both for the number of vehicles involved, and the digital complexity. The agency is using random spot checks of production cars to make sure that automakers are being honest and to detect any other rule-breaking technology, like VW’s sneaky emissions software that tested clean in a lab but ran dirtier in real-world conditions.

That’s not surprising given how Volkswagen’s defeat devices apparently worked — detecting when only one set of wheels were moving so it could turn it on during the test and turn it off for standard, on-the-road driving. VW then admitted it had sold 1973 model year cars with the devices, which consisted of temperature-sensing switches that cut out pollution controls at low temperatures. Regulators worldwide are miffed in the wake of the admission that 11 million Volkswagen Group autos, which includes Audi, Porsche and other brands, contain the software. The current VW case resembles a 1998 case involving seven manufacturers of heavy-duty truck engines: Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Mack Trucks, Navistar International Transportation, Renault Vehicules Industriels and Volvo Truck. The companies agreed to spend more than $1bn, including $83.4m in penalties, to settle the case — the biggest civil fine to that point for violating an environmental law.

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