EPA says VW intentionally violates clean-air standards

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

EPA accuses Volkswagen of cheating Clean Air Act, orders recall.

Volkswagen has been ordered to recall almost 500,000 diesel cars by the United States government after it emerged that it had used computer software to cheat clean-air laws. Washington: The US Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that Volkswagen intentionally skirted clean air laws by using a piece of software that enabled about 500,000 of its diesel cars to emit fewer smog-causing pollutants during testing than in real-world driving conditions. The violations carry potential fines of more than $35,000 per vehicle, which means the German automaker is on the hook for as much as $18 billion, plus the cost of retrofitting nearly 500,000 recalled vehicles. The cars employed a sophisticated software algorithm to detect when the car was undergoing official emissions testing and turn on full emissions controls only on that time.

When EPA and California demanded an explanation this month, Volkswagen admitted that cars contained “defeat devices” meant to trick official tests, the EPA said. “Our goal now is to ensure that the affected cars are brought into compliance, to dig more deeply into the extent and implications of Volkswagen’s efforts to cheat on clean air rules, and to take appropriate further action,” said Richard Corey, executive officer at the California Air Resources Board. Volkswagen said it had received notice of an investigation “related to certain emissions compliance matters” from the EPA, the California board and the Justice Department. Under normal driving conditions, however, the emission controls fall away, according to regulators, and the vehicles emit nitrogen oxides at 10 to 40 times the legal limit.

Nitrogen oxide is a major component of smog, or ground-level ozone pollution and particulate matter, which has been linked to asthma attacks and serious respiratory illnesses. Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an evrionmental campaign group, said: “The charges here are truly appalling: that Volkswagen knowingly installed software that produced much higher smog-forming emissions from diesel vehicles in the real world than in pre-sale tests.” Mr O’Donnell accused VW of “cheating not just car buyers but the breathing public.” He said the charges undercut industry rhetoric about “clean diesel” cars. Affected models include: Jetta (model years 2009-15); Beetle (model years 2009-15); Audi A3 (model years 2009-15); Golf (model years 2009-15); Passat (model years 2014-15). The Volkswagens likely perform better with the emissions controls defeated than they do with them on, said Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief for the Cars.com automotive shopping and research site. It could take up to a year for VW to develop a recall plan, regulators said, and in the meantime owners are told to keep driving as usual — and keep checking the mail for a notice from VW.

Otherwise, he said, there would be no reason to have a setting that turns on the controls for tests and turns them off for regular driving. “Obviously it’s changing the way the engine operates somehow that may not be pleasing to consumers,” he said. “It would follow that it would put it into a very different feel in terms of operation of the vehicle.”

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