How California Non-Profit Busted Volkswagen on Emissions

A California-based non-profit, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), is being credited for busting Volkswagen for installing special software on vehicles to cheat diesel emissions tests.

Bloomberg’s Dana Hull and Mark Niquette report that a team of ICCT technicians in California discovered the software after trying to understand a strange set of results found by European emissions tests on Volkswagen cars.

“They discovered the software Volkswagen used to circumvent air-pollution regulations in at least 11 million cars,” Bloomberg notes.

The discrepancy had to do with test results in the laboratory, versus emissions found in actual driving conditions. The software–installed in several years’ models, from 2009 to 2015–was designed to detect when emissions tests were being administered. It would then switch the engine to a different process–one that would meet clean air standards–rather than the one in typical driving mode, which emphasizes consumer demands for fuel efficiency.

“We never went into it saying,‘we’re going to catch a manufacturer,”’ the ICCT’s Arvind Thiruvengadam told Bloomberg. Yet the test results became a cause for the organization, which met with resistance from the company. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) became involved after researchers at West Virginia University, hired by ICCT, repeated the European results. After more investigation, CARB researchers discovered the cheating software.

This month, Volkswagen was forced to admit the cheating. Since then, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has been ousted, and the company’s stock has lost nearly 40% of its value over the past month.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CARB are working on new technology to prevent cheating on future diesel emissions tests.

 


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