back to article 11 MILLION VW cars used Dieselgate cheatware – what the clutch, Volkswagen?

Volkswagen is getting hammered on world stock exchanges after it was revealed the number of VW cars using software to cheat on pollution tests is far greater than first thought. On Friday, the US Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the German car firm had been using engine management software that detected when …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

      Found the SJW...and a repetitive one at that...

      1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

        Changed it, but only because it's a cliche. And! if! there's! one! thing! we! boffins! hate! at! The! Reg! more! than! meeellllions! of! fanbois!, it's beating a dead horse.

        C.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

            DEAR PC PLOD,

            THANK YOU FOR BEING OFFENDED ON MY BEHALF!

            Reminds me of the protest letters to The Economist about the use of "niggardly".

            Meanwhile:

            but at a cost of barfing out 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxide

            should hopefully be "up to" etc.

        2. Captain DaFt

          Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

          "And! if! there's! one! thing! we! boffins! hate! at! The! Reg! more! than! meeellllions! of! fanbois!, it's beating a dead horse."

          No no no no no, it's:

          "And! if! there's! one! thing! we! boffins! hate! at! The! Reg! more! than! meeellllions! of! fanbois!, it's beating a dead horse."

          Got to pay attention to to the little details we know and love.

        3. ZootCadillac
          Joke

          Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

          As a newly inducted SJW I am deeply offended that you imply by omission that it is in some way acceptable to beat a live horse.

          1. John Tserkezis

            Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

            "As a newly inducted SJW I am deeply offended that you imply by omission that it is in some way acceptable to beat a live horse"

            So beating dead ones is still OK? Good, otherwise I'm out of a job.

            1. ZootCadillac

              Re: So beating dead ones is still OK?

              I'm sorry. I simply do not know the rules any more :)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: So beating dead ones is still OK?

                I'm sorry. I simply do not know the rules any more :)

                You could claim old age (I do, only those who know me well won't let me get away with that :) ).

                Here are my rules:

                - do not gratuitously set out to offend someone;

                - but, as offence is taken, not given, you have a lot of slack, provided:

                - everyone is treated the same, irrespective, of sex, skin colour, race or social strata

                - .. but stupid is stupid, and there is no law against naming things as they are ..

                - because being Politically Correct falls under "stupid" too.

                The short version of that is "Live and let live, and God help anyone who manages to piss me off".

            2. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
              Gimp

              Re: So beating dead ones is still OK? Good, otherwise I'm out of a job

              Of course we need to cater for those members of society who's lifestyle embraces Sado-Masochism, bestiality and necrophilia.

              Well done Sir, for going public with your life choices!

        4. Mike 125

          Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

          @diodesign

          >>Changed it,

          Noooo, please don't. I for one come to the Reg. for (apart from great tech. analysis) its total political incorrectness and utter ignorance and insanity on issues like climate change!

          >>having worked with children to whom all kind of nasty things had happened back in the 70's.

          Oh, go p'ss up a f'kstick. As it happens, some of us *were* those kids, and we sure as hell don't need the help of dumb f'ck attitudes like this to get by:-

          >>So the thumbs down is from someone who thinks violence to kids is OK?

          Please Keep It Unreal, Reg.

          As for VW, bring on Tesla - can't be soon enough.

        5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

          @diodesign

          ... it's beating a dead horse.

          How about beating a dead car?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv0onXhyLlE

          (It's not a German car. Still, don't mention the war!)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

        You have triggered a trap!

      3. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

        "If Volkswagen alters the engine management software to make the cars run cleaner, then fuel economy and the cars' speed will be affected, and owners aren't going to be happy about that."

        So everyone will ignore the recall. Happy days for VW....

        1. The First Dave

          Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

          "If Volkswagen alters the engine management software to make the cars run cleaner, then fuel economy and the cars' speed will be affected, and owners aren't going to be happy about that."

          Shirley if VW _do_ alter the software, it will merely bring it into line with the published figures?

          Be interesting to see how you can sue someone for making it run better, either way.

          1. Phil W

            Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

            The alterations will bring it in to line with the published emissions figures, but in doing so make the fuel economy and/or performance (which is what the consumer is more interested in, rather than emissions) noticeably worse than the figures published for those.

            The consumers will then, quite legitimately, be seeking compensation from VW for selling them a car which is less fuel efficient and/or lower performance than they were sold.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

      Just another example of declining journalistic standards, the red banner at the top is the clue.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

        >So the thumbs down is from someone who thinks violence to kids is OK?

        No, and the world is not a dichotomy either.

    4. goldcd

      It's nothing to do with children

      See also large quantities of the internet being devoted to physically assaulting the middle management of established churches.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's nothing to do with children

        I thought that a large part of the internet is about Shaking Hands with the Bishop

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Pint

          Re: It's nothing to do with children

          thats very friendly

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's nothing to do with children

          I thought that a large part of the internet is about Shaking Hands with the Bishop

          Of course. What other reason could there be to invent hands free phones?

          Yes, I'll be here all week, thanks.

    5. ZootCadillac

      Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

      I'm 50 years old. Today actually. I've been ginger for the majority of that time. Although now I sport a nice little bald area and the rest of my hair is turning a quite odd ruddy blonde.

      Was I bullied about it? You bet. And growing up in one of the poorest areas of the UK in the 60's and 70's was no picnic I can tell you. but I guess it helped make me who I am today.

      And who I am is someone who gets deeply annoyed when strangers get offended on my behalf when not asked to.

      I find nothing at all offensive about the term 'ginger stepchild' and its various uses because it's a metaphor and neatly sums up what a writer means when the term is used.

      So please, come down. It must be cold always up there on the moral high ground.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Sorry but how is this at all funny or appropriate?

        I'm 50 years old. Today actually.

        It's kinda uncivil that nobody congratulated you on your birthday, so hereby. Many happy returns!

        :).

        1. ZootCadillac

          Re: I'm 50 years old. Today actually.

          Most kind Fred. Not that I was digging for compliments. It's been a bit of a bastard acknowledging all the good wishes on Twitter all day ;) But I thank you all the same :)

  2. digthatfish

    Imagine the software meeting....

    Right we have an interesting feature we need to add into the engine management software this week!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Imagine the software meeting....

      "And there's no CR or bug number for this one. No, don't worry about it."

      Part of the testing's got to involve handing over the source code and some way of verifying the source code you have is the code that's running in the car. There's too much software in cars nowadays to pretend that you can test a car just by driving it about a bit, sitting it on top of a dynamometer, or hoping that the app to access the car is coded properly.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: Imagine the software meeting....

        I'm guessing that these cars will still pass the UK MoT test in their current state which, I believe, tests for CO/CO2 and HC in exhaust gas. As such, surely this then makes the "software feature" an after-market enhancement that someone will no doubt provide to boost what will be the future shitty performance of these vehicles post-recall?

  3. Mongo

    Surely their competitors knew about this?

    VW claimed to have uniquely clever diesel engine design, able to meet emission standards without needing urea. Surely the likes of Mercedes would have done some careful reverse-engineering to see what the tricks were and how to get comparable benefits while keeping the protected IP at arms' length? In which case they would have noted the enormous discrepancy between the published and actual emissions, yet apparently didn't tip-off the regulators. Perhaps they also have a closet-load of skeletons and there's a wider industry collusion against regulation?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

      They are not the only ones.

      I drive a vehicle from the _OTHER_ manufacturer claiming that it is capable of achieving it - Isuzu. AFAIK it works, the design is published and has been tested by 3rd parties (it uses a more complex air distribution and EGR than normal). However, so was the VW one, so you never know.

      As far as wider industry collusion, several Eu consumer organizations have shown in tests that the official results are completely bonkers and Fiat is already facing a lawsuit. I would not be surprised if the other ones will follow.

      By the way, I got voted down into oblivion when I pointed out on the previous el-reg story that this has to be an EGR related stunt as the specific VW models affected are (or at least initially were) AdBlue-less. I guess at the end of the day, I was right :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

        "I got voted down into oblivion when I pointed out on the previous el-reg story that this has to be an EGR related stunt as the specific VW models affected are (or at least initially were) AdBlue-less. I guess at the end of the day, I was right :)"

        You were voted down for stating that adblue wasn't used in cars.

        ". AdBlue is used only in trucks AFAIK"

    2. Anonymous John

      Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

      I read somewhere that the affected cars do use urea to mop up pollutants but only have enough for emissions testing. If so, it will need more than just a software change.

      PS. Beating a red headed stepchild is a cliché? I cant recall coming across it before..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

        As cliché's go it's quite common thought the correct usage is "Only the love you can give to a ginger stepchild." while lightly tapping the back of your hand and putting a stupid smile on your face.

        I'm not going to get into the whole PC crap, it exists and you can choose to find it funny or not as I've never seen or heard anyone use it that would advocate the exact meaning. It's a bit like when someone says "I like black people, every house should have one" to a black person ,they find it hilarious as they know as does the person saying it that because it's so far away from their moral compass it's actually too shocking to be anything other than funny and a great way to use shock as an icebreaker, the reactions of everyone else are extremely funny as they don't know what to do.

        Can't we have politically correct political incorrectness?

    3. Mike Flex

      Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

      "VW claimed to have uniquely clever diesel engine design, able to meet emission standards without needing urea."

      Needing urea? They appear to be taking the urea.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

      It is not just the emissions. What VW does is using EGR differently depending if it is a test or real. This results in a significant difference in fuel consumption. If the engine will have to run in reduced emissions mode all the time, it should have higher fuel consumption. I am starting to wonder, was CO2 (as required by UK tax banding) tested with on-road software or with test software. If it was tested with test software this means re-banding of most small VW group diesel vehicles sold in the UK for the last 5 years. That will be fun.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

        @Voland's right hand surely CO2 testing was done using standardized tests, which have been established long time ago in cooperation between motor companies and interested national/international agencies. Same as NOxtesting, actually. Or mpg figures, for that matter. And everyone knows that these figures are fiddled and bear no resemblance whatsoever to real driving conditions.

        There is hoping that this scandal will be a wake up call to replace these car tests with something a bit closer to reality (but do not get your hopes too high). Unrealistic test conditions are not confined to car industry, it happens everywhere when vendors are allowed too much influence - reminds me of Dyson

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

        was CO2 (as required by UK tax banding)

        Not just UK, France has swingeing tax "malus" (opposite of bonus) values for cars above certain CO2 thresholds, which is why diesel cars are so popular despite their known other pollution problems.

        More to the point, the whole scheme is a con. CO2 production is directly related to fuel consumption, and the more fuel a car uses the more tax the driver pays, so there is already a progressive tax scheme in place that corresponds exactly to real-world driving conditions. The whole CO2 banding crap is just politicians' greenwash, to raise taxes while seeming to be concerned about "the environment".

        It may even make matters worse, since all manufacturers game the system to score the best results in the test even if the real-world figures are worse. That can be seen by the resuts from tuners who can remap a car to give better performance and better overall economy when they aren't constrained by meeting artificial and unrealistic targets. VW seem to have gone over the top here, but all the moral outrage being expressed seems somewhat misplaced, they are far from alone in these activities. It will be interesting to see the results of tests on other manufacturer's vehicles.

        1. theModge

          Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

          Indeed, I thought most cars had flat spots at least at the revs at which UK emissions tests were carried out, this is just taking it to the next level.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surely their competitors knew about this?

        Not only do their competitors know about this, they all do it themselves to a greater or lesser extent. The Peugeot HDI diesel engine is a case in point. The first of its type, claiming to give performance similar to petrol, with the economy of diesel. The particulate output of these is horrible - in normal use - but mysteriously they're able to comply with the EU regulations when tested on a rolling road for their annual MOT tests....

        Ford also have some interesting code in their engine management firmware that they always claim is "proprietary" so isn't open to scrutiny. Draw your own conclusions......

        AC because I design software for a motor manufacturer!

  4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "Wide Open Throttle"

    I know that 'throttle' doesn't apply to diesel engines, but with gasoline engines it is very common to go "open loop" at full throttle, meaning that the oxygen sensor is ignored and the mixture is enrichened for maximum acceleration, and perhaps some blue flames from the tailpipe.

    Since the formal tests typically don't include WOT, it's fair game. Right?

    1. itzman
      Boffin

      Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

      My knowledge is far from exhaustive (sic!) but on diesel, you maintain a constant air input and modulate the fuel, if its non turbo, and a bit more complex but similar if its blown.

      What that means is that the cruise and low power mixture becomes extraordinarily weak. Rather than the full throttle mix rather rich (although that too is a feature of older non turbo diesels that smoke under hard acceleration).

      The problems AIUI is that ultra lean burn is desperately good for fuel efficiency and particulate emissions as everything gets burnt, but desperately bad for NOx emissions as even the nitrogen gets 'burnt' ...And there is no currently deployable technological quick fix way out of that. Up the fuel ratio to 'cool' the burn and richen it and you will see more smoke and unburnt fuel.

      I am wondering what the implications would be of 11 million cars that can never meet the US emissions regulations.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

        @itzman nice explanation, I suppose the same applies to diesel power generators which, as I understand, are normally run at lean burn for fuel efficiency. If so, then there is a big question to green lobby: how many of these generators have been installed in support of wind turbines, how many are used, and what anti-pollution norms do they actually have to adhere to.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

          "diesel power generators which, as I understand, are normally run at lean burn for fuel efficiency."

          There is a confusion of terms here; Diesel engines never run lean or rich, that is a term from spark ignition engines. At a certain point more oil is injected than can be burnt effectively, and the result is the emission of partially burnt fuel - carbon monoxide, carbon particles. An engine should not be run under these conditions because it will have a short life. As generators, like marine engines, are expected to run for long periods between overhauls, at the lowest fuel cost, they need to run as clean as possible.

          This is why when I get carved up by some moron in a beat up diesel pouring out black smoke, I console myself with the thought that the engine will soon break down expensively. It's important to stay on top of Diesel cleanliness, as just about everything that matters - valves, piston rings, turbocharger - will die prematurely if soot is being generated.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

        And there is no currently deployable technological quick fix way out of that.

        This is exactly what Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) does. In low power operation it replaces some of that air with already-burnt exhaust gases, which cools the combustion and reduces NO formation.

        Older cars had a very simple vacuum-based EGR valve which bled exhaust gases in when it detected high manifold vacuum, which was a very clumsy level of control and affected performance. Modern ones use an ECU-controlled valve, and this is probably where VW were playing games.

        EGR causes other problems, such as soot build-up in the inlet manifold, and it was commonplace for people to blank off the valve by putting a small metal plate across the bleed pipe. That's harder now with the ECU-controlled valves, since the ECU can detect that opening the valve didn't cause any changes, and it's likely to flag this as an engine management problem (EML light comes on)

      3. Nigel 11

        Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

        If it's not economically feasible to clean NOx from diesel exhaust, this will be the end of the diesel car. Thoughts and questions:

        Firstly, is urea in the quantities needed to clean the exhaust particularly expensive (and just how much is needed? ) Could diesel cars be made with an easily owner-filled urea tank, so that owners just have to tip a bottle of the stuff in when the low urea light comes on? (A bit like tipping engine oil into engines of 1960s vintage that ate oil at quite significant miles-per-liter rates even when new).

        Secondly, if it's a problem only under light loads when the engine runs very lean, it's a good match to hybrid technology. Don't ever run the engine lean. Shut it down and run on the battery until more electricity is needed. Then restart the engine and run at the emissions-optimized power output until the battery is recharged.

        One other thing: diesel fuel is taxed less than it should be in comparison to petrol. If the tax reflected the energy content of the fuels, then modern petrol-engined cars would look better value even to long-distance motorists. Diesel would once again become something used almost exclusively by off-road vehicles and goods vehicles.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

          Is it economically unfeasible to have no NO2 in diesel exhausts? How about new engine designs - ultra high temperature running leads to massive improvement in efficiency (up to 3*?). This can be achieved by replacing the air with O2. The O2 is generated from electrolysing water and the H2 is partly stored for use in fuel cells to boost maximum power requirements, or just for plain running the car.

          So actually you've got an electric car running with a diesel generator - but with no nitrogen oxides.

        2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

          One other thing: diesel fuel is taxed less than it should be in comparison to petrol. If the tax reflected the energy content of the fuels, then modern petrol-engined cars would look better value even to long-distance motorists.

          I think you'll find the tax per MJ is not too different.

          ULS diesel & petrol are both taxed at 58p/l. For petrol, this gives about 1.7p/MJ, and diesel approx 1.5p/MJ. To increase diesel to petrol levels would be approx 7.5p/l increase to diesel tax.

          While this is a fair increase (12% in tax, or about 7% in the total current cost of fuel), for long distance running most would get a much larger increase in fuel efficiency over a petrol engine. They would still be paying much less per mile than the equivalent petrol car.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

          Firstly, is urea in the quantities needed to clean the exhaust particularly expensive (and just how much is needed? ) Could diesel cars be made with an easily owner-filled urea tank, so that owners just have to tip a bottle of the stuff in when the low urea light comes on?

          That is how it's done. 20litres of urea will cover 15-20,000km motoring, costs $1/litre to refill.

        4. Anonymous John

          Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

          @ Nigel 11

          > Firstly, is urea in the quantities needed to clean the exhaust particularly expensive

          I've seen an annual cost of £50 a year quoted somewhere. As to the cost of a larger tank, I don't know. Modern cars don't seem to have much spare space under the bonnet.

        5. annodomini2 Bronze badge

          Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

          It's not just a tank, it is also the pump, wiring, plumbing, exhaust injector, ecu, mountings and fixings, adds up pretty quickly.

        6. Thomas Steven 1

          Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

          Or just piss into the urea bottle? In which case it's cheap and plentiful, possibly reduces water usage. An environmental win/win

      4. Nigel 11

        Re: "Wide Open Throttle"

        I am wondering what the implications would be of 11 million cars that can never meet the US emissions regulations.

        Are they Federal regulations these days, rather than state ones? I was going to guess, "Cheap cars for citizens of Wyoming and Montana". In Montana the state speed limit once was "safe and prudent for the circumstances" and they treated the Federal 50 limit with utter contempt. Have times changed?

        Well, if they have, I guess the answer is "cheap cars for Mexico", or countries further South.

  5. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    European testing

    The Beeb have been quoting someone saying this sort of cheating couldn't happen in Europe:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34325005

    "Mike Hawes, who is chief executive of the UK's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the EU operated a "fundamentally different system" from the US, with tests performed in strict conditions and witnessed by a government-appointed independent approval agency.

    "There is no evidence that manufacturers cheat the cycle," he said. "Vehicles are removed from the production line randomly and must be standard production models, certified by the relevant authority - the UK body being the Vehicle Certification Agency, which is responsible to the Department for Transport."

    Hmmm.....

    Does anyone know what the difference is? It seems to me that taking random vehicles off the production line and having a government witness isn't going to make any difference if the software on all the cars is programmed to recognise that it's on a rolling road. So is this guy talking rubbish, or is there really some difference between how the two continents do testing? Would it be sufficient to put a sack of spuds on the drivers seat and move the steering wheel periodically?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: European testing

      Yeah, if Euros say it's "fundamentally different" it's quite likely far far worse. "Policy regarding increase of monetary mass in the EU is FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT from the one applied in the US" etc.

    2. cirby

      Re: European testing

      The reason they tested the American versions of the VW was that the same organization had been testing European cars and noticed the discrepancy. When the same issue popped up in the US, they started telling people.

    3. goldcd

      I thought the difference

      was simply that the US regulations were an order of magnitude stricter in US, compared to Europe

      (and yes this does strike me as slightly odd, based on the US normally not giving a toss and us being a nanny/protective-continent (select as you see fit)).

      This is what kicked off this whole thing, when Europeans wondered why they couldn't have these wonderfully efficient versions of cars that were being made available in the US.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: I thought the difference

        his does strike me as slightly odd, based on the US normally not giving a toss and us being a nanny/protective-continent

        It varies enormously from state to state., depending on prevailing climate and geography. I was in LA in the 1970s when the smog was seriously bad. I'm not the least bit surprised that public pressure to fix that level of pollution was impossible to ignore, just as London pea-soupers in the 1950s brought about the clean-air acts over here.

        Now more is known about the health hazards of lower levels of NOx and smog, large EU cities are starting to react much as LA has done. Today's city smogs are more dilute than LA's back then, but more dangerous than was realized until quite recently.

        I drive an old (2002) diesel. I salve my conscience by rarely taking it into cities and effectively never into an inner city. Back to petrol when it dies.

        1. Known Hero

          Re: I thought the difference

          @nigel11

          Or electric

          1. Nigel 11

            Re: I thought the difference

            Electric - true, if the infrastructure exists by then in my part of the UK. I now live in a rural location, which will probably be the last bastion of diesel cars (many 4WD and for good reason in many cases, not "Chelsea tractors!" )

            1. Known Hero

              Re: I thought the difference

              2 downvotes... Thought we were pro electric here ..... Ok BOO ELECTRIC

              But to elaborate, your diesel will probably last the next 5 years, by then I think electric will have gained a foothold. "If the infrastructure exists" Issue, if electric vehicles do take, it wont be hard to implement it at all garages its not like they have been fleecing us for years so they can't afford it, ok maybe no quick charge at home though ...

              1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

                Re: I thought the difference

                > "If the infrastructure exists" Issue, if electric vehicles do take, it wont be hard to implement it at all garages its not like they have been fleecing us for years so they can't afford it, ok maybe no quick charge at home though ...

                Ooooh, so wrong on so many levels.

                Some chains may have money, but you may have noticed that there aren't that many independents about now. I had a friend in the business and they struggled - retail price is dictated by what the supermarkets charge, wholesale is dictated by the wholesale market. If they were lucky there may be a positive profit margin in-between (1% would be considered an exceedingly good day). On fuel sales alone, they don't pay - it needs the convenience shop to actually make a profit.

                Now, as to the practicalities assuming there wasn't any financial constraint. A typical commercial power supply to a garage site will not run a big fast charger (note the singular). If you look at the recent story on the EV and Hybrids at Salon Prive you'd have seen mention of a 120kW charger from one manufacturer - you will not power one of those from a typical garage forecourt supply.

                So you're not going to get a "5 minute quick charge" - for even one car.

                Really handy if you take (say) 20-30 minutes to charge, and there's a queue of 10 more vehicles in front of you for the charger !

                Now look at a typical forecourt - my local supermarkets have between 8 and 12 pumps. I can't be arsed looking for it, but I'm sure someone has done the maths for what the effective energy flow rate is when dispensing liquid fuels, quickly, in parallel to multiple vehicles. IIRC you're getting into megawatt territory. Go along to your local Distribution Network Operator (DNO) and ask for a megawatt supply and you will be "unpleasantly surprised" by the quote (if you get one at all). The quote will involve upgrading the local infrastructure (the local transformer and cabling probably won't have the spare capacity), and possibly upgrading right back to the high voltage grid (assuming the local 132/33 and 33/11kV systems have the spare capacity (I believe in my local town, they might not have).

                Of course, that's just to supply one forecourt - there's (if I've remembered them all) 5 sizeable forecourts in the town where i work, and 3 in the smaller town where I live. From the limited knowledge of the local network, neither town has huge amounts of spare capacity available.

                So no, if we all went electric, it would NOT be a simple matter of installing fast chargers willy nilly - they only work now because there aren't all that many of them and not many leccy cars. We do not have the generating capacity or distribution infrastructure to support a massive switch to leccy transport.

    4. Mike Dimmick

      Re: European testing

      In both Europe and the US, the manufacturer carries out the emissions testing. Both the EPA and the European government performing type approval do a random sample to verify that manufacturers aren't routinely submitting fake results, but they don't have the resources to routinely test all new vehicles. Sometimes this testing does pick up cheats, like Hyundai last year. But it can't pick up cases where the vehicle detects that a standard emissions test is being run and switches to a more economical or lower emission mode - the random sampling just repeats the standard test to check that a production car gets the same result, within a reasonable error margin.

      The point of the standard tests is to allow comparison between vehicles, not to give an indication of how much fuel would be consumed on your journey. There are simply too many variables with temperature, road surface condition, wind speed and direction even before you account for driving style and traffic. The EU test could stand to be revised, though, as it has slow accelerations and nearly all of it is below 60mph. This gives unrealistically good numbers when compared to most drivers' behaviour.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: European testing

        In the UK at least the test results determine the taxation class. If the upshot of this is that taxation classes get revised upwards there are going to be a lot of unhappy customers - and presumably a big prosecution under the Trades Description Act.

        BTW so far the reports apply to diesel. Does anyone know if petrol-fuelled cars are also affected?

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          Re: European testing

          @ Doctor Syntax

          "In the UK at least the test results determine the taxation class. If the upshot of this is that taxation classes get revised upwards there are going to be a lot of unhappy customers - and presumably a big prosecution under the Trades Description Act."

          There have been ponderings on the Skoda owners websites for a while about how supposedly identical engines get completely different emission ratings - and that the Tax bands between very similar cars in the VW group always seem to favour the VW badged ones.

          Expect this "software glitch" to extend far beyond 11 million cars - try every car with a VW badge produced in the last few years.

          * Each branch of VW does its own Engine Management software variant - this is known - as Skoda had a software work-around for the clogged DPF problem years before the rest of the VW group followed it.

          1. JohnMurray

            Re: European testing

            "Expect this "software glitch" to extend far beyond 11 million cars - try every car with a VW badge produced in the last few years"

            Yes....and how many power-units do VW provide, directly or via licence, to other makers?

        2. itzman

          Re: European testing - are petrol-fuelled cars are also affected?

          No. Not directly. Diesels are ultra lean burn high temperature high compressions engines and this is what makes them a bit harmful with respect to nitride production.

          On petrol engines lean burn is generally sacrificed for this reason, leaving the catalyst to soak up any spare carbon compounds in the exhaust.

          Fuel efficiency sadly seems to go with high NOx production.

          Maybe feeding pure oxygen into the engine would helpp ;-)

          1. Immenseness
            Flame

            Re: European testing - are petrol-fuelled cars are also affected?

            "There is no evidence that manufacturers cheat the cycle,"

            Whenever I hear that phrase "there is no evidence that blah blah" I hear weasels. They are not saying it is not true, just that there is no evidence (yet), so if and when the evidence is later found, they can claim they didn't lie about knowing earlier.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: European testing - are petrol-fuelled cars are also affected?

              "There is no evidence that manufacturers cheat the cycle,"

              I can assure you that they ALL cheat!

              AC since I write automotive firmware for a living!

      2. stu_ekins

        Re: European testing

        Oh gawd, don't call them the "European government", that's just giving them what they want.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: European testing

        I seem to recall that at least a decade ago (possibly longer, I am quite old myself), some German organisation noted that the observed pollution values varied massively from the official values as soon as the car was operating at more or less any speed other than the speed at which the official test was based.

        So the 110kph standard was observed to be useless in Germany where the average autobahn speed is considerably higher.

        It seems to me this is not new

    5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: European testing

      European testing is not fundamentally different yet, but will _BECOME_ so in 2017 and manufacturers have been given time to prepare.

      From 2017 all tests will be performed on-road, not in lab. So cheating will become significantly more difficult.

    6. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: European testing

      There's this report from last week...

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/14/nine-out-of-10-new-diesel-cars-in-breach-of-eu-pollution-rules-report-finds

      Nine out of 10 new diesel cars exceed EU pollution limits, report finds

      Road test reveals cars emit seven times the permitted level of exhaust emissions when tested in real-world conditions

    7. itzman

      Re: European testing

      The statement appears to be a complete straw man.

      It is irrelevant who does the testing, as long as the software knows its being tested.

  6. frank ly Silver badge

    DMCA

    Surely the DMCA is intended to prevent people from profiting from copying things, or obtaining and misusing 'trade secrets'. If cheating is strogly suspected, then the software should be torn apart and analysed by experts, subject to non-disclosure agreements of course.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: DMCA

      DMCA does not say anything about "trade secrets" though. AFAIK, reverse.engineering is still ok (not sure whether you need to be outside the US today). Of course, you may then fall into a patent trap, rent-seeker minefields are everywhere..

    2. midcapwarrior

      Re: DMCA

      In this case I'd think they would not want the code released since they are going to require changes that will likely reduce performance.

      Releasing the code would allow owners to revert to the old code after yearly emissions tests

    3. ZootCadillac

      Re: DMCA

      People write software for the ECU in most vehicles all the time. Once done, usually for the purpose of better real world performance, you can be sure it will never beat an emissions test ever again. That is why before it's time to go in for the test we map vehicles back to factory default.

      It goes on all over the industry. Seems VW just found an efficient way to automate the process. How very German.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: DMCA

        Yup... tuning companies pay big money to have the protections cracked so they can alter the engine parameters. Not that the protections are that good that they can't be broken

        (Anon for obvious reasons)

    4. John Tserkezis

      Re: DMCA

      "Surely the DMCA is intended to prevent people from profiting from copying things"

      It has nothing to do with the DMCA, other than it was used as a tool to strongarm the car industry to pay attention to all the lobbying.

      In other words: "We don't like what's going on so we'll threaten with the DMCA. Scared yet? Good, we like obedient car makers".

    5. Chronos Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: DMCA

      Or, you know, just do it outside of the USA, perhaps? I'm sorry but I'm totally unmoved by this use of the DMCA as a bludgeon to stop hacking (in the original context of the word, not the meeja definition).

      There's a swagger with these three and four letter acronym laws that needs firm modification with a clue-by-four. They need to be reminded that their jurisdiction is not universal. IMHO, if you own a piece of hardware which relies on soft/firmware to function, personal reverse engineering, security auditing and removing restrictions once title has passed is fair game.

      Naturally, the code is still subject to copyright so your analysis and patches belong to you but the original code and the derivative doesn't, even outside the Land of the Non-Free - but the derivative doesn't solely belong to them, either.

      TL;DR: Fuck 'em, we're not American.

    6. Dr Stephen Jones

      Re: DMCA

      @frank ly

      You are right. The DMCA speculation is wrong and came straight from the ambulance chasers at the EFF.

      Every EFF claim will find its way into one of Ian's stories eventually.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For Sale

    63 plate VW Golf 2.0 TDI, 20,000 miles, silver. £2.50 ONO.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: For Sale

      63 plate VW Golf 2.0 TDI, 20,000 miles, silver. £2.50 ONO.

      I'll take it. Whatever happens, the politicians aren't going to order the sudden scrapping of millions of cars at their owners' expense. Too many votes at stake. If the manufacturers can fix the problem they'll be ordered to do that. If they can't retro-fix the cars, they'll be given special license for the next ten years, apart from in large city centres where the pollution issue is most serious. There may well be an auto-industry (or offending-company) scrappage scheme meaning your VW may become the cheapest way to obtain a new car.

      This fiasco might be the best thing one could imagine for the future of e-cars. Anyone thinking, buy Tesla shares?

  8. David Glasgow

    Vorsprung durch software

    I'm pretty impressed. I'd love to know exactly how the software determined a test was in progress, and what it then did. Where did the software live? Who put it there? Who ordered it? Who agreed to it? Who knew?

    1. goldcd

      Re: Vorsprung durch software

      I believe the "test mode" was triggered by the steering-column not being moved.

      Which whilst I applaud them for their sensor identification pretty much excludes there being any defense of this "all being a bit of a misunderstanding and a careless decision of an easily fired engine-engineer"

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

        Re: steering-column not being moved

        Then how would it tell it wasn't on an American road?

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: steering-column not being moved

          Won't surprise me if someone discovers an accelerometer "hidden" in the ECU.

          It might even be documented and necessary for normal operation. It would be "unhelpful" if the ECU adjusted the engine's power or braking output while the driver was attempting a high-speed cornering manouver having left himself zero safety margin.

          1. fuzzie

            Re: steering-column not being moved

            Cars have loads of sensors around these days and, as pointed out, the steering wheel not moving, lateral acceleration, the ABS system or tyre pressure sensors could all be easily combined. I'm very surprised they didn't come with a "Ooops...the software confused our special car-on-dyno or car-in-workshop extra-low-emissions safety mode with the EPA test setup". That would have left them very red-faced, but much less of a target for ambulance-chasing lawyers. Of course, someone could still subpoena the code to look for the "Engage EPA Test Mode" comments.

    2. Irony Deficient

      Re: Vorsprung durch Software

      David, some of your questions were answered here.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Vorsprung durch software

      Trivial - the steering not active while undergoing a specific sequence of acceleration and deceleration. On 2WD you can probably get extra feed off the ABS to confirm the diagnosis.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confused....

    How come there aren't loads of diesel cars failing the mot or isnt the mot emission test as strict as the

    other test.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: Confused…

      Aimee, the problem is not that emissions tests were failing; the problem is that the emission of nitrogen oxides produced outside of testing facilities are up to 40 times above the legal limits in the States, despite those emissions remaining within the legal limits inside of testing facilities.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Confused…

        Thanks for that, so when the car goes in for an mot test, it has nothing plugged in to its systems, just the detecor in the exhaust, so as its not in the special testing place, will the mot detect excessive emissions? Does the mot actually check for nitrogen oxides?

        I cant believe it 'knows' its in an mot testing station, that would be technically possible, but spooky!!

        1. randalf72

          Re: Confused…

          Funnily enough I was discussing this the other year with a tuner when discussing, ahem, upgrading my SEAT Leon Diesel.

          Apparently one of the engine management sensors measures torque on the engine and there is quite a difference between the torque that is applied to the engine when physically moving a car along on a road and that applied when just revving the engine or even getting the car up to speed on a rolling road rig.

          It's therefore a simple matter to have a branch in the code depending upon the value of torque on the engine at a given time.

        2. Chronos Silver badge

          Re: Confused…

          Aimee wrote: I cant believe it 'knows' its in an mot testing station, that would be technically possible, but spooky!!

          Being revved to the red line and held there for a few seconds while in neutral is something that tends to only be done in testing stations, if we conveniently ignore bellends in McD's car park. Add the immobility of the steering to that and you have a fairly sound recipe for detecting whether you need the testing or the road fuel map switched in.

          Besides which, MOT stations test for particulate emissions (smoke test), not NO, so this little trick will be missed completely.

        3. JohnMurray

          Re: Confused…

          Just a smoke test.....

          http://www.motuk.co.uk/manual_740.htm

          1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: Confused…

            I thought a smoke test was "Plug it in, see if it catches fire."

            1. Nigel 11

              Re: Confused…

              "Plug it in, see if it catches fire."

              Or, hold this under the fire alarm, and see if it goes off. Also whether someone has remembered to disconnect the alarm being tested from the rest of the site's alarms ....

    2. ZootCadillac

      Re: Confused....

      It does not matter in the rest of the world because we thankfully are not under the yoke of the California led eco-warriors in the EPA.

      America is a huge market for the motoring industry outside of the US but I'm pretty sure that VAG, the ninth largest company in the world, could live without it. Which would probably suit the insular US and their agricultural V8s ( which I'd like to know how they pass any kind of eco test on the planet, let alone the draconian ones in California )

      1. Jim 43

        Re: Confused....

        In most states, agricultural vehicles are not subject to emissions rules. IOW, we're aware of the problem and are quite happy to ignore it.

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: Confused....

          I lair in Fresno, California which is somewhat central to the Central Valley. Ag. pollution is a regular topic as is water availability. Can't say there's much else done save talk just as with the weather. It's all in the hands of government and pressure groups.

          As an aside, pollution would be lower if we didn't get the Bay Area smog along with the (cooling) onshore flow. Seems their Fairy God-Senator (Diane Feinstein) keeps any type of AMD (Air Quality Management District such as LA have) from being set up there. Now I'm being nasty.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Confused....

        So you're saying you prefer to breathe in highly contaminated exhaust fumes because that means it's one in the eye for the California eco-warriors? Do you like cancer and impaired brain functioning or something?

        Although presumably with that post it's too late.

      3. Zog The Undeniable

        Re: Confused....

        This isn't about being an eco-warrior. It's about making the air breathable, which even the most rabid anti-greenwash zealot like Lewis Page might care about. Same as catalysts on petrol cars; they don't reduce global warming at all (in fact they increase it for a couple of reasons, all other things being equal) but they do stop you choking on CO, NOx and unburnt hydrocarbons. With current traffic volumes you woud barely be able to breathe in UK cities, were catalysts still not fitted.

    3. Zog The Undeniable

      Re: Confused....

      Diesels are only tested for smoke under acceleration (there are visual checks for the presence of DPFs on newer cars, but no actual measurement). Even a 1970s diesel in good nick can pass that test, especially if it's had a good thrashing on the way to the test centre. Turbo diesels are allowed more smoke than non-turbo diesels (very rare these days as they are dog-slow and not usually as economical as TDs, but some taxi drivers liked the VW SDI engines as there is less to go wrong).

  10. Commswonk Silver badge

    I wonder...

    when the search is under way for the person(s) / scapegoat(s) responsible for this debacle who will be the first to say "I was only obeying orders".

  11. TaabuTheCat

    Just wow.

    I'm not sure which is worse, that they did it, or that they thought they'd never get caught. $7.2B is just the down payment on the damages from this decision.

    For Sale. VW. Cheap. (Must take Company.)

    Looking at auto-maker stock prices it appears many people believe VW wasn't playing this game solo.

  12. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    Arrr. Back in the day....

    During the time I had my hands dipped in vats of oil refurbishing fuel injector pumps for a living never once did I meet a fat hairy Artik Driver down a dark alley at night as the result of a Breaker 1-9 to turn his injectors back up after the emissions test.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, let's summarise this.

    In short, VW cheated, and got caught.

    The questions are:

    - WTF? Why did ANYONE ever think it was even acceptable to create a cheat mode, let alone implement it? Was there really nobody who thought this through and looked at both the ethics and the risks?

    - Is anyone else doing this? It's no excuse for VW, but if it's systematic it is a wholly different can of worms that got opened here.

    - If this is commonplace, then what? Stop selling cars altogether? Recall the lot and walk to work?

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: Well, let's summarise this.

      I would be amazed if it wasn't _every_ car manufacturer.

      We all know the "quoted" figures are nonsense. No one has ever achieved even close to the MPG or CO2 figures that are in the brochure.

      Assuming that they can only quote that nonsense because at some point they were able to "prove" that those figures were achievable, it must have been because they knew the exact conditions of the test and rigged the ECUs to compensate for it.

      1. Piro

        Please

        I achieved 3 mpg over the combined figure for my car on a very long drive across Europe. Some cars really do hit their targets.

        1. Zog The Undeniable

          Re: Please

          I've always got very close to the "combined" figure too, and I don't drive like a granny. Most people, however, speed furiously on motorways* and do lots of very short trips (on cold start, running-rich cycle) when they should get their fat arses round the corner a different way.

          *as the power required to overcome air resistance increases with the cube of speed, there is usually a big difference in consumption between the usually-seen 85mph and 70mph, unless you have a car that happens to run very efficiently at the higher speed due to gearing and engine management quirks. It happens, but not often.

        2. <shakes head>

          Re: Please

          so on a long journey you beat the MPG of a split urban rural benchmark by 3MPG . congratulations

      2. Donchik

        Re: Well, let's summarise this.

        Kind of bothered by how all car manufacturers are being lined up against the wall on this.

        No evidence exists for those assumptions and whilst it makes sense to check trying to implicate other groups is not appropriate.

        I suspect all manufacturers design to meet the requirements, but that is nothing like specifically designing in a cheat mode.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well, let's summarise this.

          No evidence exists for those assumptions and whilst it makes sense to check trying to implicate other groups is not appropriate.

          Two counters to that argument:

          - where there is smoke, there is fire. Given the type of company that VW is, there must have been a reason for them to step that far off the mark and I can see the need to compete, even with dishonesty, as one driver;

          - this is the land where they sue you over giving someone the wrong breakfast cereal, yet no other manufacturer has climbed on their high horse. I find the silence *extremely* telling (and even more disappointing than finding that VW engaged in this sort of deception).

          1. MondoMan

            Re: Well, let's summarise this.

            Consumer diesel engines are a tiny percentage of the American market, so it's not surprising that other car makers, not selling diesel-engine passenger cars there, wouldn't have felt competitive pressure to fiddle with diesel engine emissions.

      3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Well, let's summarise this.

        We all know the "quoted" figures are nonsense.

        Not necessarily. I hit them 100% of the time across my fleet - I have a 2007 Isuzu D-Max and two Mk3 2003 Daihatsu Sirions (the 107BHP pocket rocket variety). In fact, the Isuzu regularly exceeds its spec-ed mileage by up to 20%. Or used to. I think it has a clogged EGR valve and needs some tender loving care (and chemicals in the fuel tank).

        So it depends on the manufacturer.

        My non-scientific guess is that the next one to face a scandal will be one of the French manufacturers. Its consumption numbers are traditionally extremely iffy so I would not be surprised if they have "test mode" too. I am not going to point fingers at the exact one (out of two), everyone who has driven them knows that what they deliver is ~15% off from what the spec says.

      4. DRendar

        Re: Well, let's summarise this.

        Nonsense.

        I almost always meet and regularly beat the official MPG rating (53) on my mk4 golf TDi, and that's with a remap to go from 100 -> ~130 bhp

        And I most certainly DON'T drive like a Granny.

        I can't be the only one.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Well, let's summarise this.

          I almost always meet and regularly beat the official MPG rating (53) on my mk4 golf TDi, and that's with a remap to go from 100 -> ~130 bhp

          Well of course, that remap will have trashed the special test settings, and given you a map that works in the real world. I'll bet that if run on the official test you won't get the official figures, just close to them, but that just shows the test is unrealistic.

      5. EnricoS

        Re: Well, let's summarise this.

        I think we need to distinguish here between emissions and efficiency. AFAIK VW are being accused of cheating the emissions tests to improve real-world fuel economy.

        Of course car makers tune their cars to get the best fuel economy on the "standard cycle" used for tests. How close you personally get to these values then depends on how closely your personal set of circumstances (driving style, conditions, terrain, climate.....) meet the homologation conditions. I usually beat the "manufacturers claims" for fuel efficiency as my commute is handily medium speed and flat-ish terrain. I also don't floor it, mainly as there is no point on UK roads. You have to travel at the speed of the prevailing traffic.

        The manufacturer fuel economy figures are there to give you an indication of how good car A is compared to car B, under a certain set of conditions. What we all need to be made more aware of, as the buying public, is what those test conditions are. Perhaps the standard test should also include a "boy racer" mode....

      6. nijam Silver badge

        Re: Well, let's summarise this.

        > I would be amazed if it wasn't _every_ car manufacturer.

        There's a test, so any rational person or organisation will optimise their behaviour to pass the test, possibly/probably with the likelihood of doing worse when not being tested. In other words, they followed exactly the same strategy that we all do all the time.

        How is this a surprise, exactly?

    2. Patrick Moody

      Re: Well, let's summarise this.

      A/C - "If this is commonplace, then what? Stop selling cars altogether? Recall the lot and walk to work?"

      The answer is stop selling diesel cars altogether. Ask any cyclist who has ever followed a diesel car whether they believe that the emissions are really as clean, or even comparable to the emissions of a similar petrol-powered car. The falsified test figures suggest that they are, but this discovery just confirms what was obvious all along.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Well, let's summarise this.

        Stop selling diesel cars? Just because you don't notice it, doesn't mean it's not there. Before any decisions are taken we need plenty of data about what is being emitted by current-best diesel and petrol cars in ordinary use on the road. There may be things coming out of Petrol cars that are far more toxic than anything coming out of a diesel. (I'd wager larger amounts of benzene to start with, which is a lifetime-cumulative carcinogen. Catalytic converters aren't perfect. )

        However, this has to be Christmas coming early for Tesla and other e-car players.

        BTW my observation of diesels is that <10% of them emit >90% of the soot, and presumably fail their next MOT. Even as a diesel driver I'd accept a 4-monthly 10-minute mini-MOT to check emissions, which might accomplish more than all the new-car regulations combined. If you failed you'd have two weeks' grace to get the car fixed or to find a new car.

        1. toughluck

          Re: Well, let's summarise this.

          @theOtherJT:

          We all know the "quoted" figures are nonsense. No one has ever achieved even close to the MPG or CO2 figures that are in the brochure.

          These blokes would disagree with you.

          @Nigel 11:

          BTW my observation of diesels is that <10% of them emit >90% of the soot, and presumably fail their next MOT. Even as a diesel driver I'd accept a 4-monthly 10-minute mini-MOT to check emissions, which might accomplish more than all the new-car regulations combined. If you failed you'd have two weeks' grace to get the car fixed or to find a new car.

          I have a 2005 Citroën C5 1.6 HDi and it only meets Euro IV regulations. Had to replace the EGR valve and several parts in the air intake since it was intermittently getting into service mode and exiting it with a large cloud of soot behind me. After the replacements, it's back to being completely smokeless. Definitely better than a 2 year old car that had its DPF removed.

          You know the worst part? Those cars will pass the MOT emissions tests. It's an open secret that they do test for smoke, but particulate emissions are not smoke -- those clouds of soot you sometimes see are a particularly bad case, where the emissions are several thousands times worse than the allowed limit, and worse in fact than some pre-Euro I diesel engines. Other than being clearly visible to the eye, they don't register on the MOT smoke test. First, because the type of these emissions is different. Second, because the test is being done with clutch engaged and/or in neutral. This completely invalidates the test because all manufacturers include an engine protection mode that prevents burnout due to revving it too much. The ECU will only supply as much fuel as needed to keep the engine at the high RPM, but other than running a stationary DPF burn in service mode, the engine will never actually get hot from that or emit anything comparable to actual exhaust.

          --

          That's where a lot of misunderstanding is. Certification is performed in wind tunnels on rollers. The car being tested actually has to overcome friction, rolling resistance and headwind and is actually subject to simulated road conditions. The important difference being that the test allows very long acceleration and deceleration. Much longer than is usually the case (who accelerates to 30 mph in over a minute?). Air conditioning and heating are of course off. Radio, wipers, headlights and everything else is off, too (but those don't make as much of a difference as some people think they do). Manufacturers don't need to cheat by taking off the side mirrors, roof bars, blocking all air inlets, or anything. They are mostly inconsequential for the test, and the test tends to reflect actual, if very relaxed, driving.

          It only becomes a problem when the car is on the road and the engine behaves completely differently from how it behaved in the lab.

          Road testing is not going to be a catch-all, and some manufacturers will claim they were cheated if wind was very much against them or if the road conditions are worse on a given day. One thing it will definitely cut down on is unrealistic fine-tuning of on-board software to the narrow testing bands.

        2. Michael 28

          Re: Well, let's summarise this.

          There's petrol engines out there that look as though they're burning wood... or possibly a lot of oil!

  14. Planty Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Faulty test

    If the car was abke to detect the difference between test vs use, then the test isn't a valid test

    1. toughluck

      Re: Faulty test

      Not exactly true. I've responded above, but just to repeat: the certification test is performed on rollers in a wind tunnel. The car being tested needs to overcome friction, rolling resistance and headwind just like it has on a normal road. The advantage here is that the tests are comparable across makes and models.

      The disadvantage? Well, VW dieselgate is the tabloid term, isn't it?

      1. IHateWearingATie

        Re: Faulty test

        Wind resistance? I would have thought that the fan would be running in the wind tunnel is to ensure that the radiator and turbo intercooler get suffient breeze over them.

        Can't see how it needs to overcome wind resistance as if it is on rollers it's probably tied down for safety.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Faulty test

          And airflow affecting the air intake and the exit gases at the exhaust.

        2. toughluck

          Re: Faulty test

          It's tied down, but can't be tied down too much -- the test needs to allow the car to slide off rollers if it's not actually making any progress.

          If it was completely tied down, then the consumption figure should be well over 200 mpg (close to 1 l/100 km), since that's what I routinely get while closely following an articulated lorry.

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            Re: Faulty test

            > the test needs to allow the car to slide off rollers if it's not actually making any progress

            Err, no.

            It should be restrained such that it can't come off the rollers as that would be "rather dangerous" for those in the vicinity. It's probably different for emissions testing, but for power tuning the car will be restrained from the back to prevent to driving forwards off the rollers, and if the front wheels are on rollers then it will be laterally restrained at the front as it will otherwise try and throw itself off the side in short order.

            RWD (only the back wheels on the rollers) is laterally stable as the back end will align itself with the front end (which is fixed. FWD or 4WD (front or all wheels on rollers) is laterally unstable - any sideways movement of the front wheels turns the vehicle, increasing the sideways motion in a positive feedback fashion. If you search well known video sharing sites, you'll find videos of roller sessions that have "gone wrong" in this way - and it generally isn't pretty !

            Our local motor club had a talk from the proprietor of a tuning facility a few years back. He said the worst were automatics, especially 4WD ones, which were prone to reaching high power and high speed - then suddenly "dropping a cog" and with the sudden increase in torque at the wheels, trying to launch themselves off the rollers.

            TL;DR version

            If the front wheels are on rollers then it can't be safely tested without some form of lateral restraint as it's unstable and will launch itself sideways off the rollers. Any sort of high power test is also dangerous unless the vehicle is longitudinally restrained so it can't drive forwards off the rollers.

            It may be that these emissions tests are low enough in power to not climb forwards off the rollers.

            1. toughluck

              Re: Faulty test

              Simon, how do the tests account for air resistance? Do they? It was my understanding that there must be a way to do it somehow, otherwise there'd be no point in (supposed) removal of roof bars or side mirrors to improve the results?

  15. petur
    Devil

    stock

    I know somebody who's going to keep an eye on those stock prices, they're dropping way below the actual company value...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: stock

      Yes, I'm tempted to take a punt. Even the amount they've set aside for the recall is only half a year's profit. A few heads may roll, but once the other manufacturers are seen to have similarly dirty hands the fuss over VW specifically will die down. If we could shift this blame to where it really lies, the asshole politicians who are using meaningless numbers to play tax games when they understand nothing about the science involved, it would be an even bigger win.

  16. Your alien overlord - fear me

    What's the betting

    Martin takes early retirement once the fine has been announced/paid and the class action has been paid. No incoming CEO likes to find his seat covered in this kind of cr@p on day 1.

  17. tfb Silver badge
    WTF?

    What were they thinking?

    I can't work out how the decision to do this was made. If you just ignore all the ethics of it (which is probably a bigger issue, really) they must, at some point, have asked themselves a question which was something like 'OK, we know how to cheat: should we? Well, if we don't get caught we get to make a bunch of money, but if we do get caught, we will destroy or very badly damage the company and will certainly at least have destroyed our own careers even if we avoid jail. So, how dumb are the people who test cars then? Not that dumb, probably. Oh, and it will take *one* whistle-blower in the company, who will be entirely justified, to cause this catastrophe to happen.'

    It's just really surprising to me that they would have decided to do this: granted they're evil, they seem also to have been catastrophically stupid, especially given the whistle-blowing risk which must have been just extreme.

    So I do wonder if there is more to this than meets the eye, because I don't want to think that people that stupid might be designing cars.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: What were they thinking?

      I don't want to think that people that stupid might be designing cars.

      Oh, they're not designing any cars. They wouldn't have even half a clue. British Leyland was the last time management took any hand in the automotive design and engineering processes. No, they're being paid hundreds of times more than "mere engineers" to run the car companies with their "unique management and leadership skills", or other similarly barf-inducing verbiage.

      "You can't get top people without paying top salaries". How many times have you heard that particular big lie? Who decides who is a "top person"? Answer: a committee of other "top people".

      Well, this is yet another example of what these self-proclaimed "top people" are really like. Incompetent jumped-up middle-managers who can fake sincerity at best. Psycopathic narcissistic spawn of Satan at the worst.

      1. tfb Silver badge

        Re: What were they thinking?

        Someone who was not a manager wrote the code that does this. Someone understood that the code could be written and enough about the way the system works to know what it would do. These people, like it or not, are designing cars.

        And of course they were being told what to do bu the evil 'top people' but you know what: they had a choice, which was to have walked and/or blown the whistle. (And yes, you can do that: I did (walked)).

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: What were they thinking?

          (And yes, you can do that: I did (walked)).

          So did I, when I finally lost patience with management taking over my life. Best decision I ever took.

          I didn't know anything that needed the whistle blowing. That's the much harder decision. The malign "they" will do their damndest to make sure you never work for an employer again, if you do.

          1. tfb Silver badge

            Re: What were they thinking?

            I think that's right unfortunately: you can either blow whistles or work. But it would be sufficient, here, for people to simply refuse to do the work.

            However I think you are probably right: the stupidity can be isolated in the pointy-heads who don't actually have significant design input: the people doing the implementation were merely venal. I still think they should be liable (the designers/implementers) for that.

      2. Heathroi

        Re: What were they thinking?

        errm Winterkorn has a doctorate in metallurgy.....

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: What were they thinking?

      It often looks as if the motor manufacturers, having arrived late on the computer scene, decided that they didn't need to learn from the decades of experience accumulated within that industry. I suspect this may have led them to believe they could get away with anything if it was done in software.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oz consumer law

    Not sure about other countries, but here in the land down under we have the Australian Consumer Law Guarantee that applies to all products bought since 2011, including cars. IANAL but if dodgy diesels have been sold here, then VW could find themselves with a lot of returned vehicles on top of any fines/court action.

    Under the ACLG a product must meet its advertised specification. It if doesn't it constitutes a major failure which entitles the consumer to a remedy of repair, replace or refund (consumers choice).

    Based on this, if I had a diesel which VW reprogram to the extent it substantially deviates from its advertised performance and economy figures, then under the ACLG I should be entitled to take it back and ask for a full refund. Of course, at the moment it doesn't meet its advertised emissions so would still fail the guarantee.

    Any Oz consumer lawyers want to comment on this?

    1. Ian 55

      Re: Oz consumer law

      It does meet its advertised performance. If you do the test, it will produce the results it says. If you do something other than the test, why would you expect the same results?

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Oz consumer law

      Just because it doesn't meet US emissions, that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't meet Australian regulations.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oz consumer law

        Australian emissions standards are irrelevant as far as the ACLG is concerned. The ACL is consumer protection that ensures goods match their advertised description and are fit for purpose. I also realise that cars sold in Oz may not have the defeat device, but if they were then I believe they would fail the major failure test as defined in consumer law. The relevant section is quoted below.

        I, as a reasonable consumer would definitely feel that a device designed to cheat the emissions test would fail the major failure test. The goods probably can't be made to match the description because if they are retrofitted to accurately reflect emissions testing then they will probably fail to match the advertised performance and mileage figures. If it fails this test, you can ask for a full refund or replacement.

        If I had a VW diesel and received a recall notice to fix this issue, I would be asking for my money back.

        ACL section 260

        “(a) the goods would not have been acquired by a reasonable consumer fully acquainted with the nature and extent of the failure; or

        (b) the goods depart in one or significant respects:

        (i) if they were supplied by description – from that description; or

        (ii) if they were supplied by reference to a sample or demonstration model – from that sample or demonstration model; or

        (c) the goods are substantially unfit for a purpose for which goods of the same kind are commonly supplied and they cannot, easily and within a reasonable time, be remedied to make them fit for such a purpose;

        (d) the goods are unfit for a disclosed purpose that was made known to:

        (i) the supplier of the goods;

        (ii) or a person by whom any prior negotiations or arrangements in relation to the acquisition of the goods were conducted or made;

        and they cannot, easily and within a reasonable time, be remedied to make them fit for such a purpose; or

        (e) the goods are not of acceptable quality because they are unsafe."

  19. Joe Greer

    Well, what about the cow shit.. NOx!

    yes it is true, cow sh!t is NOx emissions

    http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/nitrous-oxide-sources

    The NOx BS is way too much.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Well, what about it?

      Joe, the EPA regulates NOₓ (NO and NO₂) vehicle emissions. Nitrous oxide is not NOₓ; it’s N₂O, and vehicle emissions of N₂O are not regulated by the EPA.

  20. Drew 11

    The idea probably came from VW's Mexico factory, taking a leaf out of the local petrol company's book.

    If you request the amount of petrol equal to the quantity the local standards authority uses to test petrol pumps for calibration, you get the correct amount of fuel delivered.

    If you request any other value, the petrol pump diddles you by displaying a higher quantity than it actually delivers through the pump. The diddle factor is station-owner-defineable.

    1. ShadowDragon8685

      Fraud, then. In the U.S., people were worried about that in the early days; that's why gas pumps had those big glass spheres. They'd actually fill with the requested amount of fuel before pumping it to the hose.

      Frankly, it being Mexico, I'm surprised more diddling fuel station owners haven't wound up dangling upside down and decapitated from bridges.

  21. Schlimnitz

    This is the automotive equivalent of doping

    So as others have said, unlikely that they are alone.

  22. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Software, mileage, and urea

    "Does anyone know what the difference is? It seems to me that taking random vehicles off the production line and having a government witness isn't going to make any difference if the software on all the cars is programmed to recognise that it's on a rolling road. So is this guy talking rubbish, or is there really some difference between how the two continents do testing? "

    You're right, he's talking rubbish. I think he's assuming the EPA and Euro equivalent were given modified cars. With US versus Europe, once there's software in there to detect one specific driving pattern, having it detect a second one would be relatively easy, I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't simply detect both. (That said, one of the diesel models wouldn't have to cheat on the Euro test at all, it was reported to be at 5x the US emissions limit, which would put it right at the European diesel NOx limit.)

    There's a parallel scandal where car co's for the European tests can bring a prepared car, so the mileage gap between one of these and a regular car is getting up towards 30% on some models. These cars can have the gaps taped, side mirrors removed, and apparently even have the alternator removed if it can make it through the test before the battery runs flat (and can drive around with no ventilation otherwise.) There's more a push towards more realistic testing rather than accusations of cheating though (US EPA test, for example, even has some air conditioner use.)

    Regarding urea, I've read recently that none of the VW models involved use urea injection. Bad news for VW, most diesel engines in the US are now using urea treatment because of the consequences of using enough EGR flow alone to meet US NOx emissions.

    1. Chz

      Re: Software, mileage, and urea

      The EPA mileage test, while not quite "real world", does deliver a vastly different picture of vehicle efficiency than the EU test does. It's close enough that a careful driver can beat the claimed figures, at least.

      That being said, neither of the tests are supposed to reflect reality. They're simply meant to be a comparison between models. The EU tests might be wildly out sync with reality, but assuming all manufacturers game it the same way then you can compare different cars with each other.

      1. toughluck

        Re: Software, mileage, and urea

        @Chz:

        That being said, neither of the tests are supposed to reflect reality. They're simply meant to be a comparison between models. The EU tests might be wildly out sync with reality, but assuming all manufacturers game it the same way then you can compare different cars with each other.

        Really? I've done some research to cars from different makers using the same engines (centered around PSA, since they are in joint ventures with a lot of other makers). Here's what I found:

        A Pug 508, Citroën C5 or Ford Mondeo will get about the same consumption figures for 1.6 and 2.0 turbodiesels.

        Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1 and Pug 108 get exactly the same petrol engine and exactly the same figures for it.

        Compare Pug 208 and a Mini with 1.6 petrol turbo (Prince engine) -- they get about the same-ish figures, Mini has slightly higher consumption which matches its boxier exterior and higher weight.

        However, if you throw BMW 1-series into the mix, suddenly it gets better consumption figures than either of te above.

        Throw in BMW 3-series into the mix and compare with Pug 508 and Citroën C5 -- the bimmer is heavier and larger than 508, but gets significantly better consumption figures. That's despite rear wheel drive, which is notorious for causing higher consumption.

        I don't know the exact reasons, but would appear to match the reports that BMWs get 40-50% worse consumption than stated in certification tests while Pugs/Cits get within 5% of the official figures.

        --

        If the tests aren't even comparable, there's no point to them, and it would appear that the changes to be brought in 2018 (road testing for compliance) can't come soon enough.

      2. nijam Silver badge

        Re: Software, mileage, and urea

        > The EU tests might be wildly out sync with reality

        I disagree. It's not difficult - as many have mentioned already - to match the EU fueld consumptoin figures on modern cars. I certainly can, and without needing to hold up other traffic!

    2. AIBailey

      Re: Software, mileage, and urea

      I know next to nothing about this, but is one option to retrospectively fit a urea injection system as part of the recall (presumably consisting of an injector, holding tank and sensor) or would it be way more complex than that?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Software, mileage, and urea

        It would probably require too much redesign of the whole car and fuel/exhaust system for that to be worthwhile.

        I'd guess that the recall will just load a new software map which maintains the 'cheat' settings all the time, and if the owner complains about the performance impact they'll be pointed at the small print saying that things like top speed and 0-60 time are not guaranteed.

        Meanwhile the aftermarket tuning shops will make a fortune reinstalling original maps.

        1. toughluck

          Re: Small print

          @AC:

          if the owner complains about the performance impact they'll be pointed at the small print saying that things like top speed and 0-60 time are not guaranteed.

          Fair enough, but engine torque at a given rpm and maximum power at a certain rpm are specifications, and there's no way to weasel out of those. As is specific fuel consumption.

          They can fix the nitrogen oxide emissions two ways: by increasing fuel consumption for a richer mixture to prevent NOx from forming or by lowering admitted air and recirculating exhaust gases more, which will hurt performance. Either way is not going to be popular with the punters and either will be grounds for returning the car.

      2. annodomini2 Bronze badge

        Re: Software, mileage, and urea

        Pump, ECU, wiring, plumbing, mounting, external tank refill elements.

        Engine management software update, Body Computer software update.

        It's not a easy or cheap exercise, given the nature of the impact it may result in the vehicle needing to be re-qualified.

      3. Federal

        Re: Software, mileage, and urea

        It's not just one way, it's probably the only way.

        On the 2009 to 2014 models the DPF is built into the catalytic converter that's built into the exhaust manifold - it's a $4,000+ job to replace it, and running enough EGR through the engine to reduce N0x by the magnitude required will make DPF replacement needed more often than oil changes.

        Retrofitting a urea injection system, new engine controls, and adding a N0x catalyst to the exhaust system will cost them $2,500 or more, per car, but they'll only have to do it once.

        Adding a DEF tank, controls, pump, and N0x catalyst is the only thing they can do. If anything else were even close to feasible, they'd have done it years ago. They may be stupid and arrogant but not stupid and arrogant enough to not make changes to the control settings if that were all it took to solve this problem.

        They'll probably have to put the tank and pump where the spare tire is - they might have to provide new run-flat tires in addition to the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. SCR + Lean N0x Trap (LNT - which the car already has) is how BMW passes the tests and still gets good mileage and performance.

  23. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    Not cheating

    An undocumented feature!

  24. Admiral Grace Hopper

    POKE 35136,0

    I'm now wondering what the infinite lives POKE for my Renault is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: POKE 35136,0

      Don't worry. No Renault has ever had any poke.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: POKE 35136,0

        I beg to disagree - the Renault Sport Spider that I had some 15 years ago certainly had some poke.

        No proper roof though....

        Steve

  25. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Devil

    Roll on TTIP

    Then we can dispense with all this troublesome regulation.

  26. Daniel Hall
    Flame

    GBP £

    I'm on a UK site - Check

    I'm reading an article on said UK site - Check

    So glad they included £ GBP figures along with those US dollars and Euro's!

    ....oh wait..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GBP £

      The problem was raised in the US, about a manufacturer who is based in the Eurozone. There's no more reason to include GBP than there is to include Yen or Renminbi. The internet is international, if you want GBP, go read the Daily Fail.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: GBP £

        Most readers can do an instant € / $ / £ conversion in their head when reading any figure anyway.

        1. Named coward

          Re: GBP £

          for consumer prices it's usually 1€ = 1$ = 1£

    2. Wilseus

      Re: GBP £

      I'm on a UK site - Tick

      I'm reading an article on said UK site - Tick

      So glad they included £ GBP figures along with those US dollars and Euros!

      *cough*

  27. MJI Silver badge

    I can understand why they did it.

    Who would want to buy a slow thirsty car?

    That is the point, it is using more fuel to drop NOx emmisions, at the cost of CO2.

    It is also putting an end to unit injector systems as now some Diesels are injecting on the exhaust stroke to clean up NOx (at the expense of MPG).

    I think we are seeing the beginning of the end for Diesel cars.

    1. Patrick Moody

      Re: I can understand why they did it.

      MJI - "I think we are seeing the beginning of the end for Diesel cars."

      and not a moment too soon.

      Perhaps the UK govt. could reintroduce the ridiculous scrappage scheme that they used a few years ago to encourage people to waste money on brand new cars instead of maintaining their >=10 year old existing cars.

      This time it could be applied only to diesel cars (of any age) and used to offset the cost of buying a modern petrol car to replace it. The public health benefit would be enormous.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: I can understand why they did it.

        The scrapppage scheme was stupid, it boosted the Korean car industry to the detriment of small garages and second hand car availability.

        Now I would never be able to afford a new car, so if Diesels were suddenly picked on I would be stuffed.

        I bought a Diesel as most cars of the model I wanted was Diesel, I would just as happiliy gone petrol with LPG.

        I have not seen any smoke out the back, and fuel economy has improved since I whipped off the EGR valve, and cleaned the filithy sensors covered in EGR supplied crap, (it also blocked the inlet manifold quite badly).

        EGR is a bodge and also causes more issues with the shite it introduces.

        1. Patrick Moody

          Re: I can understand why they did it.

          Scrappage wasn't compulsory. It was just intended as an encouragement. Someone with an old car who wanted to replace it but was £2000 short for the new one they wanted to trade it in for, suddenly found themselves able to afford that trade. The market was distorted, and many perfectly-good old cars that could and should have been maintained were scrapped.

          As we are now discovering just how perfectly-good the diesel cars aren't, it would be appropriate to do the same. Since you say you're not prepared to replace with new, even if you did have £2000 help you do so, you wouldn't directly be a target for this, but I don't really see how that would mean that you'd lose out in any way. Everything stays the same for you until the next time you change your car, by which time I'd hope that diesel cars make up a significantly smaller part of the market.

          To really speed things up I'd suggest they get rid of the minimum ownership period for the old car (in the last scheme you had to have been the registered keeper of the old car for at least 1 year before the trade). This way it would encourage a trade in old diesels (perhaps including yours) so that someone could buy a 2nd hand diesel for <£2000 and immediately trade it in through scrappage to more than make back what they spent. Old diesels in that bracket become more valuable rather than less, but only for the ultimate purpose of getting rid of them. Everybody wins!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can understand why they did it.

      "I think we are seeing the beginning of the end for Diesel VW cars."

      Fixed that for you...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Goodbye DISEASEel!!

    If this scandal finally sees off diesel cars, then it can only be a good thing. For the most part they are stinking, horrible, clattering things that go about farting clouds of cancer in peoples faces. Especially when owners try to be clever and blank off the EGR, remove the DPF and map the ECU to make them seem like a boy racer. Or a cabbie in a battered Passat with 200,000 miles on the clock tries to avoid an expensive bill when the DPF fails and the EGR gets clogged.

    Hopefully this will force manufacturers to admit they were wrong and have desperately been trying to flog the wrong tech for decades having invested loads of money into Diesel. Petrol engines are and always will be far superior, electric and petrol-hybrid tech is the future. It can't come soon enough.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Goodbye DISEASEel!!

      There are so many things wrong with that statement I don't know where to begin! Ah, I know - what is the current life expectancy of a city dweller, and how does it compare to a) 150, b) 100, and c) 50 years ago? Answer those and then come back to us with sensible comments re: the disease caused by modern technology.

      1. Patrick Moody

        Re: Goodbye DISEASEel!!

        A/C's comment was specifically about diesel, not about advances in modern medical science. The fact still stands that the real diesel particulate and NOx emissions are significantly higher than they are supposed to be and those are well known to be significantly detrimental to health.

        Instead of looking at how far medical science has improved life expectancy in spite of the surge in production of dirty diesels over the last 20 years, we should be wondering how much better things could have been if they stayed at their pre government-supported level (see http://www.enveurope.com/content/25/1/15) which would likely have been much more similar to the US (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-34329596). We should also be thinking seriously about how we can move away from them again, in favour of the less damaging alternatives.

        Before all the diesel enthusiasts down-vote me in their dozens, perhaps you could think about why it is that you are a diesel enthusiast. Is it because they are genuinely a better proposition for passenger transport than all of the alternatives, or just because they're cheaper to run (almost entirely because of the government sponsored market distortion)?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Goodbye DISEASEel!!

          I bought a diesel Landrover Defender 110 because I wanted a Defender 110, and one of a certain age at that; there aren't any Defenders worth speaking of with petrol engines; those few that are out there are considerably more expensive to buy and cost is a major consideration.

          The criteria a vehicle had to meet were:

          Be able to drive on road in all UK weather, and off road on occasions

          Be able to carry (legally) up to 11 adults and children (which means a 110CSW of an age to have the sideways facing bench seats in the rear) so that I can take my whole family (three generations) in one vehicle (and it would be interesting to compare the emissions of one Landrover with those of the two or three vehicles that would otherwise be required)

          Be able to carry dirty, oily equipment and be easy to clean afterward (I take out the bench seats and hose down the rear compartment with the aid of detergent and a stiff broom!)

          Be simple enough to do most of the required maintenance myself

          Cost less than £4000

          If the government wants to buy me a petrol engined or hybrid vehicle capable of meeting all those criteria I will accept it without a backward glance at my Defender, but until then I will keep driving my diesel.

        2. Federal

          Re: Goodbye DISEASEel!!

          Diesels are thermodynamically more efficient than gasoline engines - typically by about 10 to 12% and you can get a little more usable diesel out of a barel of oil, with less effort, than you can get gasoline from the same barrel. Take two otherwise identical cars and put a diesel engine in one and a gas engine in the other and the diesel will use about 20% fewer gallons of fuel while emitting less C02. (diesel has about 10% more energy per gallon than gasoline, on top of its higher efficiency).

          Modern diesels are generally cleaner (usually a lot cleaner) in terms of Hydrocarbon and VOC emissions partly due to excess oxygen that's inherent to the combustion process making easier to burn everything up. They're also generally a lot dirtier (especially VWs!) in terms of N0x emissions, again because of that "extra" oxygen and the high temperatures associated with high thermodynamic efficiency.

    2. Zog The Undeniable

      Re: Goodbye DISEASEel!!

      Couldn't agree more. Diesels have had a free ride compared to petrol cars for years and they are a fundamentally dirty technology. Diesel fuel doesn't burn in the liquid phase so you are spraying it into hot air and hoping that all of it vaporises in time...anything that doesn't makes soot or those nasty little PM10s that go into your lungs and never come out again. The high compression and excess air, while giving higher thermal efficiency* and negligible CO, also create lots of NOx.

      *CO2 and economy benefits are rather overstated; diesel fuel has about 10% higher calorific value per litre and (you don't get owt for nowt) emits more carbon per litre. But that's compensated for by the higher overall efficiency, right? Not so: the availability of diesel power is the only thing that's made the explosion of SUVs and other humungous cars possible in the UK; average emissions for diesel cars are actually higher than for petrol ones, because the cars are larger. Only 'merkins and Arabs with very cheap fuel can afford petrol SUVs!

      Unless you want to argue that massive SUVs are a real benefit to society rather than a symbol of conspicuous consumption/get-off-my-road intimidation and we really couldn't manage with 7-seat estate cars.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what about their competition?

    surely, while being, technically, a competition, they're all one big, happy, manufacturing family. And generally, if one games the system, it turns out others have been at it for years too.

  30. Indolent Wretch

    How a recall is gonna help I've no idea, the cars clearly couldn't do what was needed of them so the company cheated. The software options are (A) remove the cheat leaving emissions high or (B) turn the cheat on all the time reducing fuel efficiency... Neither are what the customer wanted.

    Options seem to be:

    A. If it's an affected car and you don't want it demand your money back. You were sold something and Volkswagen criminally lied about what it was.

    B. If it's an affected car and you do want it and your emissions are higher than you thought then Volkswagen need to pay all of your additional road tax, congestion charge, etc, etc for the rest of your ownership.

    C. Sue the bastards as well while your at it.

    1. Named coward

      Some poor sap will be given the task to develop software that can keep emissions within the legal limits without reducing fuel efficiency below the advertised amount - cue in "hey maybe we can do things differently according to what the car is doing"...oh wait...

  31. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    so how did the car know when it was being tested?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      The test is extremely precise, along the lines of "With a 75kg driver in the front seat, drive 200.00m at 20.00km/h in 2nd gear, accelerate over 10.4 seconds to 35.5 km/h, change into 3rd, etc. etc,." When the ECU sees that exact set of circumstances, combined with no movement of the steering, no radio or aircon, etc., it can be 99.99% certain the car is undergoing a test and not being driven on a real road by a real person, so it switches to "test mode". All manufacturers do it, the issue here seems to be whether VW sinply selected some special tuning parameters, or went the whole hog to a special 'cheat" device.

  32. jamesd

    The car identifying it is being tested is NOT the cheat

    All modern cars have a "Dyno mode" added, at the request of the EPA and others, to ALLOW them to be tested. Without entering this mode, most modern cars behave quite strangely on a rolling road as - (for FWD) the front wheels turning, but rear wheels not, and accelerometers otherwise being stationary - cause unpredictable interventions from traction control and other systems. Adding the code to “detect the car is being tested” is not in itself malicious.

    The cheating is, once entering that mode, optimising other unrelated engine parameters past the point of reasonable changes. That's not quite so black and white though, as you would have to define some sort of mapping, and it would be very tempting to pick one with the balance/compromises you want for the test as opposed to the balance/compromises you want for other driving modes. Indeed, it is generally accepted that all car companies optimise to some extent.

    It seems VW pushed it too far. But the issue is a calculation of where the line is drawn for fair optimisation, as opposed to a binary “they cheated” and “they didn't”.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: The car identifying it is being tested is NOT the cheat

      Excellent comment! It is a shame it is on p3 of comments, and so very few will read it. Maybe El Reg writers will pick up on it and do a further article.

  33. Known Hero

    New car

    Hmmm I have a 1 year old merc that is diesel. It was advertised as the best cleanest diesel etc etc ... How can I know if it really does what they say?

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: New car

      Keep an eye on "Which" and similar consumer groups. Now they know what to look out for, they'll be testing, followed by the agencies.

      I expect the next iteration of vehicle testing will include on-road exhaust monitoring as well as improved lab tests, with any great divergence between the lab numbers and the road numbers requiring further testing and full technical disclosure if a discrepancy persists.

      Politics is the art of the possible. Immediately scrapping and replacing half the cars under 5 years old isn't possible, so I expect you'll get special license to carry on driving something that's more polluting than it should be through no fault of your own.

  34. Werner McGoole

    Where's the red line?

    It certainly seems that VW has crossed a line here, but I'm struggling to see exactly where that line lies. "Cheating" on tests is endemic to all the businesses I can think of. Wherever there is regulation or testing people try to present their product in the best possible light.

    That the MPG figures for cars don't scale to the real world is well known. Cars have been designed to perform well in fuel consumption tests for years. So a precedent in the car industry clearly exists. CPU manufacturers and computer hardware/software producers design products that run benchmarks well. So the precedent for using computer technology to influence testing already exists.

    When a (pre arranged) school inspection takes place and inspectors observe exemplary teaching, do they really think that evey lesson taught in that school will always be that good? Of course not. They know that schools oppose random inspections for a reason. So it is well established that average performance may be worse than tested performance. When the government imposes performance targets on the NHS or the Police, does anyone think that meeting them won't have adverse effects elsewhere? I don't think so. Everyone knows that targets distort the behaviour of organsations. When the Queen visits and the council cleans the streets and paints all the lamp-posts that she'll see, do we seriously think that Her Maj. will believe that the whole world looks like this? Faking it extends to all levels in our society.

    So it looks to me as if most of the things that VW did already have precedents and that very probably most other motor manufacturers are doing the same - on the grounds that "everyone does it" and that it's an accepted consequence of the testing procedure being somewhat limited. I really can't see any other explanation for why they'd risk this, because the chance of being found out eventually must approach 100%. Most likely, they thought it was an acceptable (if somewhat shady) practice that would be tolerated, or they'd be given a mild ticking-off. Given all the precedents, I can see how they might reach that conclusion.

    In my view, the red line that was crossed was to have an explicit "cheat mode" implemented in software. It's established that the cars submitted for testing must be production models. Some minor tweaking may be permitted, but swapping the car for another model is definitely cheating. In effect, by having a code branch, that's what VW did because a car is nowadays defined by its software. But the extent to which the two code branches behave differently is a matter of judgement - as to what is and isn't acceptable - and that, in turn, depends on how you present it (e.g. in the media). What VW did seems to have been over-reach, but I can see how they might arrive at that point without feeling any more guilty than normal.

    The real failure, however, is in the testing. Testers know that manufacturers game the system and that they need to design tests to defeat this. Not to have recognised that this can be done in software is ridiculous and hopefully that error will now be fixed. Perhaps additional clarity is also needed about what is (and isn't) cheating because clearly some flexibility exists, although this went too far.

    If it does turn out that 90% of all the cars on the road today have exploited what is an obvious loophole, then we might be better off chalking it up to experience, accept that an opportunity to drive down emissions has been missed and try to do better in future. We obviously also need to address the balance between CO2 and NOx emissions because it seems you can reduce either but not both. See-sawing between limits on one or the other isn't making things any easier.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Where's the red line?

      There's a grey zone. I'd fault the regulatory authorities for failing to make sure that the tests were as fully representative of real driving as possible, and for failing to cross-reference lab results with on-road results and demanding explanations when a divergence first emerged. Which it would have done, a long time before now, if they'd looked.

      It' s just like the doping scandals in sport, but easier to catch the auto industry cheats if you bother to look for them.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Where's the red line?

        The other problem here is that too much credence is applied to the test results.

        If you have one car that tests at, say, 120g/kmCO₂ and another that tests ar 150g/km, you could reasonably assume that the second car will be worse in real-world conditions.

        If the two figures are 120g/km and 121g/km it's a different situation, the test is likely to be too unrepresentative of the real world for these results to be considered as meaningfully different.

        That doesn't stop a government putting the second car into a tax band that will add hundreds of pounds to its purchase price, and possibly hundreds of pounds per year for vehicle tax. As a consequence there is huge pressure on manufacturers to stay within a band, which inevitably encourages this sort of shady behaviour.

        Much the same problem is seen with things like stamp duty on houses. A true sliding scale, instead of 'bands' could help reduce this effect

        1. Chemist

          Re: Where's the red line?

          "The other problem here is that too much credence is applied to the test results."

          Indeed. In fact it will be very difficult to have a test that accurately reflects 'real-world' usage as that varies so much.

          The extremes might be the city dweller who mostly does short trips in busy conditions with lots of stop/start/idling/acc.

          My car might be the other extreme - almost no short journeys, live in the country, travel mostly fast A-roads and motorways at quiet times (overnight), little acc.

          I suggest no testing regime will adequately reflect that and that's without considering driving 'style'

          1. Nigel 11

            Re: Where's the red line?

            A real-world test should simulate city stop-start driving, because it's cities where the pollution levels are at their most dangerous to the most people. Add in an element of busy motorway: 70mph, but with frequent speed adjustments and occasional full stops, like any busy city ring route. I doubt whether any car that did well in those two real-world situations could be seriously poor for suburban or rural usage patterns.

      2. TheWeenie
        Joke

        Re: Where's the red line?

        The red line? At about 3000rpm if you want to meet the NOx emissions rules and you drive a VW!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you select: PPPPDPNPPPNNPNNP

    Your VW will drive directly to Poland.

  36. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    I am surprised

    ... no one posted this link to BBC Newsnight 2014 yet

  37. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    This just in: Birkenstocks made from CFC-polymerized whale oil.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So VW owners have to cough up the difference in road tax?

    One presumes it would be easier to collect direct from manufacturer but they do so like spamming

    I liked the quote from US legal eagle about unfit for purpose, kettle pot anyone

  39. myhandler

    What I don't understand is how they imagined they could get away with it indefinitely.

    People leave companies and go to competitiors, people chat to friends.

    Was it just a slow incremental thing, where to begin with it just fell out of optimising for 30 mph figures .. and then they kept tweaking it and tweaking it. ?

    Won't every manufacturer be doing this, on all fuels?

  40. Tubz

    This is going to get bigger, does this include Skoda, Seat, Audi and who next.

    What about all the road tax revenue missed out by cars falling in to lower brackets when they should be in higher ones, will UKGov be sending a bill to VW, as they can't expect the public to pay? VW may have to close factories, I bet they will be overseas as they will need to protect German jobs.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Road tax grouping

      Testing is in a rich burn environment, drives in a lean burn environment.

      So should it go down a group?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting

    I have suspected for a long time that my car might have some sort of clever software, as it performs much better if you use HIGH sulphur petrol instead of the envirowhiner-friendly stuff.

    The well known tweak on petrol cars is to simply change out the spark plugs for better made units, ignoring little details like the throw as this actually just makes the detonation point lower/higher in the cylinder and does noticeably increase efficiency.

    If you really want to go all high tech I'm working on my own version of laser ignition but using Bluray burner diodes instead of IR as they are a lot cheaper for the same peak power (1050mW pulsed)

    £160 + some cutting + a failsafe or 3 works wonders.

  42. Matthew 17

    A physics question, I'm confused.

    If I burn a fuel I want to burn as much of it as possible, otherwise I'm wasting it. So during the combustion process I want to turn all of that fuel into an oxide. Therefore in an engine I want the maximum amount of CO (converted to CO2), H2O, NO to come out of the exhaust for a given volume of fuel.

    But as far as I can tell on the diesel engines they're deliberately over-injecting the input effectively meaning unburned diesel comes out and therefore the 'emissions' for the fuel going in is less.

    This is bizarre, lets make an engine that produces half the pollution by using only half the fuel and piss the rest away, then get a prize for making a clean and efficient engine?!

    So the car runs in fuel-wasting, lame performance mode to pass the clean test, but runs efficiently when not. This suggests to me that the problem is more with how the cars are being tested.

    Even though I drive a diesel, I know they're dirty and crap but my Mondeo Titanium is quite comfy, reasonably strong and will do nearly 900 miles with a 60 litre tank. I've never forgiven it simply because it's a diesel and drives like one.

    I think it's the beginning of the end for this fuel, the road tax for none commercial vehicles will be hiked and hiked and hiked that whilst you'll take the rattly engine and sooty exhaust for the MPG and cheap tax for now if it becomes cheaper to get a petrol car again folk will swap back.

    Ideally EV's need to get better as it would take all the pollution away from cities, Christ knows how we'll power them, there will be no such thing as off-peak energy in the future as everyone will be charging their cars over night, but that's a separate discussion.

    1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: A physics question, I'm confused.

      > in an engine I want the maximum amount of CO (converted

      > to CO2), H2O, NO to come out of the exhaust for a given

      > volume of fuel.

      Formation of CO, CO2 and H2O is exothermic so yes you want to maximise those.

      But formation of NO is endothermic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A physics question, I'm confused.

        ...just keep on ... oxidizing!

  43. razorfishsl

    Just the start....

    next the shareholders will sue

  44. David Roberts Silver badge

    Commercial vehicles - delivery vans?

    A lot of hate upstream for diesel cars and proposals for ditching them in favour of petrol and/or electric.

    Nobody seems to have mentioned thst the local delivery infrastructure and local tradesmen all seem to use diesel powered vans. Also motor homes.

    These also have to meet Euro emission targets. So presumably also go through similar formal testing and have similar software profiles.

    This does explicitly exclude the US because as far as I can tell a small delivery truck requires at a minimum a 4.5 litre petrol V12.

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