back to article CHEAT! Volkswagen chief 'deeply sorry' over diesel emission test dodge

Volkswagen's CEO has admitted that the German car manufacturer used software to cheat emissions testing for certain air pollutants on nearly half a million of its cars. Martin Winterkorn's confession led to the company suffering a bloody trading day – with shares nosediving more than 21 per cent to €128.15 this morning. "I …

  1. TonyJ Silver badge

    Surely this is a form of fraud?

    Or am I missing something?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

      Morally, probably. Legally I suspect they've carefully read the test documents (or I'd hope someone had with wriggling of such magnitude). I can well imagine that the emissions standards documents merely state something along the lines of "follow this driving profile with a standard car and measure the emissions", so if a driver of such a car were to mimic that profile then the volume of emissions should be equal to the test result (allowing for rolling roads, etc...).

      Unless of course there is something in the code along the lines of:

      if(NOX_output_enabled_for_probe)

      call dump_wee_in_exhaust()

      else

      call disable_wee_in_exhaust()

      Reminds me a lot of the phone vendors doing benchmark test "optimisation" routines that use the bigger on-board processor for running benchmarks, but the little one for more mundane tasks like playing games/browsing/making calls...

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        @JetSetJim, the tests usually follow a specific profile of acceleration, braking and stationary situations, in a specific order. If a car senses this cycle, it switches into hyper economy mode.

        That is why you can never trust the fuel consumption figures for cars based on the standard cycle. In the old days, before there was so much electronic wizardry on board, it was much harder to fool the tests, today, if the GPS says you aren't moving and the wheels say you are doing 60mph, then it is probably time to switch on economy mode...

        1. Indolent Wretch

          Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

          Maybe they just detect spinning wheels for more than X seconds and no movement on the GPS to let them know they're on a rolling road.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

      I am lost reading it.

      The article describes use of AdBlue. AdBlue is used only in trucks AFAIK, it is not used on small diesel engines as found in cars like the list of the VW vehicles that cheated on the test. At least it is not part of the Eu spec for the same engines.

      They use recirculation instead and capture the resulting particulate matter in a particulate filter. AdBlue is actually a better solution as it increases the service interval mileage and allows the engine to run at higher efficiency compared to recirculation + particulate filter. The engine also needs less aggressive cooling and lasts longer.

      Also, if USA uses AdBlue across the board and not just on large trucks, then the fact that VW cheats should have been picked up long ago due to abnormally low consumption of the additive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        "They use recirculation instead and capture the resulting particulate matter in a particulate filter."

        That's nothing to do with urea injection which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

          That's nothing to do with urea injection which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions

          Read the AdBlue patents or the FAQ: http://www.utb.nl/en/page/305

          There are two ways to alter diesel NOx emissions - one is re-circulation and capturing resulting particulate matter from the engine running at lower combustion temps (paradoxically, it requires better cooling and shorter service intervals) and the other one is AdBlue. You can reduce NO2 using appropriate settings of the re-circulation flap (which is also controlled by the ECU) .You will however lose power and your fuel consumption will be worse.

          As I am not aware of AdBlue use on car engines of that size at the _DATES_ affected (2009 earliest), it looks like this is exactly what VW has done - it has used different re-circulation settings for test and off-test.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

            You wrote :

            "The article describes use of AdBlue. AdBlue is used only in trucks AFAIK"

        2. rh587 Bronze badge

          Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

          "That's nothing to do with urea injection which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions"

          No, they're linked. You either run the engine slightly inefficiently, which produces low NOX and high Particulate Matter (and then deal with the PM via recirculation and DPF), or you run the engine hot which gives a nice clean burn with low PM but high NOX and deal with the NOX via AdBlue/Urea (SCR - Selective Catalytic Reduction).

          You pick one strategy or the other, and this is seen especially strongly in off-road plant equipment, which is sold either with DPF (which increases diesel burn but requires no extra work) or SCR (which requires you to stock AdBlue on site as well as diesel).

          DPF is favoured for rental fleets since it's often hard enough to get customers to put diesel in the right tank, never mind complicating the issue with Ad Blue! Other buyers go with products that meet emissions by using AdBlue.

          AdBlue has not seen great penetration into cars yet (though there are some), because a lot of motorists simply don't want the hassle of filling two tanks and will live with their cars having to undergo a regen cycle now and then.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

            "a lot of motorists simply don't want the hassle of filling two tanks"

            AFAIK the urea tanks are quite large and are refilled as part of the usual service routine. BTW AdBlue is often found on pumps at service stations these days - certainly in France

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            A bit large

            "a lot of motorists ... undergo a regen cycle now and then"

            At lot of garages are doing steady trade in replacing shagged DPFs because most motorists don't know what it does and how it works.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

          Exhaust gas recirculation is used to reduce combustion temperatures and hence reduce the amount of NOX emitted. It has nothing to do with regulating particle emissions.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        VW has used AdBlue for several years now on its cars.

        From VW's UK website:

        To help protect our environment, some Volkswagen TDI models are now fitted with AdBlue® emissions control equipment which cleans exhaust gases helping cars to comply with the new EU6 exhaust emissions regulations.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

          To help protect our environment, some Volkswagen TDI models are now fitted with AdBlue® emissions control equipment which cleans exhaust gases helping cars to comply with the new EU6 exhaust emissions regulations.

          Now, yes - that is Euro6. 2009? Euro 5 if not even Euro 4. Definitely not.

          1. toughluck

            Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

            Euro 4 mandated reduced particulate matter emissions. You can meet these regulations two ways:

            - keep temperature down to not emit more NOx and add a diesel particulate filter

            - raise temperature to reduce particulate emissions, increasing NOx emissions, but adding selective catalytic converters that use AdBlue to reduce those NOx emissions.

            Most manufacturers went the first route. Some (notably including Mercedes-Benz) went the other.

            With Euro 6, you need both technologies to reduce emissions.

            1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

              Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

              So, to summarize the thread.

              This started in 2009 including Jetta. 2009 Jetta does not have F***ING AdBlue Tank. 2009 Four cylinder Audis also do not have an Adblue tank (the 6-cyl and the Tuareg do).

              Here is the initial review of that model which clearly states its new "Ultra Clean Diesel" needs no AdBlue. http://cars.about.com/od/volkswagen/fr/09_jetta_tdi.htm

              So it is cheating on recirculation level. This also makes sense because changing the injection level of AdBlue has no major effect on performance and car "marketability". Messing with the regen and the DPF does.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        AdBlue is used only in trucks AFAIK,

        My diesel Audi A5 has an AdBlue tank.

      4. Julian 8

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        Buses user it as well

        I know the latest Mercs use it. Call it something else and rip you off for it, but it is adBlue

        EGR - damn annoyance as the valve will gum and stick. I used to service the one in my Saab once a year as a precaution (carb cleaner and Copper grease)

        there is also a filter in some cars which gets a good burn and clean that helps the EGR, but only when the engine is at the right temperature and one a long run.

        1. chris 17 Bronze badge

          Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

          @Julian 8

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlueTec

          Merc system is called BlueTec and they licensed it to VAG to help German manufacturers sell diesels in the US market. VAG decided they wanted their own brand names behind their anti pollution tech and pulled out of BlueTech an went their own way. They all use Urea in their SCR process to reduce NOx to 0.05 grams per mile of NOx much less than than the 0.40 g/mile demanded in the EU.

        2. Paul Woodhouse

          Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

          the lambda sensor which IIRC is a zinc oxygen saturation sensor that sits in the exhaust and is only used on petrol cars not diesel... been in use since about 1988 or so...

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        "AdBlue is used only in trucks"........I have a SEAT Alhambra (Volkswagon Charran in slight disguise, as VW own SEAT, I believe) and that beast uses AdBlu. It's used as a taxi, so needs more top-ups than a private car.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

      ADAC, the German equivalent of the AA, reported on the fuel consumption and emissions testing back in February or March. Most manufacturers have a detector in the car that recognises when they are being tested and switch into super-economy mode.

      This means that drivers generally can't get anywhere near the figures reported in the official documents for economy and emissions. In the worst cases some cars were up to 40% worse than what the manufacturer claimed.

      ADAC has always claimed that the manufacturers figures are dubious and never used the standard tests, they used their own test route, running through towns, autobahn, country roads and hills. This figure is then used to show how economical the vehicles are. A much better method.

      New tests are scheduled for 2017, which should be tougher to trick (at least at first).

      Given the ADAC report, it is surprising that only VAG have been singled out so far...

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        This means that drivers generally can't get anywhere near the figures reported in the official documents for economy and emissions.

        The figures in each case can usually be bettered by a competent driver.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

        Given the ADAC report, it is surprising that only VAG have been singled out so far...

        Not really. The people who care about cars know it's been done for years, but it's the only way to get decent performance and still pass the tests. Remember the horrendous SMOG devices fitted to US cars in the 1970s, where V6 engines ended up with worse performance and economy than a 1.0 Mini? No-one wanted to go back to that, so no-one was rocking the boat. Let the manufacturers claim silly figures to pass the tests, as long as the car drove reasonably well in real life.

        Now that some bureaucrat has noticed that the Emperor is wandering around starkers we're all going to get crap performance and MPG, at least until the aftermarket remappers get moving.

    4. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

      "Urea, which is injected into the car exhaust to dispel harmful NOx emissions, is stored in a small bottle."

      Well, they are really taking the piss now....

    5. AndyS

      Re: Surely this is a form of fraud?

      Personal anecdote. Let's say I used to have a "friend" who worked at a large vehicle manufacturer.

      There are dozens of parameters of what's happening on a vehicle at any one time. Doors open? Rear wheels turning? Front wheels turning? Hmm, maybe we're on ice, or snow, or something, better cut down the available torque.

      Oh, I say, I never imagined that would affect the emissions test! Terribly sorry sir.

      For cars, the test is often conducted with the bonnet and some or all doors open. And guess what? If the bonnet or doors are open, it's perfectly reasonable to cut down on engine power, to try and prevent an accident, isn't it?

      The one that I remember getting one company into deep water (I think Ford) is when they explicitly programmed the GPS co-ords of the test centres. Since there is no "innocent" explanation for that, wrists were firmly slapped.

  2. Hero Protagonist

    Irony

    For me at least, this page is adorned with an Audi ad

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Irony

      before AdBlock, i saw an advert for Laser Pointers in a story about people shinning laser pointers at airplanes... I even took a screen shot of it. Who says google isn't watching?

  3. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Presumably now government transport departments will be busying themselves to reclassify VW tax bands and rubbing their hands at the thought of all that extra revenue. How long before the first court case I wonder.

  4. Afernie

    They are in big trouble

    There's the cost of the recall, the potential for lawsuits from consumers and other car manufacturers, and according to a TV report I heard on Saturday, a fine of the equivalent up to £24000 for EVERY infringing car. This is the sort of thing bankruptcies are made of.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: They are in big trouble

      I think the first estimates were around $18bn to rectify the problem, without taking into account fines.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: They are in big trouble

        "the first estimates were around $18bn to rectify the problem"

        If the 'problem' is simply a software engine mapping, that figure seems a bit on the high side. Do they need to physically change anything in the engine to comply with the emissions?

      2. rh587 Bronze badge

        Re: They are in big trouble

        "I think the first estimates were around $18bn to rectify the problem, without taking into account fines."

        That wasn't to rectify the problem. That was the potential bill if the EPA posted the maximum $36,000 fine per car across all half-a-million cars.

        Actually rectifying the problem is on top of that, but the EPA may choose not to levy the full fine available to them (or agree a repayment plan over the next decade or so!).

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: They are in big trouble

      There's the cost of the recall,

      I can't help but wonder how many people will decline VWs kind offer to recall their car and load new performance-limiting ECU firmware to comply with this? I forecast much interesting online discussion and comparisons in the months to come.

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    German efficiency caught with itr's pants down.

    Reminds me of a certain graphics card maker who optimised their ROM for benchmarks not real world scenarios.

    1. Indolent Wretch

      >> Reminds me of a certain graphics card maker who optimised their ROM for benchmarks not real world scenarios.

      A certain graphics card maker? It was all of them wasn't it?

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Code audit time?

      Considering this case of VW (and no doubt others) lying in such test.

      Toyota with unintended acceleration (and a few deaths) due to poorly design software

      Ford with cars that would not shut off.

      Others like Jeep with crappy security where in-care entertainment could fiddle with braking, etc.

      it seems it is high time that on-board software was treated as something to be subject to an independent audit to establish that it is not cheating in test (that any "saving features" really work for normal driving) and that safety and security is taken seriously.

  6. PghMike

    lawsuits on the way, no doubt

    I'm guessing that the recall will significantly hurt some aspect of the cars' performance -- otherwise why do the hack in the first place. So, I'm guessing that there'll be a bunch of civil lawsuits against VW for this.

    Conceivably, even the US DoJ might file criminal charges, but I'd be surprised if they do -- Obama's DoJ seems to think that crimes committed as an executive of a large corporation don't merit prosecution.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: lawsuits on the way, no doubt

      I'm guessing that there'll be a bunch of civil lawsuits against VW for this.

      Yeah "The performance of my car is too high, I'll sue"

      Obama's DoJ seems to think that crimes committed as an executive of a large corporation don't merit prosecution.

      In this case it will completely depend on what the UAW thinks about this. Pension payouts endangered? Maybe not. Is VW unionized or not?

  7. AMBxx Silver badge

    Is this a surprise?

    I thought it was generally accepted that all the emissions figures were nonsense?

    My wife's BMW has an 'eco' button - that's how they fiddle the emissions figures. Push the button, power's reduced, better emissions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this a surprise?

      In the USA, if I recall correctly, they can only use an Eco mode for testing if the mode selection is "sticky".

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Is this a surprise?

      Perhaps emissions figures are nonsense but they shouldn't be. And if a company is deliberately manipulating the vehicle software to create a false impression of the emissions then that is outright fraud.

      And in a country like the US this could trigger law suits galore, from individual states, owners the vehicles and from people suffering from respiratory diseases exacerbated by pollution & emissions.

  8. John H Woods Silver badge

    Hmm...

    I've got a 2.0 TDI A3 cabriolet, and have noticed a sort of bimodal behaviour. If I drive making 'effective progress' I get a pretty reasonable (for the performance) high 40s / low 50s mpg. However, if I really back off on the throttle (keeping the same sort of top speeds, but really accelerating slowly and coasting to decelerate) it jumps straight to low or even mid 60s. Am I turning on testing mode? And if so, am I about to run out of something (urea?) as a result?

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Hmm...

      If bought from new, I'd expect the dealer to have pointed out an extra filler cap where you have to put the wee solution in. Porsche do, and they say a tank of wee will last you 30K miles or so.

      A quick hunt around says the A3 uses a "LeanNOx" system, which is similar, but different

      This link implies that system is maintenance-free, as opposed to having a wee-tank for SCR.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Hmm...

      No, testing mode recongises a specific set of conditions, specific speeds and acceleration and braking curves, sitting in traffic etc. over an hour or so. Unless you are mimicking that profile very thoroughly, you won't be hitting super economy mode.

      But most cars can save a lot of fuel by backing off a few mph. My Citroen drops from 5.9L/100KM at 100km/h to 5.4L/100KM at 97km/h to around 4L/100KM around 70km/h.

      And when you feather the throttle, as opposed to keep it in a constant position, you save again.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Hmm...

        Plus NOT using Cruise control can save an awful lot of throttle and thus hydrocarbon

        1. Neil Alexander

          Re: Hmm...

          Yes, I've sometimes found that setting the adjustable speed limiter and feathering the accelerator produces better MPG than using cruise control.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Hmm...

          That entirely depends on your cruise control.

          The older ones were pretty rough but my ACC seems to do pretty well.

      2. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Hmm...

        Thanks big_D, understood.

    3. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Hmm...

      If I drive making 'effective progress' I get a pretty reasonable (for the performance) high 40s / low 50s mpg. However, if I really back off on the throttle (keeping the same sort of top speeds, but really accelerating slowly and coasting to decelerate) it jumps straight to low or even mid 60s.

      I experienced very different behaviour in my Bora 1.9TDi (130PS). If I drove how I normally had on my standard route to work, I got around 55mpg (it was mostly motorway). I tried the method you suggest, and got a tiny improvement, pretty much negligible.

      I then really got down to it. The end result was using full throttle acceleration, up to 2.5-3k RPM, except on my main acceleration up to motorway speeds where I pushed the revs further (better for the turbo, as long as the engine was hot by then). As soon as I got to my cruising speed, I went into pulse & glide in 6th (where safe to do so).

      My results were: at 80mph cruise, I maintained the 55mpg I had been getting at 70 before. At 70mph, I got ITRO 60mpg. At 60mph, I never got less than 65mpg, often reaching 70.

      I clocked the time difference, too: Less than 5mins for my journey, next to nothing. I was also much more relaxed when I reached my destination. As soon as I realised, my journeys stuck to 60mph, with occasional overtaking blasts up to 70 (so as not to be inconsiderate), with P&G where safe to do so in a range of approx +/-3mph.

  9. Graham Marsden
    Meh

    "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

    This is hardly news. Motorbike manufacturers do the same thing, for instance the stock version of my Yamaha FZ6 Fazer has a notorious "hole" in its power curve between 5000-6000 RPM apparently because that's where emissions testing is done, so they reduce the power to make the figures better.

    The fact that it means that, if you're trying to do an overtake at those sorts of RPM, the engine bogs down until it crawls over 6000 RPM at which point the power comes back in which, if you're not expecting it, can be disconcerting if not downright dangerous.

    I now have a Power Commander III which remaps the fuel injection system to avoid this happening, but it really shouldn't be a problem in the first place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

      Right. But the difference is that they haven't broken the law, because it behaves the same way in the real world.

      VW did the (software) driver trick by having it behave differently between testing and real world, which is very clearly against the law. Manufacturers have to document and explain every special emissions adjustment they make, so "Oh, we're sorry, we missed that paragraph" is not going to be accepted.

      Oh, I really, really hope that batteries get cheaper.

      * I was going to write something else, but I resisted the cliche

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

        They may not have broken the law per se, but what they're doing is morally indistinguishable because it only applies to a narrow performance band in which the testing is done for no other purpose than skewing the results, while in the real world typical usage happens mostly outside that zone.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

          "for no other purpose than skewing the results"

          Like: taking off the mirrors (or folding them in), taping over all the panel gaps and blocking the front grill for road testing in the EU.

          This is exactly what the makers do.

      2. John 104

        Re: "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

        Yes, lets get batteries on the cheap and put them in our cars. Because having lead acid batteries by the billion headed to waste facilities in the next 10-20 years is going to be SO much better for the environment.

        1. Eric Olson

          Re: "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

          Lead-acid batteries are recycled and remade into new batteries, as lead is very amenable to being reclaimed. The sulfuric acid used is easy to neutralize or recycle as well.

          Both materials have other industrial uses outside of battery making. Worst-case, the recovery of lead from other ores during processing is no longer as economical, meaning that storage or disposal of lead-bearing tailings becomes a concern... though it probably still ranks low on the list of other issues like mountain-top removal, radioactive tailings, miner safety, water contamination, etc.

          Needless to say, the retirement of lead-acid batteries from our car and truck fleet would be due to other reasons that have a net positive to human health and the environment. Not to mention that the transition period would be prolonged.

        2. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

          > Because having lead acid batteries by the billion headed to waste facilities in the next 10-20 years is going to be SO much better for the environment

          3 years. That is what you will probably get from a lead acid battery before you need to swap it out. In the next 15 years, you will probably go through 5 batteries anyway, so not the lead acid Armageddon.

          /sits back and waits for inevitable anecdote about aunt Dorris' 1982 carolla still running on the factory installed battery.

  10. Richard Wharram

    Diesel A3

    My 2011 1.6 TDI A3 failed due to EGR valve clogging. It seems like (purely from browsing the web, no figures to back this) this is quite common and Audi wanted to charge me over a grand for the privilege (I argued them down.)

    After the 'fix' my MPG now seems a lot lower. Common theme?

    1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Diesel A3

      What is common about the theme is companies like Audi ripping people off for faults that should not occur. 4 years old and £1000 - sheesh

    2. Dan McIntyre

      Re: Diesel A3

      Over a grand to clean an EGR valve? It takes little over half an hour (beng generous depending on where it is in your car) and is a doddle to do with some brake cleaner in a can.

      Total cost maybe a fiver at most...

      1. Richard Wharram

        Re: Diesel A3

        Because of its placement in the engine (underneath? I dunno) they have to take the whole engine out. Its not a serviceable part. Presumably it was thought that it would last the life of the engine. As it was it clogged up at 41,000 miles.

        /edit: Also they don't just clean it. They replace it with a modified part.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Diesel A3

          Also they don't just clean it. They replace it with a modified part.

          Sounds like they're admitting it has a design fauilt, so why should you be expected to pay?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Diesel A3

      My 2011 1.6 TDI A3 failed due to EGR valve clogging. It seems like this is quite common....

      EGR and DMF problems - the scourge of modern diesels and the reason I would never touch one with a barge pole.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Diesel A3

        Hmm. My Fiat diesel - same engine in GM and Saab, a 1.9 turbo - had an EGR fail, unrepairable by cleaning, at 40k miles, just after I bought it. That was 120k miles ago, and it's been fine since, so I wonder how much is down to how it's driven. The previous owner managed a lifetime consumption average of 40mpg; I have averaged around 55mpg since.

    4. Dan Paul

      Re: Diesel A3

      In the US, any engine system designated as a "PZEV" (partial zero emissions vehicle) has to warranty all components that are required to meet that standard for the "life" of the vehicle including the catalytic convertor. Not sure about diesels, but YMMV according to engine size, fuel, locality etc. New York (where I live) and California both have the most stringent stateside emissions regulations in the US.

      My Ford Fusion (with a four cylinder gasoline engine) has a small high pressure fan that acts like a turbocharger to improve it's emissions. It runs all the time the engine is on. It failed after only 5 years and I found this PZEV fact out shortly after. The dealer tried to say it was not covered until I told them about the PZEV rules. ONLY the four cylinder engine is covered as it is the only one that meets PZEV criteria.

      Saved myself $700 and stuck it to the dealer. It was a good day!

      Regarding EGR valves, on a gasoline engine these should only be $35 to $50.

      Is the Audi diesel version gold plated and can only be handled by actual virgins wearing ermine gloves?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Diesel A3

        "New York (where I live) and California both have the most stringent stateside emissions regulations in the US."

        And you wonder why "California Emissions" packages are so noteworthy over there. Because of the high pollution potential of Los Angeles (not just the high population but also a thermal inversion zone that prevents pollutants escaping the area), pollution standards are probably the strictest in the country: stricter even than federal standards which is why when California amends its pollution standards, car makers pay attention. New York has its tough standards due to New York City (which is both old and very dense, meaning lots of cars in a very small area).

        I believe London has the same issue as New York and has similar kinds of restrictions.

  11. Andy Non
    Meh

    It could be called both fraud and engine optimization.

    I gather the computer changes the engine management at tick-over so it is less polluting and adjusts it for better performance when the car is moving. I came across this phenomenon with the UK MOT many years ago when I had a Rover. The guy doing the MOT said that it would fail the new emissions check which was supposed to be done at tick-over so he pushed down the accelerator and took a good (low emission) reading then. He explained that to pass the emissions test for the MOT (legitimately) the engine would need to be retuned before the test, then retuned AGAIN afterwards to work properly when being driven! Me = gob smacked. Kinda made sense though and the VW thing sounds very similar except the "cheating" was incorporated into the engine management software.

    1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Re: It could be called both fraud and engine optimization.

      Cobblers, you had a dodgy/stupid MOT station and a faulty car.

  12. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    $$$!

    The stock's down 30% this morning - someone has made some serious money on this.

    Yes, a "defeat device" (legal term) is completely illegal in the USA, but what's strange is the there have been a lot of vehicle makers caught doing it ... what made WV think they would not get caught too?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'twas ever thus

    45 years ago, as a manufacturers test driver, my Dad turned up at Silverstone for the testing for the MPG figures for a new car. He was able to increase the MPG by 15% with little tricks such as coasting on the straights, and changing gear when the engine really wanted to (rather than when people *thought* the engine wanted to).

    We also worked with a major insurer on a warranty policy. They specifically wanted a list of all items he had never had to change in 40+ years of experience. He wasn't too surprised to later discover that these were the non-excluded items on the policy.

  14. Anonymous Blowhard

    Urea Injection?

    Sounds like they're taking the piss...

  15. OliverJ

    Let me visualize my reaction

    https://youtu.be/me9ft6HeaMQ?t=48s

    Or, if you don't want to watch this: Duh. How is this a scandal? Or even news? Practically everybody does this, i.e. having some logic recognize that the car is on a test rig and in a test cycle, and then switching over to a super-eco, low emission program. Engineers call this Zykluserkennung. Google the term, > 1.000 hits. Hardly a secret.

  16. 0laf Silver badge

    RFID

    Don't forget about your weak RFID encryption keys as well VAG.

    Just sayin'.

  17. Jesrad
    Flame

    Any chance all the software does, is avoid triggering the burning of diesel particulate accumulated in the filter WHILE the car is undergoing emission testing ? If that is what is really happening here, then it's an absolute non-news.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, NOx is produced by the high compression ratio of the diesel engine in the absence of sufficient fuel, particulates are hydrocarbons that haven't been burned completely, so an excess of fuel.

      Ideal combustion of a hydrocarbon should yield water and CO2 but unfortunately most hydrocarbon IC engines are horribly inefficient ways to burn dead dinosaurs unless you're burning dinosaur farts in the form of LPG.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        > dinosaurs

        More like, bacterial mats and algae.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      With diesel, it's an either-or. You either burn "cool" and thus inefficiently and end up with particulate emissions or you burn "hot" which makes it more efficient but necessarily creates the conditions that allow for nitrogen reaction. It's a "pick your poison" situation. One way or the other, you have to clean up dirty emissions.

  18. gregthecanuck

    Emissions...

    Oh there will definitely be emissions - from VW's head orifice...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public

    yes, so sorry we got caught.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well now we know where all the Nvidia driver coders went to anyway

    "It's not fraud, it's just a directed optimisation, honestly."

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    software to cheat

    What puzzles me though, is that, presumably, they employ intelligent people at VW and when they came up with the cheat, discussed it and implemented it, they must have thought about risk of being caught, nein? So how did they try to avoid detection? Or did they assume, based on previous experience or (inside?) knowledge, that EPA don't test for such... eventuality? In which case, was it a tip-off from an ex-VW employee that triggered the discovery?

    ...

    on a complete different note: should I expect to see, sooner or later, other car manufacturers likewise exposed? After all, good business practices tend to spread in the family (see libor), even though the boys might officially compete against each other. But hey, every little helps.

    ...

    24 April 2025. In other news: the EU high commission has announced that the allegations about VW "rogue" software installed in the maker's models sold in the EU will be investigated thoroughly and quickly. The results are due to be published by 2040.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Unintentional?

      It seems to be common knowledge - reported at BBC News web site anyway I think - that the emissions control on all diesel cars just doesn't work as well in stop-start road driving as it does in a test lab. So I think this case could be accidental. Or not. Anyway, expect U.S. regulators to find fault with more non-U.S car brands. PS. The thing with Japanese air bags could be the same deal.

  22. naive

    It is from all times

    LOL...even now, to make my Audi 100 with Bosch K-Jetronic pass the (dutch) MOT, it needs a slight twist of the CO-screw to get acceptable CO readings, after MOT approval turn it back or the car hardly starts in the morning and takes gas poorly.

    If the EPA can PROVE VW wrote the ECU software in such a manner to deliberately cheat with emissions test cycles, VW will get some spanking. It is however doubtful that Transatlantic relationships would allow an USA government agency to bankrupt the pride of Germany with $ 33.000,- fines per car sold in the USA, causing millions to lose their jobs in Germany and leading to widespread financial disaster in the German economy.

    On the other hand, perhaps organizations like EPA should be fined for unrealistic tests. They just laid the fertile ground for this, and also the fact that their test methods allowed that, at least in Europe, nonsense cars like Audi Q7 of over 2 tons in weight got better environmental ratings than mini cars like Suzuki alto and Fiat panda. The same goes with Hybrid SUV's, the tests of these organizations flaunt all common sense.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: It is from all times

      "It is however doubtful that Transatlantic relationships would allow an USA government agency to bankrupt the pride of Germany..."

      It doesn't seem to have troubled them when BP had a mishap and spilt oil in the Gulf of Mexico, funnily enough when employing US Contractors. All sorts of highly suspect claims for compensation have been allowed along with legitimate ones causing something of a major dent in BP's finances.

      At least the Germans have a word for it... schadenfreude for those who didn't think quickly enough.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: It is from all times

        BP is an American company. What about the name suggests otherwise? They haven't been "British Petroleum" for a long time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is from all times

      "It is however doubtful that Transatlantic relationships would allow an USA government agency to bankrupt the pride of Germany with $ 33.000,- fines per car sold in the USA, causing millions to lose their jobs in Germany and leading to widespread financial disaster in the German economy."

      It won't be the Germans losing jobs.

      "Yeah, our bad. We'll pay the fine. Now you know that shiny new plant in Chattanooga TN we were going to spend $700 mil to expand? Yeah, we might have to go a different direction there."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is from all times

        Next time, deliver Tigers.

  23. jonathan keith

    "Driving shareholder value" strikes again.

    I'd quite like to see a Tim Worstall piece on the economics of 'gaming' targets, actually.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the government set targets that cannot be honestly achieved. The only way to achieve them is to cheat.

  25. Drudgery Leak

    DEFRA

    Meanwhile DEFRA attempt to eradicate a native mammal species on the basis that its continued existence may reduce the economic viability of dairy farming.

  26. myhandler

    Clearly it means all testing must be done by independent bodies.

    The issue is can the consumer ever trust anything they are told about how a product performs.

    I hope the fines are massive.

  27. Daz555

    I had no idea it was even possible that my car might be filled with a bottle of p*ss.

    1. 404 Silver badge

      RTFM...

      ;)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't believe anyone bought a diesel car on the basis that it was better for the environment. In the UK, where diesel-not-petrol has been promoted heavily for years, just trying to breathe properly while walking alongside a busy town-centre road during the winter shows thats a load of particulates.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can't believe anyone bought a diesel car on the basis that it was better for the environment.

      You have to understand how politicians think:

      They are told that less CO2 is apparently better for the environment.

      They are not told that less NOx is better for people.

      Cars which put out less CO2 are therefore to be encouraged by lower taxes.

      Cars that put out NOx are ignored.

      Diesels put out less CO2 (but more NOx). Diesels are therefore taxed less as being more "environmentally friendly", so people buy them because they are cheaper.

      Politicians think they have helped the environment.

      I bought a diesel because to get the same power/torque from a petrol engine in the same car would have cost me 2K more in taxes.

  29. ToddR

    So Thatcher was right?

    Dear Old Maggie T, argued for lean burn, (which I think Toyota in Derbyshire were pushing), but was outvoted by the Euro/german/franco car lobby who wanted to push cats and diesels.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So Thatcher was right?

      I had a lean burn Toyota Carina E back in the day. It was excellent.

      1. J P
        Mushroom

        Re: So Thatcher was right?

        I never quite understood the logic of deliberately burning more fuel at a specific level of dirtiness just so that a provenly inefficient and expensive piece of additional kit could then strip out the pollutants, rather than getting down to that level of pollution by just, er, burning less fuel in the first place, and making less pollution that way.

        Icon because what else do you use in a discussion about explosions?

  30. Commswonk Silver badge

    Not sure about that...

    myhandler wrote: Clearly it means all testing must be done by independent bodies. The issue is can the consumer ever trust anything they are told about how a product performs.

    I suppose it might work, but this route hasn't been as effective in the electronics industry as one would wish. Some computer power supply units - all CE marked - have been found to generate an awful lot of RF "hash" to the detriment of nearby receiver equipment. On closer investigation it has been found that although the internal PC boards have marked places for filtering components the places themselves are empty, meaning that the manufacturer - having got the PSU passed certification - cut corners and wilfully omitted the parts in question, just to save a few pence. (Other currencies may apply) This has led to the "CE" mark meaning "China Export" in some circles. How much this may actually be true and how much is myth is not for me to say.

    So can the consumer ever trust anything they are told about how a product performs? More importantly can the Regulators?

    Much better to assume that CE means Caveat Emptor; does the the US have a corresponding "label"?

  31. W Donelson

    How many early deaths?

    Murder?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: How many early deaths?

      Only in liberal discussion groups.

      Just before the "Responsibility to Protect" discussion leads to a vote to bomb some sanddudes.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think there is a lot of unknown at this point

    I'm not jumping to any conclusions until all the information on this matter is disclosed. If someone at VW intentionally disabled the emissions devices via software they should go to prison. If it's a coding error and nothing more, that is a much different situation. If the vehicles pass emissions without the devices activated, this too makes the issue much less of a violation. Since we really don't have the information or answers needed yet, I'll reserve judgment until we do.

  33. J J Carter Silver badge
    Facepalm

    For you Helmut, ze test-rigging days are overz!

  34. 8Ace

    Time for petrol only for private transport

    I think it really is time for diesel to be restricted to commercial traffic only, modern low capacity petrol engines are almost as efficient as diesel and an order of magnitude cleaner on pollutants such as NOx with current cat technology. In fact a modern petrol car following a diesel helps to clean up after the oil burner. I currently have an Audi A3 2.0 Diesel, but I'm trying an Alfa Giulietta 1.4 Multi-air petrol on a weeks loan/trial, which I believe is one of the most advanced of the new gen petrol engines. It gives me 170 bhp, 0-60 in 7 and a bit seconds, and averaging 51 mpg on motorway and 39 mpg overall.

    Just look at modern hybrids, the internal combustion element is petrol, not diesel.

    Personally I'm converted back to petrol.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Time for petrol only for private transport

      Just look at modern hybrids, the internal combustion element is petrol, not diesel.

      That's only because the vast majority of hybrids are Japanese, who have what is effectively a FOAD tax on diesels. They also have the answer to city air quality, buses, taxis, dustcarts and such are all CNG[1] powered as they're not exempt from the banhammer.

      [1] While this is probably the cleanest of the conventional combustion engine fuels, the problem here is that you can fill the buggers from your household mains gas supply with a simple compressor. Western governments, who like to fund their vanity projects by taxing the living shit out of vehicle fuel, really hate the idea of this ever going mainstream around these parts.

      1. Peter Hawkins

        Re: Time for petrol only for private transport

        Hybrids use petrol rather than diesel for a few reasons. Petrol engines per Kw are much lighter, diesel engine blocks need to be heavier due to the higher compression ratios. New small petrol engines are therefore per kg more efficient than small diesels. Then factor in the emission control, diesel will require many more bolt on devices to meet the new standards, yet more weight. Petrol engines also allow more fine grained control of engine characteristics to integrate power from combustion and electrical sources and offer much better engine braking characteristics than diesel for energy recovery.

  35. Dan Paul

    Time to get rid of ALL Diesel and fuel oils.

    The fact is that Diesel or fuel oil is dirty and always has been. Yes it has higher BTU/Gallon than gasoline but the amount of NOx produced is much higher than gasoline or other fuels. The particulates are out of this world and the "yahoos" around here that put vertical exhaust stacks on their pick up trucks and play hell with their Engine Control Software to get more HP, tend to spew a black cloud out of them anytime they step on the pedal.

    I haven't seen that kind of soot coming from a personal vehicle for 40 years and it ONLY comes from Diesels. Even buses and garbage trucks aren't as bad as these pick up trucks.

    The NOx is intolerable and smells like high concentration nitric acid. It acts like it too. Try driving behind one of those every day on the way to work.

    Convert all Diesels to natural gas or propane worldwide and we'll all be better for it. Don't even get me started on the converted fry oil Biodiesel. If I wanted to smell fried food I'd buy some. You might even finally have some sunshine peeking through in Beijing. Asthma rates would plummet everywhere.

    Ooops, I forgot, developing countries don't care about their OWN emissions, only those of developed nations so they keep their cost advantage against them.

  36. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    I must admit

    I was wondering what the big deal was about nitrous oxide. I thought it was only really harmful to dentists (who partake too much).

    Of course, I misread. N2O != NOx obviously. I am silly.

    (Oh, and kids: just say N2O drugs)

  37. GW7

    It's the end of VW as we know it...

    Nearly 500,000 vehicles to be recalled to correct the emissions cheat. I reckon there will be a lot of disgruntled owners who will find their car has lost "oomph" and gained a host of emissions system related issues, such as intercooler clogging, after the recall is actioned. In the affected vehicles, recirculated exhaust gas at low temperature and pressure (LP EGR) is used to lower combustion temperature to reduce NOx in the exhaust (not AdBlue). LP EGR moisture condenses in the intercooler, which, if it freezes, can lead to catastrophic engine hydrolock. Unbelievably, some bright spark at VW thought it a good idea to recirculate the moist exhaust fumes emerging from the DPF back into the air intake, upstream of the intercooler. There was a technical bulletin in 2013 in the US for a modified intercooler but some owners reported the issue persisted. I expect the DPF will also clog more readily after the corrective emissions "fix", due to having to absorb more soot resulting from lower combustion temperature during increased LP EGR.

    If VW are unable to implement a solution that doesn't cause a detriment to owners of recalled vehicles, a likely outcome is that VW of America will face, in addition to the recall costs:

    1) a class action from owners of previously "good" cars made "bad" by the recall,

    2) increased warranty repairs bill,

    3) further bad publicity, loss of reputation and consequent loss of sales.

    It might actually be more profitable for VW to withdraw diesel vehicles from sale in the US, which no doubt would be the desired outcome for American political interests. VW's chickens have barely started the journey home to roost.

  38. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Previous event

    "Given the ADAC report, it is surprising that only VAG have been singled out so far..."

    In 1998, Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Volvo, Mack Trucks/Renault and Navistar all entered a consent decree with the EPA over NOx emissions. In some cases they would only operate the NOx emissions controls during the EPA test (EGR valve, or urea injection, or in one case apparently they were meeting NOx strictly using engine management but again only during the EPA test.) In a few other cases I don't think NOx controls were disabled during non-cruise driving, but when cruising they would enter a lean burn cruise mode that'd sharply increase NOx (except during the EPA test.)

    Per Google, some diesel VWs use urea injection and some use EGR. It also seems the reason VW was caught is quite ironic. Some researchers in the US and Europe intended to test a few vehicles to show they could meet the more stringent US emissions pretty easily, so as to advocate more stringent emissions in Euro-spec vehicles. They first found (on VW using urea injection) that the US and Euro-spec vehicles used urea at exactly the same rate, then tested the exhaust pipe emissions to find it varied by vehicle, some models were like 5x the limit and some closer to 25-30x (the 40x being a peak.)

    VW may be in for some real trouble if the MPG or power substantially drop when EGR or urea is operated. (I think with urea owners would be in luck, since urea injection's an exhaust post-treatment it shouldn't affect mileage or power, just urea consumption.)

  39. TeeCee Gold badge
    Meh

    Oh dear, VW got caught.

    Maybe Ford would like to explain why every new Ford diesel made for the last 10 years does a passable impression of a destroyer making smoke when given the clog.

    I did once ask an MOT bloke how smokey Fords got away with it. His response was to point out that they don't do it when revved while stationary in a test station, only when on the road....(!)

    Can't blame the manufacturers though. It's not them who move the goalposts every five minutes in mindless pandering to the frothing greenies. All they're doing is trying to make some return on the multimillion pound investment in engines originally designed for goalposts elsewhere.

    1. Chemist

      Re: Oh dear, VW got caught.

      "don't do it when revved while stationary in a test station"

      They don't need to use much fuel to rev to max when they're not under load. The situation is quite different if you accelerate hard on the open road esp. from low revs.

  40. Domquark
    Holmes

    Surprise, surprise (sic)

    I recall back in the '80's, motorcycle manufacturers starting to deliberately programming a "flat spot" into the ignition map, to get around noise emissions.

    So VW fudging things is not surprising.

  41. martinusher Silver badge

    Not very smart software

    I must confess that in the same situation I would have probably done the same thing. I'm not trying to game the system but make sure that the vehicle comfortably met the emissions requirements during periodic testing. I think I'd have been a bit more subtle about the mode changes, though -- switching into test mode would be straight map change but switching out would be interpolated over a period of hours.

    There's some significant questions about whether these small diesels are as economical and clean as they're made out to be. They took a long time to be acceptable to California (due in part to problems with the fuel) and after some initial sales traction they've pretty much faded out because they don't work as a well as a hybrid. (It also didn't help that until relatively recently diesel prices were higher than petrol/gasoline -- recently that's reversed but due to some localized price gouging by refiners.)

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perfectly acceptable emissions testing

    What lot of fuss and schadenfraude (took this from another poster thanks) . it is logical to program a device/car to recognise test mode. Hey, everyone knows a car will emit higher nasties when driven in a particular way ie. Fast. Wud u expect a worst case scenario under test for something as unimportant as emissions. (Greens, get your coat.) Its time Germany stood up for itself. We can help by recognising USA should be stopped from living above its means and then damage overseas companies at will. Put them right, we could stop watching theirs film, don't buy their goods indeed don't sell to them. They are a corrupt state. Look at BP scandal. Let's not be anti America, just tell them by whatever means that it's not acceptable. The government must have known when the emission levels were set that current technology could be relied upon NOT to beat them. World wide USA and elsewhere pensioners are potentially gonna be swindled. It's the same old story, American intellect is low, they are just gangsters getting by.

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Perfectly acceptable emissions testing

      It is illegal to rig emissions tests in 50 states in the USA. Volkswagen INTENTIONALLY broke the law not only in the USA but elsewhere AND they admitted that fact. BMW may be next, they apparently did something similar to VW from what I hear. How is that our doing?

      If you want to comment about BP, THEIR sub contractors were working under direct BP supervision. Seems you might not want to have put in check valves in a configuration that doesn't meet the EPA standards that have been in place for years to avoid exactly what happened on that oil platform. How is that the fault of the USA? I have some friends on the Florida panhandle that would like to have a personal word with you about that.

      As far as you calling the USA a "Corrupt state"; it seems that Europe has curious track record that if your buddies hadn't buried their heads and two world wars in the sand, you might have known those details. They call that "the pot calling the kettle black".

      However your "text spelling" leads me to believe you never got out of grade school so you may have never learned any history. Calling our intellect "low" when your posting sounds like that is truly laughable. Please try harder, I know you can do it.

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