Volkswagen could face $18 billion penalties from EPA

18 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

EPA Lashes Out at VW, Audi.

WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) – Volkswagen AG faces penalties up to $18 billion (11.58 billion pounds) after being accused of designing software for diesel cars that deceives regulators measuring toxic emissions, the U.S. Volkswagen has been cheating federal emission standards since 2008, spewing as much as 40 times more pollution than allowed by equipping its cars with a “defeat device” that fools the official test, the Obama administration said on Friday.WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency says nearly 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars built in the past seven year are intentionally violating clean air standards by using software that evades EPA emissions standards. The vehicles all contain a device programmed to detect when they are undergoing official emissions testing, the EPA said, adding that the cars only turn on full emissions control systems during that testing. The cars would switch on emissions-control devices for tests but under all other circumstances could emit nitrogen dioxide at up to 40 times the permitted level, according to the US environmental regulator.

Volkswagen has advertised its diesel vehicles as a fuel-efficient alternative to the petrol-powered vehicles that make up most of the US passenger car fleet. The EPA worked in conjunction with the California Air Resources Board to uncover the defeat device, which is described as a piece of sophisticated software embedded in the cars’ computer systems. While diesel vehicles’ overall fuel consumption is lower than that for petrol-engined vehicles, their emissions of other pollutants is generally higher. When the cars were not being tested, the emissions controls were ineffective. “These violations are very serious,” she said. “We expected better from Volkswagen.” Campaign groups have long suspected that carmakers use so-called defeat devices to achieve superior performances in laboratory tests to make their cars appear cleaner than they are in the real world.

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. A broader crackdown would add to the potential burden facing carmakers as they race to reduce carbon emissions and meet tough regulations, while facing political scrutiny over the effects of diesel pollution on air quality. The diesel-powered vehicles involved from the 2009 to 2015 model years are the VW Jetta, VW Beetle, VW Golf and the Audi A3, as well as the VW Passat from model years 2014 and 2015.

In a television commercial that has aired frequently this year in the United States, VW says it is the “No. 1 diesel car brand in America,” brags its cars are “clean diesel” and asks viewers, “Isn’t it time for German engineering?” 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. The EPA ordered VW to devise a remedy to remove the devices and recall all the affected vehicles at no cost to the owners – a process that could take up to a year. 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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