back to article Volkswagen used software to CHEAT on AIR POLLUTION tests, alleges US gov

The US government has accused Volkswagen of using software to duck emissions testing for certain air pollutants on nearly half a million of its cars. The German manufacturer was slapped with a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act from the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday and ordered to fix its emissions …

  1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    I'm guessing that...

    I'm guessing that all those VW and Audi TDI vehicles are about to have their on-the-road performance trimmed back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm guessing that...

      Exactly what I was thinking. Nitrogen oxides increase as the combustion temperature increases - because nitgrogen only reacts with oxygen at high temperatures and some of the oxides are endothermic anyway - so either a very significant modification in terms of catalytic converter is needed, or peak power will be way down.

      Half a million cars. The eventual cost could run into billions.

      1. DanielN

        Re: I'm guessing that...

        Cost of billions? Maybe. You have to remember that the EPA is led by the worst sort of political hacks, whose lies can rarely be distinguished from their incompetence.

        They say "up to 40 times the standard". Not on average 40 times the standard. It could be as simple as VW responding to 100% accelerator pedal input before the catalytic converter has warmed up, at high altitude and high air temperature. The fix could be a trivial loss of peak power under rare start up conditions. The EPA's press release is deliberately thin on information to vilify VW.

        We also have to look at the timing. The US EPA is involved in a major scandal where they tried to remediate an abandoned mine and instead dumped heavily contaminated water into a river. They were apparently conducting the work with minimal planning and supervision. So they need something to trot out in the press to distract mister voter.

        1. Munkeh

          Re: I'm guessing that...

          That's a valid point and this is the same EPA that turned off the Ghostbusters containment chamber - look how that turned out.

        2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: I'm guessing that...

          "US EPA is involved in a major scandal where they tried to remediate an abandoned mine and instead dumped heavily contaminated water into a river."

          Not exactly a 'scandal'. It's just not the correct word.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm guessing that...

            'scandal' was probably more polite than 'cluster fuck'

        3. Unhandle

          Re: I'm guessing that...

          Wrong on all counts. The cars were tested extensively by a university group which did the testing on a drive from southern cal up to Seattle. After that, EPA was brought in. The results are no fluke and even 2 times over the standard would be a disaster.I don't care if they screw the gas pedal to the floor. It is not supposed to happen. Period. We are talking about an exceptionally well-engineered deception which actually gives the finger to air quality in this country and now VW is going to pay for that. It was an audacious move that has to be responded to with an equally impressive fine and prosecution. In terms of disrespecting a nation, it would be as if we went over to Germany and snatched somebody off the street because we couldn't get him legally...oh...wait...we did that. Nevermind.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm guessing that...

        Half a million cars. The eventual cost could run into billions.

        From the NYT:

        "Under the terms of the Clean Air Act, the Justice Department could impose fines of as much as $37,500 for each recalled vehicle, for a possible total penalty of as much as $18 billion."

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: I'm guessing that...

          From the NYT

          Reminder that this is the "paper of record" that detects Nigerian yellowcake in Iraq, Russian tanks in Ukraine, Nuke testing at Parchin and a Russian landing force in Syria.

      3. DougS Silver badge

        Re: I'm guessing that...

        The cost would only hit billions if the EPA does some insanely high fines. I've read that they can fine $37,500 for each occurrence, but what defines "occurrence" is a bit of a gray area. Is each car an occurrence? They were threatening to fine a local farmer $37,500 each time it rained, for having some runoff problems, and others have been fined $37,500 a day until a condition was corrected. So I guess if you combine all that they could fine VW $37,500 each time any car affected is driven, going back to when the cars were first sold, and get a judgment for trillions!

        The cost of fixing should be pretty small - the owner will just bring in the car, have a software update that corrects this. This might hit owner satisfaction, if the update causes a significant change in the behavior of the car. It isn't clear how much it would since "up to 40x" could mean "worst case if you start your car in below zero weather and immediately drive away without letting it warm up" but be far less under the vast majority of cases.

        1. Pookietoo

          Re: have a software update that corrects this

          A software update could obviously remove the cheat, but presumably the cheat was implemented to improve performance in some way that wouldn't be possible while complying with air quality requirements, so the fixed cars will have some sort of performance deficit.

          1. david 12 Bronze badge

            Re: have a software update that corrects this

            Aus. is watching this with various degrees of outrage and indifference. My understanding is that the cheating engines still meet Australian standards, and I'm guessing that the Aus. 'fix' which has been promised to owners here, will be just altering the software so that it doesn't report dishonest values during testing.

            Due to Aus population and weather patterns, this is less of an immediate helath issue here than it would be in Bejing/London/LA

      4. Ian Bush
        Boffin

        Re: I'm guessing that...

        Nit from a chemist: All nitrogen oxides are thermodynamically unstable ("endothermic") w.r.t. the elements

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: I'm guessing that...

      That and that they employed some software developers who worked on Nvidia or Radeon drivers in the mid-noughties.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm guessing that...

        That and that they employed some software developers who worked on Nvidia or Radeon drivers in the mid-noughties.

        Or the one that got the Toyota World Rally team banned in 1995 for an illegal intake restrictor, which only restricted during scrutineering.

        That was me, although I didn't know about it at the time - I developed software to allow the creation and downloading engine maps to the ECU, and it was triggered by just another multi-dimensional map with a German name I didn't understand.

      2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: I'm guessing that...

        ....and who were working for some of the anti-virus companies in the nineties...

  2. ZootCadillac

    It's about time someone with power took the EPA to court to challenge them. Any body that decides life-essential CO2 is a pollutant does not deserve to be wasting public money on ideology. ( which is a separate issue from the article, I know. The EPA just grinds my gears )

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Life-essential? Last I checked, CO2 is toxic to humans at concentrations above 2% and fatal above 10%.

      1. Barely registers

        OK - I'll bite, now reel me in.....

        I suspect Zoot means that without CO2, there would be no plant life, hence no food, hence no life.

        In that respect, CO2 is a very good thing, but yes, you can have too much.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. kiwimuso
          Joke

          Re: OK - I'll bite, now reel me in.....

          @ Barely registers

          Ahh! You can always have too much of a good thing - which is what tends to cause obesity - or so I am told.

          Off topic I know but couldn't resist. And maybe it's not a joke anyway.

      2. ZootCadillac

        And where are you going to find concentrations like that? Current atmospheric concentration is approx 400ppm, 0.0382% currently. ISS astronauts live in concentrations of 5000ppm peaking higher, submariners regularly live in concentrations of 8000ppm often higher. The average family TV room in the evening has a CO2 concentration of 1000ppm whilst little Johnny enjoys the show. Your argument is spurious. All substances can be made to be toxic in theoretical conditions including something as simple as drinking water. To poison a human being with the levels you suggest would mean placing them in an airtight enclosure and altering the ratio of Nitrogen and Oxygen, to a trace gas by an abnormal amount that could never exist in atmospheric conditions merely to prove a point.

        As for life essential? most plant growth will shut down below 200ppm. Much lower than that and you will get major biomass die off. No plants? No insects, no humans. Even at current levels CO2 can be considered dangerously low by paleoclimate standards. Rising CO2 has been nothing but good for the planet as evidenced by the increase in greening on previously barren areas of Earth.

        Ask an honest climate researcher ( if you can find one ) to show you the correlation proving CO2 increases temperatures by a definitive and proven amount and you won't find one because the honest answer remains "we don't know". And given that man's contribution to that 0.0382% part of the atmosphere is an uncertain 2.3-5% of the already trace levels then to assert that man is directly affecting temperature to any statistically significant or measurable effect is just plain fraud.

        Do a bit of research.

        1. ZootCadillac

          Addendum to the above. Current percentage of atmospheric CO2 as measured by Mauna Loa for August is 0.0398%. That's what I get diving into arguments and working from memory.

          And I'll take all the thumbs down you like. Facts don't become incorrect just because you don't like them.

        2. John Savard Silver badge

          The greenhouse effect is not a recent or controversial discovery.

          Ever since the effects of CFCs on the ozone layer have been discovered, it was a possibility that human activity is on a large enough scale to have global consequences.

          Because of national borders, changes in the average temperature of only a few degrees could affect the food supplies of some people living in tropical Third World countries, creating serious refugee problems and the like.

          Furthermore, since the greenhouse effect works by reducing the amount of heat the Earth radiates out into space at a given temperature, a small increase in carbon dioxide levels might take decades before giving rise to the ultimate new equilibrium temperature for the Earth that it will bring about.

          We have a way to avoid huge human and economic consequences from reducing fossil fuel use. We can maintain high levels of energy use despite doing so. Fission power, using breeder reactors, can provide all the power we need from abundant resources; unlike fusion power, thorium breeders are just an engineering problem, and they will make the resources even more abundant.

          1. ZootCadillac

            That reads familiar and could be a copy/paste from elsewhere but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. You'll get no argument from me regarding the greenhouse effect. I'm not a dragon slayer. What is uncertain is the theory that CO2 is the main driver of temperature and that the anthropogenic part of that trace gas is responsible for one of the two periods of warming since the beginning of the 20th Century.

            We can't agree on what the temperature increase from a doubling of all atmospheric CO2 is with peer reviewed papers suggesting anything between 1 and 7 degrees Celsius! The error bars on those conclusions is even greater than the spread of supposed increase. Which means we simply do not know the effect to a cast iron number. To then suggest that the 3-5% anthropogenic portion of that uncertain amount has a definitive number is just plain crazy. You can hypothesise all you like but the truth remains that we don't have a clue what, if anything we are doing in relation to atmospheric CO2 and temperature. ( I'm not talking about land use or UHI I'm just perplexed that the EPA can label CO2 a pollutant. It's been demonised with no evidence to prove anything one way or another )

            FYI I'm English and my politics are left of centre. Because I know that sadly means something to some Americans.

        3. beanbasher
          Flame

          Read the F'ing article

          "This results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory or testing station, but during normal operation, emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard."

          That's right NOx not COx, also do you work for VW and just shilling?

          1. ZootCadillac

            Re: Read the F'ing article

            Read the response where I stated that I know that the EPA and its attitude to CO2 has nothing to do with the article.

            I'm not defending or even discussing VW.

        4. Adrian Midgley 1

          Increased CO2 forces temperature

          upward.

          Correlation

          Definitive

          Proved amount

          Define you as a denialist.

          Done the research.

          1. ZootCadillac

            Re: Increased CO2 forces temperature

            Show your correlation. Because you can't find it in the satellite record.

            You can't find it in the paleo record where Vostock core samples definitively show CO2 lags temperature rise ( a well understood process as ocean sinks give up their CO2 as they warm ) by as much as 800 years.

            I don't deny anything. I just look at the data. You can't argue with the data if they are not adulterated.

            You make your conclusions based upon the data, you don't fit the data to your preconceived notions.

            1. Scroticus Canis
              Happy

              Re: "..you don't fit the data to your preconceived notions." @ ZootCadillac

              Well you obviously are not a climatologist from East Anglia then are you!

              1. ZootCadillac
                Happy

                Re: "..you don't fit the data to your preconceived notions." @ ZootCadillac

                You may claim your prize because I am indeed not Phil Jones :)

        5. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. ZootCadillac

            Vic,

            That is still not the toxic levels discussed and although i can't speak for the sweetness of your breath i doubt it has the ability to kill. Unless you are capturing your breath for measurement then exhalation to atmosphere won't be anywhere near such a concentration.

            And no, I did not confuse CO2 for 02. I'm well aware of how things work otherwise it was a wasted education. The fact remains that without CO2 or even at dangerously low levels of CO2 below 200ppm plants, and more importantly the phytoplankton which provide up to 75% of the O2 we require to live from find it increasingly difficult to survive given that they draw upon CO2 for photosynthesis.

            So my original assertion that started off this merry-go-round of conversation stands. CO2 is essential to all life on earth. Be that directly or as a result of the food chain.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. ZootCadillac

                Re: Vic,

                The 'nonsense' as you like to call it, came after the fact and during later conversation. The original comment stands.

                regarding the 'nonsense' all of those statements above regarding CO2 and atmospheric concentrations are hard fact.

                And your breath still will not contain anywhere near that level of CO2 unless you capture it for measurement in the same way as you will never find toxic levels of CO2 occurring outside of experiment or accidents in enclosed spaces.

                I'll be alerting the WHO now that they must tell people they can no longer use mouth to mouth because Vic asserts it's toxic. Use a mint.

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

        6. Uffish

          Re: concentration of CO2

          Natural carbon dioxide concentrations in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave* regularly exceed 3%.

          However, to my mind, the problem is not how much damage Volkswagen has done to the world and it's population it is how much illegal cheating and deception Volkswagen management judges acceptable. They seem to have set the level a bit high and, I think, should be discouraged from continuing that strategy.

          * The replica tourist cave is worth the detour.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        [pedant]

        Strictly speaking, CO2 is not toxic in that it doesn't cause any damage to the human body; same as Nitrogen. Death basically results from lack of oxygen.

        [/pedant]

        1. ZootCadillac

          Thank you. CO2 does not kill but rather the lack of oxygen asphyxiates you.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            CO2 has an LC(LO) of 90 parts per thousand, and this can occur even with otherwise-normal oxygen present, IINM, which you'd think would point to something other than asphyxia.

          2. IvoryT

            10% CO2 will kill you very quickly even with normal O2 levels. (I am an anaesthetist.)

        2. DaDoc
          Boffin

          That's actually wrong. High levels of carbon dioxide in the blood render you unconscious, irrespective of the oxygen level in your blood. Carbon dioxide is in itself toxic to human beings at high levels. This toxicity shows itself in people with most severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who retain carbon dioxide when breathing.

          1. ZootCadillac

            IvoryT abd daDoc.

            Thank you for the education. My understanding, which could be entirely wrong as it is poorly remembered from my days working in submarines and ships in the 80's and the enclosed space work I had to do often in CO2 rich environments, was that yes CO2 will at some point render you unconscious but death almost always occurs from asphyxiation because the person usually falls down into the denser CO2 layer so that exacerbates the lack of oxygen but that also at a certain level of CO2 in the lungs it prevents them from being able to absorb O2 which leads to death, again by asphyxiation, technically.

            Happy to be told I am wrong.

            1. Scroticus Canis

              CO₂ Toxicity

              Blood pCO₂ affects it's pH from the formation of carbonic acid; more CO₂ more acidic. Known as acidosis. To low a pH will adversely affect lots of biochemical reactions necessary for life. Can't remember if there are other toxic effects.

      4. Joe Gurman

        Please

        Don't try to argue facts, particularly scientific ones, with the climate change-denying monkeys. They will only throw scat.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Eco or Ego ?

          Nobody can and nobody does deny climate change, because climate changes regardless of whether humans are producing C02.

          The climate of the entire earth been hotter and it's been colder. The global atmospheric currents have been different from how they are now and they will be different again in the future.

          Climate will change because that's what it does. Human activity may accelerate it a bit, but it's still going to change. We might even get a major volcanic eruption somewhere in the world and head straight into perennial winter for years on end.

          it's no use focusing on the CO2 that cars make, because that's like trying to extinguish a burning haystack by pissing on one corner.

          The fundamental that is ignored and denied is the fact that the planet is overpopulated by humans and nature will one day correct that problem and when it does the problem of CO2 will also be consequently taken care of.

          So, even if by eco-hairshirt zealousness we manage to extend the current form of human civilisation on the Earth by another few thousand years it will get us eventually and in terms of the life of the planet itself humanity will be just a flicker.

          We may be the most advanced species to have walked the earth but in the grand scheme of things we are actuall fuck all.

          But don't worry, it's all going to be OK because I switched my TV off at the wall.

          1. Big Ed

            Re: Eco or Ego ?

            @Werdsmith; and some day scientists will explain the correlation between CO2 levels and global warming, and the dawn and end of the ice age <not>.

            There was a movement decades ago to limit population growth by limiting each family to one child. Sadly the civilized world gave up on the push and only China <yes those evil, godless, commies> has the vision to continue to pursue.

      5. Vic

        Life-essential? Last I checked, CO2 is toxic to humans at concentrations above 2% and fatal above 10%.

        It is CO2 production (specifically, the pH of the blood) that drives the breathing cycle. More CO2 production (e.g. during exercise) makes you breathe more.

        4% is the expected CO2 output in human breath at 1 bar. The percentage decreases with increasing ambient pressure (because ppCO2 is supposed to be constant).

        That said - I think the OP has confused CO2 with O2.

        Vic.

        1. Vic

          4% is the expected CO2 output in human breath at 1 bar.

          Well, the block downvote seems to be out.

          For all you lot who are busy thumbing down without actually saying why, here are a few links to substantiate my post:-

          You can search for many more - this is hardly disputed territory.

          Vic.

      6. Charles Manning

        Last I checked, CO2 is toxic to humans at concentrations above 2%

        Stupid argument.

        O2 (oxygen) is also poisonous to humans above a partial pressure of around 2 bar. That's why old style rebreather apparatus could nopt be used below 10 metres.

        So should EPA also call O2 poisonous?

      7. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        ...Last I checked, CO2 is toxic to humans at concentrations above 2% and fatal above 10%....

        From the wiki:

        CO2 is an asphyxiant gas and not classified as toxic or harmful in accordance with Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals standards of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe by using the OECD Guidelines for the Testing of Chemicals.

        10%+ may well kill you by asphyxiation, but it's not 'toxic' in the same way as, say, CO is. And we currently don't have 1% in the atmosphere. We don't even have 0.1%. We have 0.04%, and I can't see how all the car exhausts in all the world running continuously until such time in the future when we invent nuclear-powered hover-boards are going to get us to 0.05%.

        And if we did get to 0.05% we would notice no difference, and the plants would love it, and agriculture would bloom and there would be far less famine/agricultural land on Earth. Which would be a GOOD THING....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The EPA just grinds my gears

      Let me guess, you're a VW diesel, right?

      1. ZootCadillac

        No. Fiat Diesel. Nissan petrol. Ducati petrol x4. Yamaha petrol.

        Never had a VW apart from a work vehicle 33 years ago.

        And even if I did have one it would not affect me in the UK.

        My issues with the EPA still stand. It's preposterous that a public funded department gets away with what they do in a modern Western government.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ducati are awful.

          1. ZootCadillac

            That's your opinion and you are entitled to it. My experience differs. I'm easy to find on the internet, I have some experience in that field.

          2. mrfill

            I think you'll find they're actually Audi now.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Ducati

            They attract men. Not that there's anything wrong with that; we live in modern times. Or perhaps you're a lonely lady. At least they're well groomed men, as opposed to the apes attracted by Harleys.

            Luxury cars attract nice women.

        2. fuzzie

          I guess you do own one now, seeing as Ducati is owned by Lamborghini which is owned by Audi which is part of the Volkswagen group :)

  3. Anonymous Curd

    Sounds exactly like the measures smartphones manufacturers were putting in to hoodwink benchmarks.

  4. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Enquiring minds want to know

    How the system detected the car was undergoing an emissions test? Back pressure from the sensor hose on the tailpipe?

    1. ZootCadillac

      Re: Enquiring minds want to know

      laptop gets plugged into the ecu or datalogger these days. Cars got complicated since I was a boy :)

    2. Irony Deficient

      Re: Enquiring minds want to know

      Florida1920, more information can be found in the letter that the EPA sent to VW (PDF document):

      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”. The “switch” senses whether the vehicle is being tested or not based on various inputs including the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, the duration of the engine’s operation, and barometric pressure. These inputs precisely track the parameters of the federal test procedure used for emission testing for EPA certification purposes.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Enquiring minds want to know

        A rather fuzzy description. SHOW ME THE CODE!

        Maybe they are detecting EPA Commissar Radiation?

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Enquiring minds want to know

        These inputs precisely track the parameters of the federal test procedure used for emission testing for EPA certification purposes.

        So, just like software benchmarks of computers, then?

        1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

          "So, just like software benchmarks of computers, then?"

          I knew a developer that would get their code running much faster by exploiting the benchmark tuning on the processor. The code was difficult to read, but it sure ran pretty fast...

  5. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Are they going to go after them for fictitious MPG figures as well??

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      fictitious MPG figures

      That would be a job for the Federal Trade Commission.

      As should be going after ISPs selling "unlimited" service which isn't.

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: fictitious MPG figures

        Well, the FTC could get involved, but not for the MPG figures -- those are the remit of the EPA, not the FTC. However, VW specifically marketed their TDI series in the US as "Clean Diesel" -- pretty much the opposite of what they apparently are. So they could theoretically open an investigation of unfair or deceptive trade practices.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will this bankrupt VW?

    This could have massive repercussions for VW.

    VW also owns Porsche too don't they? Depending on where the idea + push for this default device came from (wouldn't be low level mgmt), it's possible the corruption has spread to other divisions as well.

    Hopefully the EPA is taking a close look at the cars from the other VW owned group(s). :)

    1. ZootCadillac

      Re: Will this bankrupt VW?

      No, not even close.

      VAG group runs a €202Bn Euro revenue with profit after tax of €11.1 billion. Last quarter revenue was up 17%.

      Even a loss of a few billion would be nothing more than a pain in the arse for shareholders and their dividends for a few years.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will this bankrupt VW?

      Porsche AG owned by Volkswagen Group, which in turn is (majority) owned by Porsche Automobil Holding SE. WTF?

      1. ZootCadillac
        Coat

        Re: Will this bankrupt VW?

        It can be a confusing hierarchy but the Volkswagen Group ( formerly VAG) is the top tier multi-national umbrella organisation.

        It comprises Volkswagen Passenger Cars, AUDI AG, Bentley Motors Ltd, Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S., Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, SEAT, S.A., Škoda automobilová a.s., Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A., Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, MAN SE and Scania AB.

        Even then it gets more complicated. For instance VCV own MAN and SCANIA whilst Audi own Lamborghini and Lamborghini own Ducati.

        The confusion with Porsche is that VAG used to own 49.9% of Porsche with Porsche retaining the majority ownership of itself. That changed when Volkswagen group bought out the company wholly in 2012.

        Confused yet? When VAG bought Bentley they also bought Rolls Royce. But they did not secure the Marque of Rolls Royce which was purchased by BMW who sell the Rolls Royce with engines made by Bentley.

        We all need a lie down :)

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          "Volkswagen Group ( formerly VAG)"

          It was never called VAG. They had a distribution and finance arm that went under that acronym, they stopped using the name in the 1990s.

          Nowadays "VAG" is old man pub-talk for Volkswagen Group.

          http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/05/vwporsche-auto-union-what-the-nsfw/

          1. ZootCadillac

            Re: "Volkswagen Group ( formerly VAG)"

            When I worked there at the UK headquarters VAG is what appeared above the door and on my cheques.

            I'm not referring to the acronym V.A.G. ( which was used in house ) I am referring to the shortened version of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Will this bankrupt VW?

      This could have massive repercussions for VW.

      It may depend on how the rules are framed. Are the cars required to meet the emissions targets at all times (which is probably impossible) or are they simply required to pass the test?

      If the latter, VW could argue that they're doing nothing criminal, even if they won't exactly have the moral high ground.

      Then again, considering how many people get their cars remapped to improve real world performance and MPG, bypassing all the pass-the-mandated-test trickery, I'd say there will be a great market in "resetting" cars back to the 2015 firmware load, even if new cars have some crippled new default setup.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One surprise...

    Only VW have been caught. This has been "common knowledge" within the industry for a long time...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One surprise...

      If you screw down the emission standards until the cars run like an alligator with a bum leg, this sort of thing will inevitably happen. People want good running cars, not cars that shake and rattle when they roll.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: One surprise...

        People want good running cars, not cars that shake and rattle when they roll.

        People shouldn't have been buying diesels then!

        1. ZootCadillac

          Re: One surprise...

          I'm already having that buyers remorse after 8 months. Even with the 25% associated company discount ( not VW/Audi btw ) it really has not seemed worth it. Will be happy when I trade it in at 12 months. Time to go back to Mercedes petrol.

          1. ZootCadillac

            Re: One surprise...

            Re: I'm already having that buyers remorse after 8 months.

            I'm surprised that people would downvote my genuine wish that I had not bought a diesel MPV. Was it the Mercedes thing? Don't care. Getting the E250 AMG Night edition Estate (Wagon) next time. Already picked out for January 2016.

        2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: One surprise...

          Very few Americans would be seen dead driving a Diesel Car[1]. Now if it was a huge great Pickup with a 6ltr V8 and twin turbos then that would be different.

          [1] because most of them rattle like a bag of nails when idling.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: One surprise...

            "because most of them rattle like a bag of nails when idling."

            That "rattle" is actually a sonic boom and it's mostly a product of IDI systems which haven't existed for years.

            Modern diesels are surprisingly quiet.

            No comment about NOX - except to say that the USA has been hard on it for years due to its contributions to smog creation, whilst the EU had no standards on it until very recently. (Only eurodiesel 5 and later meet US NOX standards - and it now appears they may have been fibbing)

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: One surprise...

              "Modern diesels are surprisingly quiet" in the same way that TDI powered cars are surprisingly fast.

              Which is to say, not really.

            2. Dr_N Silver badge

              Re: One surprise...

              "Modern diesels are surprisingly quiet."

              Compared to DERVs of the past maybe, but they still sound like a skeleton having a wank in a biscuit tin.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: One surprise...

                "Compared to DERVs of the past maybe, but they still sound like a skeleton having a wank in a biscuit tin."

                Pics and audio or it didn't happen.

          2. montag

            Re: One surprise...

            Hardly so. My 2012 diesel is some what louder than a gas engine but it doesn't rattle as they once did and the sound proofing inside has held up quite well. But mine is a pre-cheat Passat

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One surprise...

          "People shouldn't have been buying diesels then!"

          One of the least appreciated revolutions in the car industry is the way that the rise of the Diesel car engine has forced engine makers to go back to the drawing board on the Otto cycle, because petrol engines are cheaper and lighter. The current generation of petrol engines has efficiency comparable with Diesels and I think when you add in the life costs, for most people they work out cheaper. They are also very nice engines. And the emissions are better than Diesel emissions, especially NOx. I went off Diesel in 2009 and I haven't regretted it (and I started my career in a Diesel R&D department...).

          Toyota apparently concluded years ago that Diesel would never meet the ultimate emissions limits, which is why so much of their effort has gone into Otto engines. Same with Honda. What we now need is for the car market to move away from Diesel - it is going to be a slow job selling "they aren't cheaper after all, and they are dirtier" to the public, though.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: One surprise...

            "What we now need is for the car market to move away from Diesel [...]"

            "London Assembly calls for diesel cars to be banned from capital"

            http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2015/07/14/london-assembly-calls-for-diesel-to-be-banned-from-capital

          2. Chloe Cresswell

            Re: One surprise...

            I keep looking at new cars, and the petrols still don't seem to get close to the deisels, so the comparable efficiency hasn't apprently made to market yet..

            (I'll stick with my 2005 70mpg xtype estate for the moment)

            1. messele

              Re: One surprise...

              Partly because of the higher calorific value of heavy oil (opposed to petroleum by mass) partly due to the fact that in order to burn 'cleanly' diesel engines run at a higher temperature...

              ...except higher combustion temperatures has an undesirable side-effect of creating higher concentrations of oxides of nitrogen, though oxides of carbon are reduced.

              The EPA have always been interested in NOx, Europe were mistakenly focussed on CO2 until recently.

              VW have 'cheated' their performance figures by circumventing US laws, which gives the advantage of making their engines look more efficient, when in reality this comes about through unfair means. Plenty of other manufacturers could make engines at least as efficient if they didn't play by the rules either.

              Oh, and yeah my Jag is rather efficient too but let's not let that cloud the aura of German bullshit that is all pervasive in the car industry.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: One surprise...

              "so the comparable efficiency hasn't apprently made to market yet.."

              Perhaps I should clarify.

              At idle a Diesel has an advantage because it is still running at full compression (which affects the thermal efficiency) whereas a petrol engine has a reduced BMEP because the air must be throttled. That's why start/stop is popular on mainland Europe, and why hybrids work.

              At road speeds a modern direct injection turbocharged petrol engine has thermal efficiency comparable to a Diesel, but its mpg is lower because Diesel oil is more dense than petrol (i.e. a litre of derv weighs significantly more than a litre of RO95.) Governments do not factor in the health costs of Diesel emissions into Diesel taxation, so it ends up considerably cheaper per joule.

              My own real world experience over 30 years of both Diesel and petrol cars suggests to me that a major difference in fuel consumption is due to a lot of petrol car drivers simply being shitty drivers, accelerating and braking much too hard even on roads where progress is governed by all the stuff shead. Diesel drivers tend to be more sedate.

              If you are really getting 70mpg from a Diesel X-type (isn't that actually a Mondeo?) I congratulate you on your light right foot. Most users reported around 41-42mpg, which I would believe.

              1. Dr_N Silver badge

                Re: One surprise...

                "Diesel drivers tend to be more sedate."

                ...because they are stuck driving an heavy oilburner with some very restrictive pollution control measures strapped on to it?

                1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                  Re: One surprise...

                  No, because the average diesel driver isn't in a hurry to wrap their vehicle around a lamppost.

                  In general, the large petrol engines are bought by drivers who want to accelerate hard, brake hard and otherwise try to almost, but not quite kill themselves and a few bystanders.

                  The large diesel engines are bought by people who want to tow caravans.

                  So petrol are dangerous, diesel are inconvenient.

                  The smaller engines of both kinds are bought by the majority, who don't really care and just want a nice car to travel in.

                  1. Dr_N Silver badge

                    Re: One surprise...

                    "The large diesel engines are bought by people who want to tow caravans."

                    What rubbish.

                    DERVs (especially in the UK) are bought by people who want to pay less on roadtax and fuel.

                    They then mod the cars, removing the EGR and DPF and getting them remapped for more power. And then chug around polluting to their hearts content. Very happy in the fact they got one over on everyone.

                    Just check out any UK based car forum, for a marque with significant DERV models, to observe this.

                    Basically just automotive tax dodging polluters. VAG should really just market directly to them.

                    1. James Hughes 1

                      Re: One surprise...

                      MOT test is being upgraded to ensure that all emission reducing devices originally installed are still present at the test. So you would need to reinstall the DPF and EGR for it.

                      Most people are not going to want to go through that pain.

                      1. Cynical Shopper

                        Re: One surprise...

                        "MOT test is being upgraded to ensure that all emission reducing devices originally installed are still present at the test. So you would need to reinstall the DPF and EGR for it."

                        But will you? I don't see much reduction in the fitment of aftermarket HIDs, despite the lack of self-levelling, supposedly now checked for as part of the MOT.

                      2. Dr_N Silver badge

                        Re: One surprise...

                        "MOT test is being upgraded to ensure that all emission reducing devices originally installed are still present at the test. So you would need to reinstall the DPF and EGR for it"

                        Thus DPFs are now cored out not removed so a visual inspection won't catch this.

                        Canny chaps these polluter-taxdodgers.

                  2. Medixstiff

                    Re: One surprise...

                    "In general, the large petrol engines are bought by drivers who want to accelerate hard, brake hard and otherwise try to almost, but not quite kill themselves and a few bystanders."

                    Not me, I like my car to get me in front of the idiots that cannot seem to drive in Australia. Also why are most cars in Australia sold with cruise control but no idiot ever uses it and sits 10K's under the limit on the f*n freeway?

              2. The Original Steve

                Re: One surprise...

                I disagree. I got a 2015 2ltr BMW 1-Series rated at 181BHP.

                I don't feather it, and spend about 30% of my 70 mile round trip in sport mode giving it some beans and enjoying my journey (safely mind). My average per trip is 61.4 mpg. I assume you've seen the price of diesel vs. petrol at the pumps recently...?

                I opted for this as the total cost over 3 years was cheaper compared to estimates on getting the 118i (as opposed to the 120d that I picked). The 0-100 km/h speed on the petrol is 7.4 vs the 7.2 on my oil burner.

                So it's faster and cheaper. Oh, and it's generally acknowledged that engine wise they'll outlast a petrol by quite some margin.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: One surprise...

        If you go back to the 70's and the infamous smog motors that American builders were basically forced to make, it almost killed them. Part of it was lack of engineering on the design side and the other was the way the EPA implanted their rules.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One surprise...

          "Part of it was lack of engineering on the design side"

          A lot of those old V8s were used as cheap marine engines. An engine which was advertised as being over 200HP would frequently only achieve about 55HP SAE on the 4-hour rating because the internal thermal management was so poor. By contrast, a Mercedes engine of the same era with a 140HP manufacturer rating could achieve around 90-100HP SAE, so it wasn't the technology of the time, just the complete lack of interest/desire to save money.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One surprise...

      Better real-life situation testing required. Fortunately not a problem that other software suffers from....

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: One surprise...

      If this is common knowledge and VW have been caught, then it may well spread.

      If so it becomes a "scandal", because someone within the federal govt has turned a blind eye to the practice.

      One assumes the EPA is now looking at all makers.

  8. Carl W

    EC mpg tests just as bad

    Ever wondered why no-one in the real world can get anything like the manufacturer's claimed mpg figures? The EC emissions test is prescriptive and is x minutes and y mph, y minutes at z mph, etc. So the ECU recognizes that it's on the test and adjusts fuelling appropriately to get artificially high mpg figures.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

      The artificially high mpg figures are really coming from the politicians. Can't sell many cars that actually comply, people don't want crap cars. Yet they vote for the idiots who promulgate such rules. Thus this sort of "cheating" is bound to happen over and over till reality is restored.

      1. JC_

        Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

        "people don't want crap cars"

        Not a problem, because there basically aren't any crap cars these days. Here are the best sellers from 2014, any of which would seemed magically good 30 years ago.

        Thus this sort of "cheating" is bound to happen over and over till reality is restored.

        The reality is that this is cheating: after being presented with evidence of its wrongdoing, Volkswagen admitted that the cars contained defeat devices.

        NOx and diesel particulates cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year in the UK. This kind of cheating shouldn't attract just fines but criminal prosecutions of those who made the decision to cheat; they've literally taken innocent lives.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

      The EC test allows such things as removing external protrusions (mirrors) and taping up all the body seams.

      The worst part is that manufacturers self-certify, 3rd party testing doesn't exist as it does in the USA.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

        There is no need for all that. The test is run on a static dynamometer. No wind drag but I understand they do account for rolling resistance in the settings of the dynamometer. The test itself involves several stop and go's and several "cruising speed" time period. Not exactly real world testing.

      2. Carl W

        taping up body seams

        Worse than that, they're not even done on the open road but on a rolling road (presumably with a wind machine). And as you say, self-certified.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

      Has there been a study on the kpl for male (Testerone Ted the Petrol Head) versus female drivers?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

        Has there been a study on the kpl for male (Testerone Ted the Petrol Head) versus female drivers?

        Many of the lead foots I know are female (impatient types). Pretty sure it's a personality/situation thing, not a testosterone thing.

        1. dogged

          Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

          > Many of the lead foots I know are female (impatient types). Pretty sure it's a personality/situation thing, not a testosterone thing.

          I know a few who burn a lot more fuel than is necessary by driving at too high revs in too low a gear. No, your engine should not be screaming at 40mph.

    4. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

      I've never had a car where I couldn't beat the maker's "claimed" mpg figures.

      One of my current cars has a claimed 45mpg combined/56ish extra urban.

      At 218,000 miles, she did a run from from birmingham to grimsby averaging 70mpg, and peaking at 76mpg..

    5. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: EC mpg tests just as bad

      Ever wondered why no-one in the real world can get anything like the manufacturer's claimed mpg figures?

      Can't they? I can regularly exceed them. Quite easily.

  9. Ilmarinen

    This is what you get...

    ...when Government decides that it should control everything, for your own good. And the more labyrinthine the regulations, the more inventive the victims become in working round them. Because, who wants a car that goes like the EPA thinks it ought to go?

    The US still has the death penalty in quite a few states I understand. Sadly, this only ever seems to get used on criminals, never on bureaucrats or politicians.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is what you get...

      you missed off corporations...

      This is a classic example of a corporation cheating the system and getting away with it by correcting the problem after the fact.

      What I would ask is who decided to set this up? Then they should be prosecuted under the law.

      However corporations fund government so not a chance of that happening.

      An example of this and I'm unsure if it's true is that the reason labour M.P.'s are against Corbyn is because they made a lot of money out of PFI's and if he gets into power they will lose out. Interesting times ahead.

    2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

      Re: This is what you get...

      If you removed all regulation, you think all the big corporations will play nice? You'd end up like in many parts of China where breathable air is becoming a luxury.

  10. DougS Silver badge

    Sounds like Samsung's benchmark cheat

    Though I wonder, how does the car know when emissions are being measured? Does it go to lower emissions mode when in park but not when in gear?

    1. Pookietoo

      Re: Sounds like Samsung's benchmark cheat

      I'm pretty sure they run emissions tests on a rolling road, they wouldn't achieve much by just by revving the engine with no load.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like Samsung's benchmark cheat

        So they check whether the car is in gear and 'moving' but the accelerometers detect no actual forward motion? I guess that would do it!

  11. rwbthatisme

    It would seem pretty obvious to me that when vw developed the ecu software they needed to put in some base parameters to work from, it just so happens that these parameters coincide neatly with the epa testing regime. Likewise the sensing that the car is stationary with little or no movement in the steering wheel is a logical mode if you work on the assumption that the car might be parked on a driveway or sitting in traffic, I.e. Switch to an efficient engine map to reduce pollution fuel consumption etc.

    1. JC_
      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        The cars have sensors for detecting all sorts of conditions, from from the relative speeds of each wheel, the ESP, the ABS how hard would it be to detect your drive wheels turning on the dyno and your other wheels not turning. There must be solid state gyros or similar sensors installed also to detect the dynamic state of a vehicle. The ECU should easily be able to detect that the car is stationary while the gearbox is turning.

  12. robertcirca

    How did they find this out?

    How did they find this out? Not by analysing the cars behaviour or analyzing the software. What else can you think of?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: How did they find this out?

      Hysteria?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How did they find this out?

      When the eobd or equivalent is plugged in the on board computer lies about emissions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How did they find this out?

        Would it be feasible to build a device to do this using an ODB-II connector and a raspberry pi?

      2. ZootCadillac

        When the eobd or equivalent is plugged in the on board computer lies about emissions.

        No it doesn't. It simply uses an alternative ECU map so that it passes the emissions test. The vehicle does not fool or pretend anything. It passes the test. What's wrong is that it then reverts to a different map which gives better performance at the expense of emissions. It's understood that in this everyday mapping the vehicle would fail the test.

  13. Geoff Johnson

    It passes the test as written then.

    So it detects when it's stood still idling and runs in low performance low emission mode. When under normal use you get decent performance but a bit more emission. Surely it's a pass. Unless you ban them from varying the engine map for different situations. In which case we're back to carburetors and even then only if they have a manual choke.

    I know this is diesel so the carb bit doesn't really apply.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It passes the test as written then.

      "So it detects when it's stood still idling and runs in low performance low emission mode. When under normal use you get decent performance but a bit more emission."

      As I understand it the emission cycle is not just idling, far from it. Presumably the ecu detects that the steering is not in use and only the driven wheels are turning (if it is a rolling road test) and acts accordingly.

      NOx is a serious problem in cities which are a lot more congested than they were when Diesels started to gain popularity. I live near Bath so I know what it is like. Bad news for asthma and elderly people. If VW have indeed been cheating to the amount suggested I hope they get pounded.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "See That Cheating Bastard Over There?"

    "Just like a Golf"

  15. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Unproven allegation by E(M)PA shysters

    I have my doubts about the E(M)PA's claims. Their shysters are incapable of understanding science or technology but are great at writing nonsense regulations ("When a solid waste is a liquid" - Direct quote of EPA regulations).

    E(M)PA - Environmental (Mis)Protection Agency

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unproven allegation by E(M)PA shysters

      It is being reported in numerous news agencies, worldwide, that Volkswagen has admitted they did what they did, and they did it to cheat on the tests.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unproven allegation by E(M)PA shysters

      "When a solid waste is a liquid" - there's an obvious example...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unproven allegation by E(M)PA shysters

      "When a solid waste is a liquid"

      It is very simple - the term "solid waste" just means all discarded or abandoned materials. It isn't nonsense at all, just an extension of scope as more and more industrial emissions have been recognised as waste.

      I find it troubling that anyone exists who is stupid enough to think that environmental protection is not needed, because even billionaires have to live on the same planet as the rest of us.

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    100% VW's fault, could be costly!

    First some background -- starting around 1995 or so, large diesel engine manufacturers (i.e. the ones making engines for semis, a.k.a. lorries) were expected to start meeting some somewhat tighter emissions standards. They were basically using 1950s-era engine technology, and would just inject diesel in reaction to the "go pedal" (either fully mechanical fuel injection, or electronic fuel injection but with very simple software.) Well, fast forward a year or two, and people found it odd that their Volvos would occasionally suddenly lose power, run like crap for a while, then perk right back up. Well, the EPA found that the Volvo (and one or two other vendors) had done nothing legitimate to meet emissions, they would switch to barely meeting emissions (but barely running) if and only if they detected the EXACT parameters of an EPA test. If they started an EPA test, but then went, say, 37MPH instead of 40MPH, all of a sudden it'd start running dirty as all hell. A few others may not have been intentionally cheating, but were disabling emissions controls on extended cruise conditions. The companies fined (over $1 billion total) were Caterpillar Inc., Cummins Engine Co. Inc., Navistar International Corp., the Detroit Diesel Corp., Mack Trucks, its corporate parent Renault SA, and Volvo.

    "Cost of billions? Maybe. You have to remember that the EPA is led by the worst sort of political hacks, whose lies can rarely be distinguished from their incompetence."

    Cost of billions? Maybe. VW got caught out intentionally violating EPA standards, and effectively committing fraud against the EPA by making their software detect the EPA test and only even attempt to meet emissions under these circumstances. They know (I assume) that vendors got caught doing just this less than 20 years ago, got huge fines for it, and choose to try their luck anyway.

    " It passes the test as written then."

    No it doesn't, the EPA rules specify an overall limit an engine should meet (and cold start is given a lower weight than the other conditions... since engines do run dirtier cold) as well as "do not exceed" limits. It doesn't specify "meet limits under EPA test and then do whatever you want the rest of the time." Making 40x the NOx limit means it's making 40x the NOx limit, a violation of the test as written.

    "So it detects when it's stood still idling and runs in low performance low emission mode. When under normal use you get decent performance but a bit more emission. Surely it's a pass. Unless you ban them from varying the engine map for different situations."

    Nope, the EPA test is not sitting there idling; the city test involves driving for about 10 minutes from a cold start (this part's given below-average weight since cold engines run dirty), then about 15 minutes driving around; then 10 minute shut off, then the first 10 minutes drive on the warm-start engine. The highway test is done from a warm engine, accelerating and driving at (rather sluggish) highway speeds. In fact (thank goodness I'm not in a smog test state), even in smog test states... a few areas just stick a sniffer up the pipe while idling, but most test on a dyno at several RPM/load conditions. Regarding "a bit more emission"... a) 40x the limit is not a bit more emissions. b) You can make "a bit more emission" if you're under the limit, the limit is a limit. Cadillac had to recall some cars (and change the software), as well as pay a fine, in the 1990s because the cars were maybe 10% over the limit (not 40x the limit, 1.1x the limit) if and only if the air conditioning was on (the EPA test is done with A/C off.) And yes, you can use different engine maps, but all are required to meet the emissions standards. It is banned to use a totally different engine map depending on if you're on an EPA test or not. (One exemption... I think federal rules exempt emissions at full throttle, but California does not.)

    "They say "up to 40 times the standard". Not on average 40 times the standard. It could be as simple as VW responding to 100% accelerator pedal input before the catalytic converter has warmed up, at high altitude and high air temperature. The fix could be a trivial loss of peak power under rare start up conditions. The EPA's press release is deliberately thin on information to vilify VW."

    The EPA press release precisely and clearly says "A sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test." I can assure you no engine is going to peak at 40x the limit but stay within limits the rest of the time, that's simply not how NOx production works.

  17. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Hopefully...

    As far as I know, these VW engines are fairly modern, the injection system is modern, and presumably they have the emissions controls installed since they meet emissions during the EPA test. Hopefully, these engines can actually run reasonably clean, so when VW rolls out "the patch" the owners don't have the TDI start running horribly, or have the MPG plummet, or both. Then, they'll have the EPA *and* the TDI owners going after them.

    edit: from the EPA link "How much more pollution is being emitted than should be? NOx emission levels are 10 – 40 times higher than emission standards", so no, it's not like it makes 40x when you gun it and is OK the rest of the time.

    1. Whiskers

      Re: Hopefully...

      As I understand it, the NOx emmissions of a diesel engine can be reduced by injecting a urea solution into the exhaust gasses (converting the NOx into water and nitrogen) or by re-circulating some of the exhaust gasses through the combustion cycle. The latter method tends to increase the amount of particulate carbon produced which means some sort of particle filter is probably needed to keep overall emissions within requirements; it also involves considerable changes to the design and construction of the engine whereas the urea injection approach looks as though it could be a relatively simple add-on.

      If you go for the urea injection method, you have to make sure you don't run out of the stuff by evaporation or leakage or just by normal use. So I can imagine an engine control program that reduces the amount of urea being injected when running conditions indicate less need - eg whenever it seems that no emissions tests are being undergone ('need' here being a legal rather than moral or engineering consideration). If that's what VW have done then the 'fix' shouldn't have a noticeable effect on normal driving performance but will mean the routine maintenance checks and top-ups of 'diesel exhaust fluid' will have to be more frequent; it may even be necessary to find room for a bigger tank for the magic stuff.

  18. John Tserkezis

    The question is, will this recall affect anyone in Australia?

    Or will they just sweep it under the carpet and forget about it. You know, like that very slight DSG gearbox controller issue?

  19. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Maybe in trouble

    NOx is nasty stuff. It eats through engine parts, sidewalks, sculptures, buildings, soil, eyes, lungs, wildlife, and pretty much everything else. The trick will be for VW to fix the emissions without a class action lawsuit for the car no longer meeting advertised specifications. If VW was running the combustion chamber extra hot to meet soot regulations, then they're definitely facing a technical nightmare at this point.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's not forget...

    it's been government policy in Britain (and maybe Europe) to promote Diesel cars (through reduced fuel tax etc) since the early 1990's.

    And despite significant academic work on pollution form Diesel cars in the real world (eg on the streets of London) being far worse than the manufacturer's figures, and despite evidence that people are removing the particulate filters because they get clogged, and despite hospitals reporting seasonal severe respiratory problems in some young babies (when NOx from Diesels are at their worst) ... the gov has remained mysteriously silent and seemingly isn't promoting petrol instead.

    1. Carl W

      Re: Let's not forget...

      Reduced fuel tax? So why in the UK has diesel, apart from a few weeks about a month ago, been more expensive than petrol? Surely it's simpler to refine?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The last major case, on this scale, about fraudulent software was Bernie Maddoff.

    Most of Madoff's victims were charitable organizations, elderly people, and Jews it would seem logical that Volkswagen would be more democratic and less discerning in its approach.

  22. andro

    To answer some Qs in the comments. Car manufacturers do sometimes get busted for fake economy stats, and this was discovered and reported by university researchers.

    From: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/foreign/2015/09/18/epa-vw-diesel-vehicles-violated-emissions-rules/72401296/

    Last year, Hyundai and Kia Motors Corp. agreed to a record-setting $360 million settlement for overstating fuel economy ratings. The agreement ended EPA’s two-year investigation into the automakers' overstatement of mileage ratings for 1.2 million 2011-13 U.S. vehicles.

    ...

    The VW emissions issue came to the attention of EPA in 2014 after independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, working with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a non-governmental organization, raised questions about emissions levels.

  23. messele

    Second element

    We need to factor in the other element - that is consumers who were conned into buying vehicles based on a lie when they may have bought a different vehicle had they realised that these modifications will now change certain aspects. After all Americans don't exactly have a great love affair with heavy oil powered engines.

    Heavy oil? That's right, not diesel as these engines were pioneered by Hubert Akroyd Stuart in Fenny Stratford, right before a cheating German took the concept and developed it as his own and it's been known by his name ever since.

  24. Ru'

    I bet it's not just VAG doing this these days either; they've just been caught. Hopefully this will kill off all these nasty diesel cars (obviously it won't, but we can but hope)...

    1. messele

      ...and what of the nasty diesel trucks, coaches, railway locomotives, portable electricity generators etc?

      Who says anybody else is doing it, we just don't know that yet. Seems to me Volkswagen AG has been trading on this bullshit for years now which has massively promoted sales of their cars, or to put it another way, has unfairly penalised other car makers that have played by the rules.

      1. ZootCadillac

        Trading on what bullshit? People don't buy oil burners based upon any emissions figures. The market for that sector is serving up hybrids and electric vehicles. People buy oil burners for economy, or they did back when the fuel was so cheap. ( Americans need to understand that in the UK we pay 4-5 times the price per gallon that they do, for either fuel ).

        This issue has nothing whatsioever to do with economy and is purely an incident where the cars went into a different mapping under emissions testing so that they would easily pass the harsh rules set by the draconian EPA.

        No diesel manufacturer is trading on what does or does not come out of the pipe.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          They absolutely are

          For a start, if they don't meet the limits they can't be sold at all.

          Some taxes are based on emissions figures, which clearly affect running costs and so have a disproportionate effect on the choice.

          Also, not all "low emissions" buyers want a hybrid. Hybrids have poor figures for long, even journeys, often much worse than the "plain" version due to extra battery and drivetrain weight.

          A good diesel easily outperforms a good petrol hybrid for this type of use.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh how naughty, that's going to be one very big fine for VW as the USA loves giving big fines to foreign firms.

    1. JC_

      As the EU likewise did to Intel & Microsoft (and deservedly then, too!)

      Hopefully, any such fine levied will hurt VW enough to discourage such practices and cause some high-level heads to roll.

  26. gregthecanuck
    Mushroom

    Can of worms out of stock in aisle 3

    If *I* had a new VW diesel product and this came to light I would be returning the vehicle.

    Lord knows what will happen to your mileage once the remediation is complete. I am guessing that in order to meet the emissions standards the MPG will suffer. And also how will the engine hold up running in a higher emissions control mode (likely hotter?) over a long period of time.

    Nope, I would wash my hands of the vehicle. False advertising, lemon, whatever.. not my problem.

    The lawyers are going to go totally ape on this one. Major class action territory this is... get those popcorn poppers going (after testing their emissions)...

    1. ZootCadillac

      Re: Can of worms out of stock in aisle 3

      Why would you? Your handle suggests that you are not American so your vehicle would not be subject to the EPA regulations and so VW would not be doing anything to your vehicle in order to pass them with ease.

  27. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "Get to work" software

    A very long time ago, my friend complained to the Chrysler dealer about unreliable starting.

    The dealer flashed his car's ECU with the "Get to work" software.

    Replacing the 'Pollution test' software.

  28. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    W.O.T.

    Wide Open Throttle.

    Of course diesel engines don't have throttles, but I think it's fair game to adjust for maximum power at 'full throttle'. I assume that the specified test doesn't include much full throttle for any cars with reasonable performance.

  29. ecofeco Silver badge

    How do we know?

    It seems the most obvious questions that should be asked on a tech site like El Reg but isn't, are:

    How do we know?

    What is the software cheat and how does it work?

    Has this been verified by another 3rd party source we trust?

  30. Herby Silver badge

    Given a chance, everyone cheats.

    Fact of life.

    VW found a way of gaming the system and took advantage of it.

    In my own personal experience I've gotten around pollution test problems. I ran the gas tank down to almost nil, and then added two quarts of 91% isopropyl alcohol. Then I kept the engine warm and went over to the smog station. Passed with flying colors.

    Yes, gaming the system happens all the time. Programmers do it with "lines of code" all the time.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Horsefeathers!

    Who are we to believe? The trick cyclist running the EPA or the worshippers of efficiency who design cars for Volkswagon? I'll buy what the German engineers have to say over what Regina McCarthy claims all day long and all night. She is a lying leftwing no-goodnick.

  32. vwFraud
    Megaphone

    Volkswagen cyber attacked a website with pictures of their defective cars!

    Crocodile tears. They're upset because they got caught.

    They've been dumping, non-epa related, defective cars on unsuspecting customers for years. Volkswagen of America cyber attacked a website with pictures of their defective cars to destroy the car pictures. Take a look below. All the IP evidence of their attacks to destroy the website are there. Totally illegal, but they've been getting away with it for years.

    They use their size and the justice system to get away with it, and then cover up their dirty work with billion dollar marketing campaigns.

    The website.

    http://www.vwfraudclassaction.com/

    From: Ken Boulange [mailto:ken@TMFeatures.com]

    Sent: Sunday, September 20, 2015 11:35 AM

    To: 'Ken Boulange' <ken@shapesearch.com>

    Subject: Crocodile tears. They're upset because they got caught.

    Crocodile tears. They're upset because they got caught.

    They've been dumping, non-epa related, defective cars on unsuspecting customers for years. Volkswagen of America cyber attacked a website with pictures of their defective cars to destroy the car pictures. Take a look below. All the IP evidence of their attacks to destroy the website are there. Totally illegal, but they've been getting away with it for years.

    They use their size and the justice system to get away with it, and then cover up their dirty work with billion dollar marketing campaigns.

    The website. http://www.vwfraudclassaction.com/

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not cheating

    Just optimising the customer expectation...

    [whale song...]

  34. hoola

    Long Overdue

    VW just happen to have got caught, everyone else will be doing this as well however from a US perspective the scrutiny will always be on the competition, particularly as the US car industry is in dire trouble.

    It has been clear for years that diesel powered vehicles emit more pollution but all the focus has been on CO2. In major European cities, diesel emissions from cars are now causing NO2 & PM10. PM5 to exceed permitted levels. The published emissions are clearly based on highly controlled lab environments so it is no surprise that in the real world the cars fail.

    In Europe it is going to take years to undo all the tax benefits that have been given to diesels as. Either that or you have to make petrol even more attractive, reducing tax revenues.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Long Overdue

      I think it was over ten years ago that a friend who used to work on diesel ECU software said this was happening - and also in petrol engines as well (gaming the system by recognising when a test is underway). They also used to try and deliberately burn nitrogen to NOx to improve fuel consumption. IIRC.

      I would be quite surprised if all the other manufactures are currently getting rather worried. If I were VW, I'd be testing some of these other manufacturers cars, so when it all hits really the fan they can say who else is doing it too...ie likely everyone.

      1. Unhandle

        Re: Long Overdue

        Any chance you can get your friend to talk about this some more? I suspected the same thing, but your comment is the first hint I have seen that this could in fact be the case.

      2. Peter Ford

        Re: Long Overdue

        I thought "test modes" in the ECU had been public knowledge for years (or at least suspected) - now someone with influence has finally demonstrated

        1. Vic

          Re: Long Overdue

          I thought "test modes" in the ECU had been public knowledge for years

          I suspect all we've seen is the very tip of the iceberg...

          VW are a well-established manufacturer. It would surprise me if they can't make an engine of similar capability to the other manufacturers. So if VW have been cheating to get through the EPA tests, are they alone? I suspect not...

          There's probably quite a bit of protectionism going on in this matter. That inevitably backfires if the whole thing is actually common practice.

          Vic.

    2. Charles Manning

      USA double standards

      I won't comment (yet) on the VW issue, but it is clear the USA motor industry is biassed.

      Toyota got hammered $1.2bn for the "acceleration bug". No bug was found even after extensive analysis by various embedded systems consultants etc. They did find some divergence from "best practice", but "best practice" is subjective and - ultimately - no bug was found. Net result: no proven injury or deaths, $1.2bn fine!

      GM had their ignition switch debacle. That was deliberate management suppression of the facts around a proven mechanical failure. This was a deliberate act that was known to have killed 120 people and GM got fined $900m.

      So VW, clearly guilty of the larger crime of being a foreign car maker, can expect a huge poling.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: USA double standards

        re toyota: "no bug was found."

        Incorrect. The code was found to be pretty awful and bloated. At least one condition caused a crash in such a way that the acceleration bug could occur.

        Automotive coders turned out to be just as susceptable to the "let it bloat, faster processors and more memory will solve that" disease as everyone else.

  35. 2Fat2Bald

    I suspect a lot of this could be political. These imported cars have been making domestic stuff look pretty dated for some time, which has hit sales. This is an opportunity to use the regulatory framework to fine a foreign company a LOT of cash (don't forget, they don't burn the cash the government actually purloin it), and do the competitor's reputation huge damage.

    Having given a lot of money to GM to keep them in business a few years ago, i'd imagine the US Government would be very keen to do everything they can to help keep them in business. Plus if someone buys an Audi a portion of that money goes out of the US economy, whereas if they buy a Dodge, Ford or Chevrolet(!) it stays in the USA.

    As these cars are being described as "09-15" models, does that mean they've now been discontinued?

    I'd be very, very interested to find out if US cars have been subjected to the same scrutiny.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ban it

    Somewhere a politician is drafting a law to ban "software"...

    1. Swiss Anton

      Re: Ban it

      Nothing new there, politicians have been banning software for years, it's known as a government IT contract.

  37. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    I know it's wrong

    but knowing these cars are intentionally giving the finger to the government makes me want one.

    1. Unhandle

      Re: I know it's wrong

      Why would you want 500,000 highly polluting cars on the road? Do you have any idea of the health problems for children tied to dirty air or is that your lungs are fine, so you really could give a flying intercourse about anybody else?

      1. Pirate Dave
        Pirate

        Re: I know it's wrong

        errrr, what? I said I wanted ONE, as a collector's item (which, admittedly, I didn't say in my original post). Not 500,000.

        And, in general, no, I don't give a flying fuck, especially not when asked if I give a flying fuck.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I know it's wrong

        "Do you have any idea of the health problems for children"

        Ah, the "think of the children!" argument. It didn't take long to be raised here.

        NOX is specifically a problem in urban and smog-prone environments. Automobiles only contribute about half of it (gas and oil boilers are a big culprit in the UK, although condensing boilers have far lower NOX emissions than past designs).

        In particular, NOX is NOT a problem in suburban and rural areas. The NOX and PM10 maps of London make that abundantly clear.

        If there was some way of a vehicle realising it was being driven in a way that meant it was in urban conditions (or detect its approx location, or even sniff the air) and adjusted emissions accordingly then you could have decent milage outside cities and still keep things low where needed....

        The problem is that the laws are written to cater to worst case conditions and make no allowance for smarter (or any) electronics which can optimise far better than a "one size fits all" solution.

        Californian emission regulations are harsh specifically because of Los Angeles and the Central Valley - and the Los Angeles area had smog before there were even towns in the area thanks to its unique conditions (early explorers reported it as a result of indian campfires).

  38. Bucky 2
    Happy

    I know it's a bad thing

    ...but when I read this article, I laughed and laughed. I'm not even entirely sure why.

  39. Unhandle

    Am I the only one thinking that this highly sophisticated software was not something the lab just whipped up in a jiffy? I am thinking this incident will uncork an even more devious history. I speculate that somewhere, somebody/some group developed this prior to 2009 and I think it has been deployed elsewhere. If I am right, this could get really interesting.

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