VW, Audi accused of cheating on emissions by EPA, CARB

The EPA and CARB have jointly accused VW/Audi of using defeat devices to circumvent emissions testings.

On Friday the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) opened investigations into emissions testing cheating by the VW Group. Regulators discovered that certain four-cylinder diesel cars sold under VW and Audi brand names had so-called “defeat devices” causing inflated emissions results. The VW Group has admitted to wrong-doing, and has issued a recall of nearly 500,000 vehicles.

The EPA issued a “Notice of Violation” (NOV) of the Clean Air Act to the VW Group alleging that certain VW/Audi four-cylinder diesel cars contain software which circumvents emissions testing. California regulators issued a Compliance letter in the matter. Both organizations have initiated an investigation into the wrongdoing.

At issue is a “defeat device” which detected when a car was undergoing emissions testing. With what the EPA described as a “sophisticated software algorithm,” when the car was undergoing emissions testing it would enable every last bit of emissions control technology. In normal driving conditions most of that equipment was disabled, which surely improved car performance while worsening its emissions output.

According to the EPA, while the cars met emissions standards in laboratory settings, during normal operation, the cars emitted nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard. The phrase “defeat device” comes from the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act requires that manufacturers certify to EPA that products, like cars, meet air emissions standards. Every vehicle sold in the U.S. must be covered by an EPA-issued certificate of conformity. Cars equipped with defeat devices cannot be certified, therefore the VW Group lied to the EPA and the company violated at least two provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The violation was discovered by researchers at West Virginia University, and the International Council on Clean Transportation. They raised concerns with the EPA. EPA and CARB jointly confronted the VW Group, and upon demanding an explanation the VW Group admitted to the wrong-doing.

The VW Group faces civil penalties and is being required to fix the affected cars. The models include:

  • Jetta (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Beetle (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Audi A3 (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Golf (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Passat (Model Years 2014-2015)

These vehicles represent the TDI Diesel drive train introduced by the VW Group in the 2009 time frame. The claim was that VW’s TDI technology was so good that perhaps there was no need for hybrid vehicles. That’s now been shown to be a charade.

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