Volkswagen has detailed its first hardware fix for European-spec diesel engines. And the good news is that it’s one “without any adverse effects on the engine output, fuel consumption and performance,” or so the company claims.
Dealers in Europe will install mesh inserts within the air intake of the EA189 1.6-liter TDI engine. The inserts, which VW calls “flow transformers,” supposedly calm the air turbulence and will make it easier for the mass-airflow sensor to detect the amount of air rushing through the intake. This, along with a software update to recognize the air patterns, will put the engines into compliance after cheating emissions tests. The EA189 2.0-liter TDI engines will just receive a software update, as will the 1.2-liter TDI engines.
But that’s in Europe. Compared with U.S. standards, European emissions laws for diesel passenger cars and trucks are extremely lax. Remember, the U.S. version of the EA189—which debuted in 2009 on the Jetta and Golf—is the main culprit cited for nitrogen-oxide emissions (NOx) of up to 40 times the legal limit, as these engines do not have any selective catalytic reduction or urea injection. (A second version of the EA189, launched for the 2012 Passat TDI, did have those clean-up features as does the newest EA288, introduced for all 2.0-liter TDIs in 2015.)
Euro 6 emissions standards went into full effect barely three months ago, and these EA189 engines are only required to comply with Euro 5, which allows NOx and NMOG (non-methane organic gases) emissions that are more than twice that of the average level set by U.S. EPA Tier 2 standards (Euro 5 allowed 230 mg/km for diesel vehicles, Euro 6 lowered that to 170 mg/km, while the U.S. Tier 2 Bin 5 average is 100 mg/km). When EPA Tier 3 standards go into effect for the 2017 model year, NOx and NMOG emissions must be no more than 86 mg/km averaged across each manufacturer’s diesel fleet, with 30 mg/km mandated by 2025. Euro 6 is set to become tougher in 2020, although the exact standards are still being negotiated. In general, it’s been easier (and cheaper) to comply with European diesel regulations than those in the United States.
What does this mean? Don’t expect VW’s simple fix for the 2.0-liter EA189 engine to come stateside, at least not without several extra modifications. VW has not specified any exact fixes for its U.S. cars aside from software updates to its 3.0-liter TDI V-6, which is primarily found in Audi models.