Volkswagen’s cars have cheated on emissions tests

THOMAS DOERFER/ CC-BY-3.0 Many Volkswagen cars contain software to pass emissions tests.

THOMAS DOERFER/ CC-BY-3.0
Many Volkswagen cars contain software to pass emissions tests.

By SABRINA CHEN
For The News-Letter

The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand recently attested that nearly five million of their passenger cars have been found to have a cheat software which enables the cars to pass federal emission tests. The company is soon expected to publish a list of the number of vehicles in the world that contain the device.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Volkswagen said that cars with Type EA 189 engines have been equipped with a “defect device.” This device lowers emissions when the car detects a testing environment and works at lower capacity than it would in a real-world situation. Much fewer nitrogen oxides are emitted in a testing environment.

On Sept. 18, after several years of inspecting Volkswagens with this device, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that the carmaker had used devices that helped them pass the emission tests. Some say Volkswagen has, by doing this, put its own reputation and that of several other German carmakers at stake.

The models that have been confirmed to carry the device include the sixth-generation Volkswagen Golf, the seventh-generation Volkswagen Passat and the first-generation Volkswagen Tiguan. On the other hand all new Volkswagen Passenger Car brand vehicles including current Golf, Passat and Touran models were not affected. These newer generation vehicles fulfill the Euro 6 norm that is valid in Europe

“We are working at full speed on a technical solution that we will present to partners, to our customers and to the public as swiftly as possible,” Volkswagen Passenger Cars CEO Herbert Diess said.

Amid the scandal Martin Winterkorn, another Volkswagen AG CEO, quit after expressing his surprise regarding the magnitude of the incident.

Overall the company may be penalized upwards of $18 billion and is expected to face over 25 class action suits in the U.S. alone.

One main question arises from the scandal. How did Volkswagen manage to deceive millions of diesel car buyers, U.S. taxpayers and U.S. authorities for such a long time? A Los Angeles Times article recently stated that taxpayers have paid $51 million in green subsidies for Volkswagen’s ‘clean diesel’ cars on the basis of faulty emission test results.

EPA investigations have uncovered that the cheat devices in the Volkswagen cars take advantage of an algorithm that accounts for how the car is being steered, how long the engine runs and the atmospheric pressure around the car. This algorithm can precisely identify the conditions that correspond with the U.S. federal emissions test.

In 2013 the International Council for Clean Transportation tested diesel car emissions in West Virginia and found that diesel cars sold in the U.S. emitted fewer pollutants than cars sold elsewhere because of stringent U.S. standards. However, after testing a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta and a 2013 Volkswagen Passat, researchers were surprised to find that the models displayed much higher levels of nitrogen oxide emissions than permitted by the law.

These findings were shared with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board prompting an investigation that began in 2014. At the time Volkswagen agreed to conduct its own tests and replicate the International Council’s study. However, in July 2015 after finding that test vehicles still showed emissions that exceeded state and federal limits, the California Air Resources Board threatened to withhold certification for Volkswagen’s 2016 diesel models. This threat prompted Volkswagen to release the truth behind the cheat device.

Winterkorn apologized for the breach of federal regulations, and some predict that he may be forced to resign.

“This disaster is beyond all expectations,” Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, head of the Center of Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, said.

The EPA noted that it will compel Volkswagen to issue a recall once a satisfactory fix is developed. For now the EPA will test software used in diesel vehicles from other manufactures in order to search for similar violations.

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