A recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency states that Volkswagen will have to recall 482,000 cars in the U.S. after it deliberately violated the Clean Air Act emissions laws on its TDI clean diesel models.
Vehicles affected in this issue include 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta, Beetle, Golf, Audi A3 and 2014-2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI models. This issue is concerning because Volkswagen installed a software that allows 10 to 40 times the allowable level of nitrogen oxide (NOx) to exit from its diesel engines’ exhaust.
The EPA found a “sophisticated software algorithm” also known as a “defeat device” that allowed the vehicles to exceed lawful NOx emission levels during normal driving and blocked them when the vehicle detected that it was undergoing EPA testings, after being tipped by transportation researches at West Virginia University. In the report, EPA stated that “the software used steering angle, speed, engine run times, and atmospheric-pressure information that “precisely track the parameters of the federal test procedures used for the emission testing.”
Volkswagen spokesman, John Shilling, in a statement to CAR AND DRIVER said “VW is cooperating with the investigation; we are unable to comment further at this time.” However, the company has not said why it specified the increased levels of NOx emissions on these models. All of the engines affected in this breach involve the 4-cylinder turbo-diesel units. Prior to 2015, only some of these engines used AdBlue, a urea-based exhaust-gas after-treatment liquid. For 2015 model year, Volkswagen rolled out a revised EA288 2.0 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, which mandated the usage of AdBlue exhaust cleaning liquid on all U.S. Spec Audi and Volkswagen models. Before this, only the Volkswagen Touareg TDI and Passat TDI and Audi A6, A7, and A8 TDI models used AdBlue exhaust cleaning solution.
Under the Clean Air Statues, Volkswagen could be fined up to $37,500 per affected vehicle and this could amount to a maximum of $18 Billion in damages. Richard Corey, executive officer of CARB said the violations were a “direct threat to public health”.
Volkswagen officials admitted they had installed the software only after the EPA and the California Air Resource Board hinted that they would not certify the company’s 2016 diesel models. However, this is not the first time VW has been caught by these two entities. In May 2014, West Virginia University researchers found “significantly higher” emissions from a 2012 Jetta and 2013 Passat TDI models and reported the findings to the EPA. In December 2014, VW updated the ECU software on certain cars to address this issue, but CARB found minimal improvements and couldn’t find out why the OBD-II controller wasn’t able to find any emissions error.
U.S. laws on passenger car diesels are the strictest in the world and cleaning up diesel exhaust is an expensive process. Urea-based solutions, which inject liquid into the exhaust system to reduce the NOx emissions requires two catalytic converters, one for oxidation process, and the other for breaking down NOx into nitrogen and water vapor. Obviously, incorporating these systems into diesel-powered passenger cars can become very expensive and complex.
As of this writing, Volkswagen has not released any official recalls regarding the NOx emissions from its diesel engines and the affected cars are safe to be driven as usual.
Information Source: CAR AND DRIVER, Volkswagen
Image Source: Volkswagen