EPA orders VoA to address emissions control “switch”

EPA orders VoA to address emissions control

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today ordered Volkswagen of America to address engine control programming installed in half a million vehicles due to its ability to disable certain emissions control functions during normal use.

The enforced recall affects four-cylinder TDI models sold in the United States from model years 2009 through 2015, to include the VW Golf, Jetta, Beetle and Passat and the Audi A3.

This programming can allegedly determine whether the vehicle is being operated normally (in the “real world”) or being put through an emissions testing protocol and alter the engine’s operating parameters accordingly, running more cleanly when an emissions test is detected.

“Specifically, VW manufactured and installed software in the electronic control module (ECM) of these vehicles that sensed when the vehicle was being tested for compliance with EPA emission standards. For ease of reference, the EPA is calling this the ‘switch,'” said EPA officials in a letter sent to Volkswagen executives Friday.

The EPA says it and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) were alerted to the discrepancies in test data and real-world data by study results released by West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions in May, 2014.

When initially confronted by these results, Volkswagen insisted the increased emissions in real-world testing were simply the result of environmental conditions and “various technical issues,” but agreed to a voluntary recall to address existing models.

CARB then conducted its own testing in collaboration with the EPA and determined that the reprogrammed vehicles still did not perform as testing indicated they should.

Following this, the agencies again confronted Volkswagen, who only then admitted that emissions control defeat programming had been written into the control modules of the engines in question.

The inclusion of any feature that is considered an emissions control “defeat device” is a violation of federal regulations unless the manufacturer can explain and justify its inclusion, whether as a safety feature or a measure to prevent damage to the vehicle in normal operation. Such features must also be fully disclosed.

Failure to meet these requirements can result in stiff penalties. None were announced Friday, but they are expected to be forthcoming.

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