back to article VW’s case of NOxious emissions: a tale of SMOKE and MIRRORS?

Karma must be a great comfort to those who believe in it. The assurance that nasty deeds will be accounted for, eventually, must make all the shit we have to put up with worthwhile. Take Martin Winterkorn, forced to resign his role as head of Volkswagen this week, amid revelations that his company had been systematically …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    "We knew they were a bunch of hoods and believed it would benefit our readers to break through their bullshit." - pity websites aren't like magazines of old. Nowadays it's all 'Apple is the greatest thing ever' just to get invited to their shindigs (el Reg the notable exception - I take it you don't like the wine and nibbles Apple lays out).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Greater Good', or emissions trading

      Take VW's billions (fines and anticipated costs) and redirect them to other sources of NOx or similar emissions in the same regions. Billions would buy a vast reduction, orders of magnitude more than this fleet of cars.

      We might achieve vastly more effective reductions by approaching it from the widest possible view.

      Scrubbers on coal powered stations. Convert ships away from Bunker fuel. Re-engine old buses.

      There's a couple orders of magnitude more effective improvement on the table if we're clever about it.

      1. Swiss Anton

        Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

        I wouldn't start counting the chickens just yet. From my understanding VW passed all the tests that they needed to. If this is the case then the US authorities won't be able to fine them a single cent, though I wouldn't rule out some sort of out of court settlement in the 100's of millions, rather than the billions that some are speculating about.

        True VW's reputation is now dented, but compared to what happened to Toyota, I suspect that for the most part VW's troubles will soon pass, especially if other manufactures have also been doing the same.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

          I suspect the VW "cheat" is common to all vehicles. The problem is two fold. The test requires the engine to be manipulated electronically with little or no real load. Done incorrectly there is the risk of engine damage and very angry owners who will want someone's head. Thus I suspect all the engine control software has some sort of throttle control to protect the engine during testing. The second part is your average bureaucrat is so dim that talking to a brick is difficult because of the vastly higher intellect of the brick. The issue is then to determine, under reasonable test conditions, what should constitute failure. Here our esteemed dim-bulb does not grasp it is not that the test must replicate actual driving but gives some valid indication of the emission profile under various loads. These what happens when US shysters who last took any science when they were freshman in high school (about 14/15 years old) write essentially an engineering test protocol.

          1. DrTechnical

            Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

            Which "US" shysters are you referring to?!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

              Which "US" shysters are you referring to?!

              Yes, don't confuse terminology. I reserve that term exclusively for Silicon Valley CEOs and Wall Street bankers. And maybe NSA officials.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

          From my understanding VW passed all the tests that they needed to. If this is the case then the US authorities won't be able to fine them a single cent, though I wouldn't rule out some sort of out of court settlement in the 100's of millions, rather than the billions that some are speculating about.

          As a matter of fact, another idea just struck me. If VWs dramatically reduce their emissions while stationary (i.e. a test environment), is that actually so wrong?

          If you live anywhere a decent size city I am positive you're familiar with the great parking lots called "motorways" where you spend more time parked (stationary) than moving. That strikes me as an EXCELLENT place to field lower emissions. Alternatively you could kill the engine, but I'm not sure if starting an engine is that environmentally friendly compared to keeping it running (diesels seem to smoke mostly on startup, but that maybe cold start only).

          That fact that they threw out a mea culpa and so took the hit is a sign that there is indeed a fire belonging to the smoke and I'm not defending anyone cheating, but stationary emissions are an important value for cities IMHO. Maybe worth separating out?

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

            Are you not familiar with the stop/start systems that are becoming increasingly common on newer cars?

            My car cuts the engine the instant that I put it in neutral with the footbrake on and it is stationary.

            As soon as I press the clutch, or the vehicle rolls the engine restarts.

            It only does this once it is fully warmed up, and the stop/start tech stops the engines with the engine cycle at the ideal place for a restart.

            Then it displays in front of me a figure declaring how much CO2 is has saved using this trick.

            1. Montreal Sean

              Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

              I often think that engine start/stop systems are another way for manufacturers to make money.

              You are adding a lot of wear and tear to your starter, and I'm betting those starters have some fancy doodads that result in a higher replacement cost for the customer.

            2. herman Silver badge

              Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

              Yes, the auto stop/start is the worst fscking thing when you are driving in a city, with the engine spluttering when you try to make a right-hand turn or needs to take gap into a traffic circle. It is an awful and downright dangerous misfeature. Whoever thought of it needs to get 7 lashes with a wet noodle.

              1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

                Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

                I haven't driven a single start stop vehicle that would stop the engine unless the handbrakes is applied and the clutch depressed (Old rep mobiles BMW's, Mercs and Audi's which have usually done 150 thousand miles plus)?

                Which stop start cars are doing this?

                1. Jonathan Richards 1

                  Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

                  > Which stop start cars are doing this?

                  1. Kia c'eed (stoopid name, sure). Mine has an "intelligent stop-go" feature that cuts the (diesel) engine when (a) in neutral, and (b) the clutch is not depressed, and (c) the car is travelling at something close to or less than snail's pace. Use of the hand- or foot-brake is not involved.

                  FWIW, I like it, once one has un-learned the reflex "Oh, sh*t, I stalled the car" reaction, followed by shoving one's left foot on the clutch, which restarts the engine. This is a manual transmission, obviously (six forward gears, count 'em!). I've no idea how it might work with an automatic.

                  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

                    "Kia c'eed "

                    That's what I drive. It has NEVER operated the Start/Stop mode unless I wanted it to. The car should not be moving with stick in neutral and foot off the clutch. You're not supposed to "roll" like that in normal driving because you are not in full control of the vehicle.

                    My beef with the system is that it seems to have some weird and arbitrary system of deciding the conditions are incorrect and it doesn't operate. eg, I've just driven 150 miles up the motorway non-stop, reached the queue at the end, ambient temp. is well above "frost" level and battery ought to be fully charged and yet I go into neutral, clutch up and Stop/Start is "disabled" for some reason. <shrug>

                2. Colin Bull 1

                  Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

                  My 2012 Citroen C4 has this mode. It cuts the engine when you have your foot on the brake and are more or less stationery. Perversly, when you put the handbrake on the engine restarts. Never been able to understand this.

                3. Martin Budden Bronze badge
                  Facepalm

                  Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

                  I have a stop start car which can cut out at traffic lights, when cornering, even when doing 60mph. This isn't a design feature, it's just that the car is 56 years old.

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

            3. wayne 8

              Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

              "Then it displays in front of me a figure declaring how much CO2 is has saved using this trick."

              And you trust that figure is correct, becuase it makes you feel good?

          2. Mark 65

            Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

            Maybe they should road test the vehicles on a test track to confirm that the real-world figures are in line with what they find in testing.

        3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

          I wouldn't start counting the chickens just yet. From my understanding VW passed all the tests that they needed to. If this is the case then the US authorities won't be able to fine them a single cent

          Believe it or not, cheating the test is covered in the legislation!

      2. BasicChimpTheory

        Re: 'Greater Good', or emissions trading

        @AC

        What has your post to do with the post you "replied" to?

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Modern-day laptops

    They must still do something to them to detect if they're being tested and not follow normal behaviour, which is to rev the fans up to maximum so it sounds and feels like a hairdryer and shut down anyway within half-an-hour of web browsing or using Office.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I give up

    I had quite a long post here, but you'll be spared this because after hitting the "submit" button some cloudflare CAPTCHA showed up, and even with a correct CAPTCHA it had lost all of it. Maybe this will get through, if not I'll email you a heads up.

    Go fix this, El Reg.

    1. Gezza

      Re: I give up

      This happens all over the internet, not just the Reg. Long ago I realised that, after writing a complex and detailed missive to educate the masses, it was sensible to do a simple select all and copy before hitting the Post button. When it fell over, as with you, one could just control-V the content back in the freshly presented blank comment box.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I give up

        The challenge I see with that idea is that you'd have to do this every time you hit a submit button, which makes a mess of usability, and it may fail the second time too (depending of the stupidity level of the idiots configuring the barrier).

        Instead, maybe it's worth fixing the systems that seem to be too trigger happy? I know it's a novel idea, but that may actually address the problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I give up

          Textarea Cache Plugin for Firefox reduced my beaten-to-bits keyboard ratio extremly! It's the first plugin I install, long before NoScript and RequestPolicy.

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: I give up

            Opera has had text field caching since noughties. Not sure about current Webkit-based crap.

            1. DropBear Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: I give up

              To be honest, Firefox saved my bacon a couple of times after the underlying site lost my post - to my great amazement, hitting "back" as many times as necessary to land on the original "post comment" page yielded the comment box with my text still in it. This is by no means something to rely on (fails way more often than succeeds) but is definitely something to try if you forgot to hit "Ctrl+C" (or worse - you did, only to realize the clipboard still contains whatever it did _before_ simply because fuck web 2.0 and "copy" was disabled of something)

            2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

              Re: I give up

              Yup - I always use Opera.

              /smug

          2. cd

            Re: I give up

            For those who use Seamonkey, Textarea can be found on the list here, lots of other useful stuff as well... http://addonconverter.fotokraina.com/compatibility/

            Thanks AC, that works a treat.

      2. Sarah Balfour

        Re: I give up

        That's been my standard MO for fora/comments sections for years; these days, however, having a tablet as my main device and noticing that some refuse to allow you to copy, I tend to compose posts in Notes first.

        The worst is, ironically, Apple's own fora (yes, this is an iPad).

      3. What? Me worry?

        Re: I give up

        Lazarus From Recovery plug-in. works a charm.

      4. DrTechnical

        Re: I give up

        I have begun doing a text copy on finished messages before hitting that tricky "send" button. It's a real pisser when you've crafted your on-point reply, and POOF away it goes, into the aether, never to be created again, because there just isn't enough time in the universe, and that person really isn't worth your your scorn and derision anyway...

    2. VinceH

      Re: I give up

      What CAPTCHA? Is it perhaps a special bonus part of the comment form for ACs?

      1. Fibbles

        Re: I give up

        It's a captcha from the CDN rather than the website itself. It seems to happen most often when using a mobile connection. Presumably cloudflare think you're a bot or part of some DDOS?

        1. Doctor_Wibble

          Re: I give up

          I got caught with this one recently - several times on a single post!

          I used to think CAPTCHAs were an honest spam-prevention thing but now I'm just convinced it's people trying to fine-tune their image recognition services for free - that or there's an unspotted cross-site hack somewhere and we just got conned into helping a spambot.

      2. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: I give up

        "What CAPTCHA? Is it perhaps a special bonus part of the comment form for ACs?"

        CAPTCHA = "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Commentards and Humans Apart". Maybe you are clearly one or the other, hence no need to test?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I give up

          CAPTCHA = "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Commentards and Humans Apart". Maybe you are clearly one or the other, hence no need to test?

          Oh great, now you're suggesting my typing is robotic. Thanks a lot.

          :)

        2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

          Re: I give up

          It's a test, designed to provoke an emotional response.

          1. 404 Silver badge

            Re: I give up

            I've yet to see one that accepts 'FUCKYOU!' as a passphrase... emotional response, indeed.

    3. Bluto Nash

      Re: I give up

      I've gotten to the point the I copy my entries to my clipboard (not just on El Reg, but all forums I frequent) prior to hitting "Submit." Too many times where I had to go back and try to remember exactly how I had said something, and ended up with an entry less insightful, witty and germaine* than what I had originally posted.

      *YMMV - "eye of the beholder" and all that

      1. Jonathan Richards 1
        Headmaster

        Re: I give up

        germane ~== Germaine

  4. BobRocket

    Gaming the system

    It goes on in all industries at all times.

    A set of rules is proposed, interested parties try to skew/complicate the rules and something is implemented.

    The race is on to try to get as close to the edge of the rules as possible to gain competitive advantage, sometimes someone steps over the bounds.

    What I find interesting is that it was independents that found the breach and not the competition, surely any competitor would wonder how VW could claim such low emissions whilst keeping performance high.

    This assumes the competitors were themselves staying within the rules, perhaps they knew and were working on (or have implemented) stealthier versions.

    1. Martin 47

      Re: Gaming the system

      The obvious answer is that all manufacturers are doing it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gaming the system

        Another possibility is that some manufacturers really can hit those performance and emissions figures, while others don't know how (or can't do it within budget).

        You see that everywhere - in my industry we see some of our competitors claiming that their product matches ours in some feature or performance metric, when it simply doesn't come close in reality - instead they carefully chose a method of measurement where the numbers came out.

        1. Blank Reg

          Re: Gaming the system

          If VW had been just a little over the limit then I might be willing to believe they were the only ones. But they are so far off that I doubt they are alone. Maybe the really high end diesels are ok as they can afford the extra bits needed to run cleaner, but I'm expecting the rest will be found to have been cheating as well.

          1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            Re: Gaming the system

            Could be one, could be many. Pennypinching and management pressure are powerful factors. There's no easy way to know who has cut corners too much. Or stumbled way too deep into the software-defined-reality.

            Yes, higher budget helps to achieve goals in a decent manner, but still, high pricetag doesn't necessarily mean quality.

      2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Gaming the system

        I'm waiting for the test results of other car manufacturers because I share that opinion insofar that there must be others ("all" is to grand an assumption IMHO).

        I suspect there are a few management boards waiting right now to hear if they dodged a bullet, got caught or are unfairly accused of doing the same (let's not rule that out, because there's now a party that must be "seen to do something" after having been caught sleeping).

      3. John Sturdy

        Re: Gaming the system

        And that normally honest engineers have gone along with it because they've conceded that the official standards are unrealistic?

    2. Fibbles

      Re: Gaming the system

      Of course they're all doing it. It'll play out like this: A huge media storm will be whipped up, politicians will demand answers and the foreign company will be fined ridiculously large amounts. Then when things have died down a bit, it'll be revealed that American companies were also fiddling their results. Of course by that point the public will be bored with the story and so Ford, Chrysler, etc will get away with a slap on the wrist.

      What? Me, cynical?

      1. Ian 35

        Not much diesel in the US

        "Ford, Chrysler, etc will get away with a slap on the wrist."

        Actually, it'll be rather different to that. The US car makers sell virtually no diesel cars, and diesel is rare enough that gas stations that sell it are signposted (there's a West Wing episode that hinges on this, as I recall). The US car makers are very happy for this to become a huge thing, because "diesel is dirty and the people that make diesel cars are foreign and dishonest" is precisely in their interests. VAG don't have big, slow-revving petrol engines of the sort beloved of US buyers, so selling premium petrol cars at sufficient margin is going to be hard for them, so the "here are some fast, clean, green, economical cars" was quite a good platform. Which they've just torched.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gaming the system

        Exactly.

        USA USA USA No 1 No 1 USA USA USA

        As for you johnny foreigners (or as US Immigration puts it, Aliens) you can take your shoddy crap home with you.

        Well, that's the attitude of a good proportion of US Folk. Many of the would never dream of buying anthing made by a foreign company.

        Me bitter? Well, I spent 3.5 hours waiting in line recently to be granted entry to the USA even though I had a valid ESTA and the koisks that you would normally use to get quick entry were roped off.

        And the Chevrolet that I was driving was a gutless piece of crap. 24mpg at best.

        As for the effing beeps that went off every time I opened the drivers door even with the engine stopped is enough to drive anyone mad.

        IMHO, the nation is heading for the crapper quicker than JC's Labor party.

    3. Any mouse Cow turd

      Re: Gaming the system

      The way it was presented in the MIT Tech Review site was that VW were flogging these fancy ultra low emissions Diesel engines whereas the competition required urea after treatments in the exhaust to get the emissions to pass the regulations.

      If that's the case then it could just be VW that's deep in the doodoo and if they are forced to ensure the engines run in low emissions mode permanently then it will cripple the cars. Those manufacturers with urea systems should be able to run fine with no fuel economy impact.

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: Gaming the system

        Check out who else uses the VW powerplant........

    4. John Lilburne

      Re: Gaming the system

      Most likely it will turn out that one Agile developer mocked up some code for a test, and another Agilator reused it for production. There is probably a comment in the code "TODO: Remove this code".

      1. Adam 1

        Re: Gaming the system

        No, if it was agile, committing the code would have broken the test case and the build would therefore fail.

        Oh sorry, my mistake. You were referring to the "we do whatever we feel like but refer to ourselves as agile". Carry on.

  5. Velv Silver badge
    Terminator

    Ever since schools were invented, letting kids mark their own homework was known to be "a bad thing".

    Yet somehow when we grow up we suddenly think its OK? Or perhaps we're either too ignorant or too lazy to care and we get everything we deserve.

    Trust no one.

    NO ONE!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You know, I don't trust that post..

      :)

  6. garden-snail
    Go

    I think the bootnote makes the most salient point of the whole article here. The media seems focused on the "shocking revelation" that VW cars contain software to detect when they're undergoing an emissions test, but the truth is just about all modern cars have to use similar software.

    In a "normal" driving situation, a car with traction control, ABS and all that gadgetry would flip its nut if it saw the front wheels spinning at 50 mph with the rear wheels stationary, assuming a catastrophic loss of traction.

    So *all* car manufacturers have to program a "testing mode", which determines how the car behaves when it thinks it's undergoing a test. Given the behaviour in this scenario is entirely arbitrary, why would any manufacturer choose to program this mode to produce suboptimal emissions?

    1. Electron Shepherd

      Rolling roads don't work that way

      In a "normal" driving situation, a car with traction control, ABS and all that gadgetry would flip its nut if it saw the front wheels spinning at 50 mph with the rear wheels stationary, assuming a catastrophic loss of traction.

      You know, people have thought of that when they design and build rolling road test rigs. The rollers for the front and rear wheels are linked, to avoid this problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

        Sure, I'm sure rolling road test rigs with rollers for the front and back do exist, but every MOT test and garage I've been to has involved a single set of rollers for either the front or back, so it still has to be designed for.

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

          "..every MOT test and garage I've been to has involved a single set of rollers for either the front or back.."

          How do they test four-wheel drive vehicles?

          1. VinceH

            Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

            "How do they test four-wheel drive vehicles?"

            Can't say I've ever taken any notice when I've dropped mine in for its MOT test, but I would have thought that if the test rigs don't have linked front and rear rollers, they'll at least have independent rollers for front and rear wheels - that would cover all scenarios: Front or rear two wheel drives, four wheel drives normally driven on the road as two wheel drives (like most of the 4WDs I've owned) or permanent four wheel drive vehicles (like my current vehicle if a previous owner hadn't converted it to two wheel drive).

          2. Jay 11

            Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

            Virtually all road going 4x4's have a centre differential so testing brakes using rollers that create a road speed of less than 5 miles an hour for one axle isn't a problem. Vehicles like the Alvis Saladin which don't have centre diffs can be tested at MOT using a G-meter like the Turnkey instruments G-Meter.

          3. annodomini2

            Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

            MOT Rolling roads are used to test the brakes, not emissions and are self driven, i.e. the roller drive themeselves not the car.

          4. JohnMurray

            Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

            4WD with permanent drive to all wheels is simple, the transfer box diff copes with the different speeds (which are not dramatically different).

            Non-perms just disconnect the 4WD....

            My Land Rover is tested like that.

        2. Dieter Haussmann

          Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

          Type approval tests done before a car is released for sale are very different than the annual MOT test. The MOT test only tests exhaust gas opacity which on cars <10 years old is a waste of time. The type approval tests will test quantity of CO2, CO, Hx, and NOX (which this VW issue is about)

        3. Carl W

          Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

          When I had a 4WD car (Subaru Impreza Turbo) the advice was that the MOT stations had to do all of the braking tests on a test drive rather than a single roller rolling road, for fear of knackering the centre diff. Things may have changed since then.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Rolling roads don't work that way

        The State that I live in doesn't use "rollers"... just put the car in neutral, set the parking brake, and the test equipment is connected to computer.

  7. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Top Notch

    Some motorbikes used to have a notch in the torque curve at the rev-point where the noise test was done to make sure they passed.

    1. Zzzzzzz

      Re: Top Notch

      Some? Most is more likely. No different to the flaps in performance car exhausts that stay closed until the revs are normal noise testing limits then open.

  8. Robigus
    Holmes

    T'was ever thus

    Schools teach to the exams and coach students in exam techniques. Education is a by-product of the real aim; results. VW have taught their ECU's the exam technique.

    I thought it a given that in a free market (ish) economy, your competitive advantage is wrought by pushing the rules as far as you can to stand out. That gives our cars more power or nicer shapes etc.

    Look at F1; these people live for loopholes.

    About 20 years ago, a development engineer from a large manufacturer explained to me (over beer, naturally), how they were fitting a throttle damper to prevent tripping the emissions equipment, but it had no use when driving. It could be turned off when the car was being "tested" by journos for a more 'lively' feel. Nice.

    I bet Ben Hur only let his horses fart when they were running, so the Editor couldn't smell the magic oats.

    1. Steve 114

      Re: T'was ever thus

      The man who used to run 'a major central bank' printworks explained to me, when I was young, how he would quietly make an economy by printing smaller banknotes. And so he did, though he'd never have predicted the disproportionate fall in value since then.

  9. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Bit ranty, any actual facts yet?

    sacrificing performance to an extent that, we are told, is not sustainable in everyday driving.

    I've seen that allegation in El Reg comments, but nowhere else. By whom "are we told" ?

    a quick admission of guilt immediately makes me suspicious

    Rightly so, except that I wouldn't call a year especially quick. This issue was flagged to VW in 2014, they have been investigating it since then, and only now that they have discovered (or are unable to hide) the cheat mode have they admitted it.

    of some lone shark at VW

    That I just don't believe. I'd guess it was a stressed out design team with a deadline, and I'm quite sure all the other big manufacturers do it too. Are we really to believe that Asian manufacturers are less open to cheating than German ones? I doubt if your PC testing showed that to be true.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Bit ranty, any actual facts yet?

      I've seen that allegation in El Reg comments, but nowhere else. By whom "are we told" ?

      By common sense?

      You don't behave like a sweaty guy with a Mackintosh if you can actually perform.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Bit ranty, any actual facts yet?

        By common sense?

        Oh, common sense says that there's be some impact, and performance may be disappointing, but to the level of being "unsustainable in normal driving"? That I doubt.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Bit ranty, any actual facts yet?

      I'm quite sure all the other big manufacturers do it too

      Gosh, and you're the one insisting on sources.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Bit ranty, any actual facts yet?

        Gosh, and you're the one insisting on sources.

        Well, I have have some. ICCT have also listed BMW, Mercedes, Opel and Citroen as also exceeding the limits, so I have cause to be quite sure all the other big manufacturers do it too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: diesels smaller than (say) 2.0L?

          "I have cause to be quite sure all the other big manufacturers do it too."

          Should that be "all the other big car manufacturers do it too."

          As in "all the other manufacturers of big cars"?

          I've not seen any evidence (yet) that this applies to (e.g.) diesels smaller than 2.0 L. In much of Europe a 2.0L turbodiesel is something that powers a *big* car.

          I don't see why NOx emissions would miraculously and non-linearly stop being a problem for a (say) 1.4L diesel.

          Thoughts, anyone?

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: diesels smaller than (say) 2.0L?

            I've not seen any evidence (yet) that this applies to (e.g.) diesels smaller than 2.0 L. In much of Europe a 2.0L turbodiesel is something that powers a *big* car.

            I don't see why NOx emissions would miraculously and non-linearly stop being a problem for a (say) 1.4L diesel.

            Thoughts, anyone?

            It's all related to politicians' inability to do joined-up thinking. They've been convinced that CO2 is the devil's brew, so they set big tax penalties for high levels of CO2, oblivious to the fact that to get low CO2 with a diesel inevitably means high NO2.

            Small engines consume less fuel, and so hitting CO2 targets such as "under 120g/km" where tax starts to increase is relatively easy with a 1.4, but getting a 2.0 diesel to meet those limits without excess NO2 is much harder. Basically, small engines don't need to try so hard, and so have less incentive to cheat.

            If politicians accepted that high CO2 maps to high fuel consumption, which already has tax consequences, and looked at the big picture instead, this situation would never have happened.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: diesels smaller than (say) 2.0L?

              "joined-up thinking ... low CO2 with a diesel inevitably means high NO2 .. big picture"

              Ah yes, joined up thinking. I heard of it once, many years ago (perhaps from my father, who ended up as a senior development engineer at a once-famous British (now foreign) company).

              I've heard it said that one or two politicians and/or their Special Advisors may even have heard of Science as well as joined up thinking. But it seems unlikely based on the observed evidence.

              "small engines don't need to try so hard, and so have less incentive to cheat."

              And smaller engines imply smaller (and/or slower) vehicles, right? Which is why this is a bigger problem in the US (small cars don't exist?) than in Europe??

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trusting corporations not to cheat is naive as asking an alcoholic to guard the drinks cabinet and thinking the gin will still be gin, not water.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      And then your government, which already gave you around USD 40'000 to pay off while you were awaynot even born yet (it's a "social contract" you see; it says that your future must suck), decides to ream you out with "Quantitative Easing" while you look at the worstalling prices.

      Whom can we trust anymore?

  11. russell 6

    Only VW?

    I can not believe that only VW are up to this and that the other car makers didn't know what VW was up to. You can be sure they have all reverse engineered each others cars to see how they go about things and would have been the first to call out VW if they were not also involved in similarly nefarious behaviour.

    1. John Hawkins

      Re: Only VW?

      A colleague who used to work in the car parts business suggested to me that a German engineering and electronics outfit who make components for the industry were highly likely to be responsible for much of the development of the solution. In which case pretty much all car manufacturers in the western world may be involved. Given that the industry as a whole has struggled over the past few years, it is unlikely anyone anywhere who sells diesel engined cars has ignored a chance to be a little more competitive.

      Will be interesting to follow further developments.

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: Only VW?

        @John Hawkins... I think that allegation is utter bosh. Possibly the last word of that sentence was mis-spelled.

        1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Only VW?

          I believe PSA use ECUs built by that implied manufacturer of green garden tools who allegedly spied on Dyson?

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Only VW?

      Most other diesel cars of recent vintage use AdBlue urea injection or similar complications.

      VW TDIs "don't require it" (sic).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only VW?

        VW TDIs "don't require it" (sic).

        Some do, like the new VW 2.0 TDI. And other ones that do, like Mercedes, are also accused of, umm, overenthusiastic measurements.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    drifting towards political philosophy...

    ...the Left's a priori is roughly 'if we destroy the structures, the true goodness of humanity will shine through and build a better world.'

    This never seems to accord with the evidence, from jet setting 'green' activists attending jollies in far off places, to socialists who game the system to become multi-millionaires, the general evidence is that the Right's a priori - people are ruthless, selfish and acquisitive and the systems should be designed to make that as much of a socially useful tendency as possible' - is more in accord with reality.

    In the current context, VAGs business is to lie cheat and make profit out of cars, and regulatory offices are there to ensure that this ends up in better cars, not better software.

    Why are we criticising VAG, when we should be criticising the regulatory authorities for producing tests that tested nothing of value and were easily circumvented?

    I would propose the reason is that we have fallen for the idiocy of the Left's political thinking, and feel somehow that VAG ought to be better than that.

    In fact, VAG are no better than they ought to be, and are doing what they are supposed to do, and indeed, following the example of those who set themselves up as our moral arbiters, and simply gaming the system to suit their interests.

    Tony Blair wouold have been proud of them.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: drifting towards political philosophy...

      Who told you it is left.

      Ever wondered why this is coming now and not any other moment? Ever wondered why it came out only after the oil price tanked under a level at which all the investment into fracking and oil sand extraction became unsustainable? Ever wondered why it came out after the destabilization of the Middle East failed to produce a price increase? And most importantly, why it came out immediately after the congress failed to sink the Iran deal thus proceeding straight to another serious drop in the price of crude from the new year?

      I am not. I smell a rat and a very right wing rat too. End of the day this has been going on for 6 years, so there is an obvious case for the question of "Why now" even when correlation does not mean causation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Unhappy

        Re: drifting towards political philosophy...

        Can you tell me which rat you can smell? I'm not getting it...

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: drifting towards political philosophy...

      That post is as pointless as me posting that if the tests were done following the Right's political thinking then there would be none.

      In the short term, the tests must be done by an independent third party immune from corruption. And afterwards we can talk about what the tests limits are and if they're appropriate. They'll probably have to be set by an independent third party immune from corruption too.

  13. Tam Lin

    Conspiracy Theory

    con·spir·a·cy the·o·ry

    kənˈspirəsē/ ˈTHēərē/

    noun (archaic)

    Twentieth-century term used extensively by large criminal enterprises, corrupt governments, and their complicit homogeneous media. The term was commonly used as a means of falsely denying that large criminal enterprises and corrupt governments can and explicitly do keep secrets of illegal activities as a matter of course.

  14. iMap

    So..

    Given that the UK road fund licence (Road Tax) is based on emmission, who is going to pay for this outrage, the VW owner, VW or will DVLA just bury it's head in the sand?

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: So..

      What UK road fund licence (road tax)? There hasn't been a road fund license/road tax in the UK since 1935.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: So..

        Perhaps we can all just make the mental leap to s/road/vehicle and answer the question anyway?

        If the DVLA does anything other than look at its records, get VW to cough up the difference from now on, and fine VW for back tax, and another fine on top for being naughty, then they're institutionally incompetent.

      2. nijam

        Re: So..

        > What UK road fund licence (road tax)? There hasn't been a road fund license/road tax in the UK since 1935.

        Ah, yes, that old chestnut. Yes there has - changing the name of a tax doesn't change the tax.

    2. garden-snail

      Re: So..

      VED is based on emissions of CO2, not NOx. It's an important distinction, because CO2 is almost completely harmless, while NOx emissions are relatively deadly. Unfortunately, our obsession with CO2 emissions has led to an explosion in demand for diesel-engined cars (in this country at least).

      In order to maintain low CO2 emissions, diesel engines have to kick out more NOx. Cheating on the NOx test was inevitable, and I'll be extremely surprised if the other manufacturers aren't at it as well.

      With little to no compelling evidence of the danger of CO2 emissions, and a mountain of evidence about the dangers of NOx and diesel particulate matter, isn't it time we stopped incentivising the purchase of diesel cars?

      1. iMap

        Re: So..

        Swings and roundabouts over a potential health and safety environmental risk which can be adjusted by UK Govt and DVLA. A future problem for the NHS per chance if no changes are implemented?

        I'm sure that VW aren't the only manufacturers to have done/ doing this.

      2. Santa from Exeter

        Re: So..@garden_snail

        "Unfortunately, our obsession with CO2 emissions has led to an explosion in demand for diesel-engined cars (in this country at least)."

        A rather simplistic view of diesel cars in this country (assuming you mean the UK).

        I think you might find that a lot of people (myself included) with older diesel cars *don't* see any benefit in VED, as they are assessed as PLG (one of the highest rates). Instead, they opt for diesels for the fact that they are relatively bullet-proof engines, which will easily last for over 200K miles and give far superior day-today MPG returns that petrol engines, especially in larger MPV's doing high mileage with significant load.

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: So..@garden_snail @Santa

          A large portion of the road fleet are company cars, which are taxed as a benefit in kind based on CO2 levels. It makes a considerable difference in cost for those drivers.

    3. nijam

      Re: So..

      > Given that the UK road fund licence (Road Tax) is based on emmission

      Emission of CO2, not NOx. So this particular "scandal" (if indeed that's what it is), does not affect the UK - or AFAIK Europe in general - where NOx is not yet taken into consideration. (Whether it should be is a different question, of course.)

      1. Steve Todd
        Stop

        Re: So..

        There's a trade off between CO2 and NOx, to get CO2 down, NOx goes up. Fix the NOx emissions so they fall within permitted limits and the current declared CO2 output will go up, which will certainly affect the UK based driver. Now do you see the problem?

  15. Alistair Dabbs

    Sir Humphrey

    The sub-editors at The Reg very sensibly trimmed away some of my paragraphs this week in order to keep it legal but I thought I should explain why I seemingly randomly referred to Sir Humphrey Appleby. It's because a couple of paras were cut just above the reference.

    I wrote:

    “Professor Dr. Winterkorn had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data,” assures the Executive Committee of Volkswagen AG’s Supervisory Board.

    Excuse my twisted logic, but once you’ve stated that everything can be explained away by ignorance, nothing and no-one is safe.

    For example, if Winterkorn is later found to have known what was going on, the Executive Committee can just say they “had no knowledge” of this. If then challenged why they declared that Winterkorn had no knowledge despite having no knowledge of whether Winterkorn had knowledge or no knowledge, they could claim to have had no knowledge of having no knowledge.

    Sir Humphrey Appleby could not have explained it better.

    Hope that makes more sense to Yes Prime Minister fans.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Sir Humphrey

      Plausible deniability .

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Sir Humphrey

        Non-denial denials.

  16. Commswonk Silver badge

    Re: Only VW?

    russel 6 wrote: "I can not believe that only VW are up to this and that the other car makers didn't know what VW was up to. You can be sure they have all reverse engineered each others cars to see how they go about things and would have been the first to call out VW if they were not also involved in similarly nefarious behaviour."

    On the "balance of probabilities" test that seems quite likely; in which case it will be quite funny when the full truth emerges and it is found that Ford (Europe) and GM (ditto) have been playing the same games. The US seems to be working itself into a state of righteous indignation via the offices of the EPA; it will be interesting to see if there any shamed faces if & when it transpires that people closer to home were up to no good as well.

    My car is a diesel, and although Vauxhall badged is, I understand, actually made by Opel in Germany. Its performance if I get a bit heavy with my right foot is quite impressive, and it is a bit hard to believe that it achieves that without breaching some of its emissions limits. OTOH I simply cannot make it belch smoke like an earlier diesel of mine back in the 1990s; that was British made (defunct Rover Group) although it may have used someone else's engine; my last car (again Rover, but a 75) was not bad on "smoke" but that was certainly not a UK engine - IIRC it was either a Peugot or BMW design under the bonnet.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Only VW?

      Emissions at full power are less of an issue because of low duty cycle.

      Gasoline engines go 'open loop' at W.O.T., and that's okay.

      It's the emissions while driving along are more important, as long as the occasional full power bursts are at least reasonably clean.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Only VW?

        I suspect the real problem is the US EPA wants a test that simulates actual driving conditions - whatever than means. But the actual tests are artificial; almost nobody drives that way. So the issue is to design a test regime that gives an accurate idea of the emissions vs engine behavior. And with this test, what constitutes failure. But explaining the difference is well beyond the feeble minds of the US EPA.

        Also, you are dealing with an agency that created one of the worst recent mining spill disasters in the US because of their blundering. No one in the EPA has apparently been punished and definitely not facing criminal charges. In Colorado they are called the Environmental Pollution Agency.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only VW?

      "OTOH I simply cannot make it belch smoke like an earlier diesel of mine back in the 1990s; that was British made (defunct Rover Group"

      That was most likely mechanical injection. You can't control mechanical injection nearly as well as electronic injection, so there will be times when you inject fuel faster than it can burn completely. I notice a lot of older Diesel cars nowadays pouring out black smoke because people won't pay to renew injectors and decarbonise heads (costs more than the residual value of the vehicle). Of course, the carbon gets onto the turbo blades and reduces their effectiveness, thus reducing boost and so creating more soot, till the engine dies expensively. It will be worse, much worse, for people who use Diesels for short journeys where the components never really reach optimal operating temperature.

      This was the problem with Diesels and still is, which is why as I approached retirement and lower annual mileage I moved over to normally aspirated petrol. With the failure of the hedge funds to force the oil price to $200 a barrel (couldn't happen to a nastier lot of dysfunctional sociopaths) this looks more and more like a sensible decision.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Only VW?

        How can hedge funds drive oil price? They are hedge funds - they hedge risks. One fart by a Saudi Prince into a sillken handkerchief has more effect on oil price.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only VW?

          Hedge funds have long gone from simple hedging into clever strategies for market manipulation. That's because there are now too many hedge funds for simple hedging to be possible.

          When the difference between supply and demand is small, hedge funds buy up oil futures thus creating a future shortage which drives up the price. Then they sell those futures at a profit, locking in their gains.

          That's as much as I'm going to tell you, as the textbook on hedging was bloody expensive and you can pay to read all the details for yourself.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Only VW?

            hedge funds buy up oil futures thus creating a future shortage which drives up the price

            I declare this utter tosh and a confusion of cause and effect. Plus, someone must SELL the oil futures.

            textbook on hedging was bloody expensive and you can pay to read all the details for yourself

            I'm not going to read any crap by mathematicians with a PhD out for a quick buck. Ever.

  17. Brent Longborough
    Black Helicopters

    Who wrote the code?

    I'm genuinely curious about the people who actually wrote the code

    * Must be a small team, maybe one person and a reviewer.

    * Must have known precisely what they were doing.

    So, either:

    * They didn't give a toss about ethics

    * They were handsomely paid (off)

    * They were too frightened to blow the whistle

    Where are they?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who wrote the code?

      You missed:

      * They were just following orders

      This isn't intended to be a cliché about Germans; I have found German engineers to be very good but they do have a tendency to identify with the company more than us cynical Brits do.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Who wrote the code?

        'than us cynical Brits do.'

        Unless it's a City job?

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Who wrote the code?

        There's a fourth option, which is that they genuinely didn't see what they were doing as wrong. They could, for example, have thought / said either of the following:

        "These rules are written by people who clearly don't actually understand the science. If we push down the CO2 which doesn't do much harm, we're pushing up the NOx which certainly does. So lets pass this arbitrary test in a way that poisons our customers and those around them less."

        "It's completely sensible that the car goes into a different mode when stationary. If their tests don't actually cover driving the thing around the track then of course they're not going to get a representative idea of its performance"

        Not saying either is or isn't right, or even that the two are compatible. Only that it's entirely plausible that the engineers genuinely didn't see themselves as doing anything wrong. If I'm trying to make a good product and somebody who knows less than I do comes along and decides to tell me it should be done a certain way to comply with some arbitrary and not very scientifically-grounded requirement, I can certainly see the temptation to do what is necessary to tick their meaningless box and then get back to making it actually work efficiently. That mindset is not unrelatable to me.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Who wrote the code?

      "Where are they?"

      Helping self-driving cars pass their safety tests?

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Who wrote the code?

      It's pretty clear it wasn't the act of a few technician on their own. Such kind of decision had to be approved - if not proposed - by some top executives, if not the CEO and the board itself.

      The fact that no one was fired and the CEO resigned with its golden parachute means exactly that, it was a company wide decision, and top executives knew.

      I guess during engine development someone told 'we can't meet EPA standards', and someone else proposed a cheap software 'solution'. Someone in charge approved it, after obtaining his or her boss approval, up to the chain till someone with enough power to fully approve it despite the risky costs if caught. Then down the chain again, till those who implemented it. How many would have the guts to say 'no'?

    4. DaveB

      Re: Who wrote the code?

      Version 1

      enable_emission_control()

      Version 2

      enable_emssion_control()

      if test_mode:

      set_testing()

      elif performance_mode:

      set_performance()

      Version 3

      if test_mode:

      enable_emssion_control()

      set_testing()

      elif performance_mode:

      set_performance()

      So the question is not who designed and built the defeat device but who turned it off

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Who wrote the code?

        "* They were just following orders"

        This is also known as meeting a specification. The guys doing the coding are unlikely to have written the specification. This would have come from the engine design engineers.

    5. I am not spartacus

      Optional

      As no automotive production code is ever written that way, this won't have been. To get it on to multiple platforms, which this was, may also imply it going in front of multiple pairs of eyes.

      The smallest number of people I can imagine this going in front of is a couple of dozen; ten times that number, or more, is not implausible.

      Given that, no 'whistle-blowers' or 'pissed off former employees' leaking details becomes a little difficult to believe, but who knows why independent measurements were first carried out?

  18. Alan Mackenzie
    Pirate

    ...due to the actions of some lone shark at VW. ????

    In the automotive industry, EVERYTHING is specified, designed, signed off by lots of senior managements, both before and during implementation. During, and after, implementation, every functionality is rigorously tested at several different levels (unit tests, ..., system tests). After all, a defect found after manufacturing, even if not dangerous, is expensive to fix.

    There are lots of ECUs ("electronic control units") in a car, each performing a single function. partly for reliability, partly out of common sense. They communicate over CAN busses.

    In the current scenario, VW's engine control ECU must be receiving lots of signals from other ECUs (e.g. a steering ECU) for which it has no legitimate need. Rather, it needs those signals for detecting the car's being tested. It is probable that some of these signals are properly private to a single ECU and wouldn't otherwise be broadcast on a CAN bus.

    There will be several ECU development groups which will have to have co-operated over these illegitimate signals, lots of test engineers will have tested them. They will all be documented in design documents. The development of the cheating function will have consumed several man years of engineers' time.

    This was NOT "due to the actions of some lone shark". VW's senior management could not possibly have been unaware of this development. However I expect, as is usual in these circumstances, management will deny all knowledge, get away with it, and manage to scapegoat a few unfortunate engineers. VW's ex-chief Winterkorn has already got away with a multi-million euro payoff.

    It stinks.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: ...due to the actions of some lone shark at VW. ????

      "EVERYTHING is specified, designed, signed off by lots of senior managements"

      Yes, but do they always understand what they're signing off?

      Mind you, I'm not arguing with the general thrust of your argument. Lone shark defence is rarely plausible. In this case even less so. VW management has taken credit, not to mention bonuses, for increased profits. It's not unfair to ask them to take responsibility for any dubious methods used in the way to profit. Found a cheap way to meet emissions target, have you? Have you?

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: ...due to the actions of some lone shark at VW. ????

        Of course they knew.

        It wasn't only SW.. there was a hidden adblue microresorvoir.. so many departments involved!!

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: ...due to the actions of some lone shark at VW. ????

          >. there was a hidden adblue microresorvoir..

          Was there? I've not read that anywhere.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Lone Wolf / Loan Shark

        Am I witnessing two figures of speech breeding with each other and spawning progeny? Lone Wolf is the traditional term for a rogue actor, no? Loan shark is a disreputable money lender. Where did "lone shark" come from?

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Lone Wolf / Loan Shark

          It came from the article. A rare use indeed, but hey, who are we to argue with almighty Mr. Dabbs?

          ..."actions of some lone shark at VW."

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: ...due to the actions of some lone shark at VW. ????

      My guess is that some lone shark team lead may have promised his boss & marketing "yes, we can meet the numbers", and then as the deadline to ship the cars got closer and the team couldn't quite meet the numbers, panic set in. In the end the team lead & a select few pulled an all-nighter after which their 'heroic' tuning actions allowed the car to scrape through. They've probably been shitting themselves every time they saw an EPA report.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...due to the actions of some lone shark at VW. ????

      With the greatest respect... not disagreeing with your thought process, but I was under the impression (and icbw) that CANbus was generally multicast. So anything that's legitimately on a given CANbus is in practical terms accessible to any box on that CANbus?

      There's perhaps a discussion to have about what inputs should be permissible and accessible in a given ECU, but CANbus hardware isn't going to enforce that?

      Clarification welcome.

  19. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Meh

    They're all at it.

    My petrolhead chum tell me that the ECU "re-chippers" who re-programme for better speed/acceleration take great delight in spotting the bits of code designed to give "optimum fuel consumption" at the prescribed Gov test speeds.

  20. Commswonk Silver badge

    Re: Who wrote the code?

    Brent Longborough wrote: I'm genuinely curious about the people who actually wrote the code <snip> Where are they?

    We were only obeying orders

  21. annodomini2

    My issue

    With this is not that they gamed the system, all manufacturers do, irrelevant of the industry.

    It's that the various regulatory bodies + media influence have stated that outside of VERY specific test criteria, the vehicles do not meet emissions standards.

    How is this a shock?!

    My other issues are with the former CEO of VW:

    1. Why admit you are doing something wrong, you met the specified test criteria, even if you are using a special map for the test, unless it is explicitly stated that you shouldn't you are not in breach of the criteria, this is the question, is this specified anywhere?

    2. The only other possibility is that they have something else to hide?

    1. I am not spartacus

      Re: My issue

      "How is this a shock?!"

      I'll tell you why this is a shock, but first...

      It is no secret that manufacturers go to the edge in meeting the requirements put upon them. This is part of the reason that everyone knows that the fuel consumption numbers in the formal EU testing are not the numbers that they get in real life driving. The test conditions are unrealistic, the manufacturers cheat (mildly) and the drivers are either not good enough or, quite often, not as bothered about fuel consumption as they would like others to think.

      And then someone uses those numbers to set tax levels, which all works out just about ok, if everyone cheats more-or-less the same amount, and the tax limits are set with that in mind.

      But then VW finds a way that they are not falsifying limits by 10 - 20%, but by 15x to 40x (depending on which reports you read or believe). In the mild cheating case, no real harm is done if everyone is cheating by roughly the same amount and the various limits are set taking the need for a 'fiddle factor' into account. In the VAG case, it isn't just a small percentage and it isn't (doesn't currently seem to be) that everyone is cheating by the same amount. Oh, and some people die, but they probably weren't a target market group for VW, so that doesn't matter much. (Well, I mean, 'even when they were alive, they probably weren't a target market group' - they are certainly not, now that they are dead, but you probably guessed that.)

      Worse still, some smug gits, who had bought a green, save-the-planet, be-friendly-to-your-local-polar-bear, VW have now less reason for smugness than they thought they had. I wonder how VAG's various Ad agencies are going to try to spin their way out of this one?

  22. Don The Elder

    Electric cars are better?

    "This could be the final scandal that pushes the First World into the lap of the electric car lobby."

    Besides the fact that few people know about the inherent losses in the transmission grid, or pay attention to the amount of heat energy emitted by the voltage converters, how much of the claimed distance-to-halt is actually achieved during rain or snow storms? In the dark of night with the windshield (windscreen) defroster blowing? Have you ever carried a can of electrons to an empty Tesla tank? Emergency service providers take special courses and need expensive equipment to handle high-voltage, poisonous-content battery packs in wrecks. Thank you, no, I'll stick to my petroleum engine.

    1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Electric cars are better?

      Thank you, no, I'll stick to my petroleum engine.

      Blimey, where I can I get one of these crude-oil-burning engines? And what are the emissions like?

      Upvote for your post tho'

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Electric cars are better?

      In many places in the world electric cars are really coal-burning cars, and that really is nasty and polluting. Whether changing to electric reduces emissions, especially total life emissions, depends very much on where you are.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Electric cars are better?

        But they do help with city smog, because the power generating stations are not in the cities.

        1. nijam

          Re: Electric cars are better?

          NIMBY, naturally.

    3. Steve Todd

      Re: Electric cars are better? - Yes, they are

      Transmission losses add up to about 2.3% of peak load in the UK, charging losses add up to maybe 10%. Bad right? Factor in a fixed power plant can be tuned to run at 80%+ efficiency, that it can capture CO2, NOx and other nasties and that as the mix of power improves, so does the cleanliness of the car. The well to wheel efficiency is still higher than IC based vehicles, where the fuel needs to be refined, then transported to filling stations, which the cars need to travel to in order to refuel. You think that's a loss free process?

      Most importantly the emissions for electric cars are away from town centres and other urban areas where they are less likely to be breathed by people nearby.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Electric cars are better? - Yes, they are

        "Factor in a fixed power plant can be tuned to run at 80%+ efficiency"

        Point me to one that exists with anything like that efficiency. AFAIK only systems including district heating get anywhere near that.

        "he energy efficiency of a conventional thermal power station, considered salable energy produced as a percent of the heating value of the fuel consumed, is typically 33% to 48%"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_power_station#Thermal_power_generation_Efficiency

        "that it can capture CO2, NOx and other nasties" -really !

        1. Steve Todd
          Stop

          Re: Electric cars are better? - Yes, they are @AC

          Well, you could start here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avedøre_Power_Station

          The older generator hits 91% efficiency, the newer 96%.

          If you are talking about pure electric generation then combined cycle gas units hit around 53-54%, and your transmissions losses are not based on total energy in but rather power generated, so 53% with a 20% loss in transmission/charging (on the high side, but you get the idea) is still 42% efficient, not 33% efficient that you seem to be assuming.

          If you run a car on purely coal generated power then you get about parity with IC in terms of emissions. Those emissions are still away from urban centres, which you've failed to comment on.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Electric cars are better? - Yes, they are @AC

            " is typically 33% to 48%" From your ref. "Avedøre unit 2 has an electrical efficiency of 49%,"

            Just choosing the best example is like saying VW's 260 mpg diesel is typical. BTW I did say " only systems including district heating get anywhere near that. (80%)"

            "Most importantly the emissions for electric cars are away from town centres and other urban areas where they are less likely to be breathed by people nearby."

            Not so far away if district heating is required to reach the 90%+ mark.

            1. Steve Todd

              Re: Electric cars are better? - Yes, they are @AC

              And the heat part is worth nothing at all and can be ignored? Also you'll note I didn't claim 90+% as typical, only that you could get 80+% from such systems (which is more like the average for CHP). Gas fired combined cycle systems currently peak at 61% and combined MHD-steam systems in the high 50's.

              You're also assuming that surplus heat is only any use for domestic consumption. Industrial and chemical uses are a good match (early in my career I worked on a chemical site, where the generators were used as much for their steam output as the electricity they produced), as is even agricultural these days.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Electric cars are better? - Yes, they are

        "Transmission losses add up to about 2.3% of peak load in the UK,"

        "Although overall losses in the national grid are low, there are significant further losses in onward electricity distribution to the consumer, causing a total distribution loss of about 7.7%.[10] However losses differ significantly for customers connected at different voltages; connected at high voltage the total losses are about 2.6%, at medium voltage 6.4% and at low voltage 12.2%"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Grid_%28Great_Britain%29#Losses

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Electric cars are better? - Yes, they are

        "charging losses add up to maybe 10%"

        Tesla claim ~9% but see : http://teslaliving.net/2014/07/07/measuring-ev-charging-efficiency/ where 15% is measured

  23. Werner McGoole

    Inevitable

    As the Bootnote observes, all cars have to have some code to handle the engine when it's being tested ... and this code has to handle abnormal inputs so has to be different to the "normal" driving code.

    So next you need to write the code to be used during testing. You can make the engine do just about anything that physics allows, so do you write code that fails the emissions test, or do you write code that passes the test?

    It's not that hard to see how you end up where VW is.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Would that be "Yakety Sax"

    /quote

    To be fair, VW 'fessed up quite quickly and the official statement from the company notes that “the internal Group investigations are continuing at a high tempo”.

    /quote

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Would that be "Yakety Sax"

      I'd say something more like Coronation Scot, although the piece was written for a different mode of transport the exhaust seems quite appropriate.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Would that be "Yakety Sax"

      The only reason I quoted VW's press release was in order to take the piss out of it in the next sentence. Unfortunately the next sentence got cut.

  25. JulieM Silver badge

    I had a similar idea years ago

    I had a similar idea years ago, for shops to rip off customers.

    In the 1990s, shops were still weighing loose goods in pounds, ounces and eighths of an ounce, using electronic scales. This means you, as a customer, can't do a quick calculation of how much you should be paying for your fruit and veg, as you would with goods weighed in kilos (which calculation is simply the product of two decimal fractions -- specific price in £/kg * mass in kg -- and can be performed using a simple calculator) -- there are two base changes in one of the multiplicands, and the food will be off the scales and in the bag before you can verify the price.

    It would have been trivially easy to determine when the calculation is not an easy one (for instance, anything involving a whole number of ounces is an easy calculation) and increase the price charged accordingly. As long as the error is not outrageous, it is unlikely to be noticed. The scale manufacturer can be fairly sure that a weight corresponding to a whole number of ounces, or the equivalent of a round number of grams, is a calibration weight; and if so, give a true reading.

    A few pence on every single transaction in a busy supermarket adds up to a lot .....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I had a similar idea years ago

      One word: pensioners.

      Some of them would have spotted this kind of thing straight off.

      I'm (just) old enough to remember the old-style grocery shops; our local one was run by a bloke in his 80s who would take your order at the counter, writing down each item in a notebook, and then if it was a big order arrange a time for the delivery boy (aged probably early 70s) to bring your stuff round in his van (no charge for that). The impressive bit was that at the end of your order for, say, 30+ items, the grocer would run his pencil down the list of prices in his notebook once and write down the total - and remember this was using £ s d (and half-d). I never caught him out when I tried redoing the sum, slowly, back at home.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I had a similar idea years ago

        You are right about the older generation - I think I was good at mental arithmetic at school because my grandfather used to challenge me (and he always won).

        But I do know of a scale manufacturer who was asked to do just such a fudge as the gpp suggests, by one customer. His reply: "If you get caught then all my customers will be investigated and I will be sued to death. It would actually be worse than my just going out of business".

  26. Frenchie Lad

    Alltogether Now

    You are quite correct about the fact that most probably all the manufacturers are playing the same game. This is suggested by two factors, a) very muted or non-existent response from all of the others, b) how come all the emission figures of comparable cars are in the same set of ranges.

    There's a third element; governments are in cahoots with these car makers. Clearly VW must have rubbed someone the wrong way in the USofA to have been picked as the first. Any bets that Toyota will be next? After all we need to booost the great American auto industry.

    1. russell 6

      Re: Alltogether Now

      I think the current diesel market in the USA is about 5%, VW wanted to expand that market, which would have rather annoyed the US car companies as they are heavily invested in petrol, no way they want to lose market share. The current fiasco could well be connected.

    2. Dick

      Re: Alltogether Now

      VW was the only one to claim that their diesels didn't need urea/magic blue fluid injection to keep the nox in check. That claim never really passed the smell test (sorry) and should have been subject to more scrutiny when these vehicles were type tested.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Alltogether Now

        NOx emissions can only occur if there are nitrogen compounds in the fuel. If the fuel does not have any nitrogen containing compounds there can be no NOx emissions. Conversely, if the fuel is high in nitrogen containing compounds the NOx emissions will be much higher. This raises an interesting point. If European diesel normally has a low nitrogen content than US diesel then the real issue may be the quality of the fuel not the test procedure used. Also, I have no idea if it economically to remove the nitrogen compounds from diesel.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Alltogether Now

          "NOx emissions can only occur if there are nitrogen compounds in the fuel."

          Um, no. If the burning temperature is high, and there's excess oxygen available, then N2 in the air is oxidized.

        2. Loud Speaker

          Re: Alltogether Now

          NOx emissions can only occur if there are nitrogen compounds in the fuel.

          No. The Nitrogen is in the air - its mostly nitrogen.

          Modern diesels run very hot - it makes them marginally more fuel efficient (good for global warming). Unfortunately, the N2 becomes plain N, and since the O2 has also become plain old O, they get together like randy teenagers, and make NO.

          The only fixes are: run the engine cooler (needs bigger engine, produces bigger particles of soot), or Urea injection, which only really works during emissions tests too. Under real driving conditions, there is either too much or too little Urea, depending on various unknowns. You might want to ask who is making money from Urea injection.

          Or you could burn petrol, and have masses of unburned hydrocarbons (and a broadly similar amount of NOx because petrol engines run hot too) instead.

          1. Chemist

            Re: Alltogether Now

            "Urea injection, which only really works during emissions tests too."

            Would you like to ref. that. because AFAIK it's simply not true.

            Petrol engines also produce less nox than diesel but still a moderate amount.

            In my experience diesels use considerably less fuel ( by volume) than petrol engines in similar vehicles partly due to the increased energy content of diesel and partly due to the better thermodynamic efficiency. Indeed large ship diesels are the most efficient internal combustion engines that are available.

        3. Chemist

          Re: Alltogether Now

          "Nitrogen oxides are produced in combustion processes, partly from nitrogen compounds in the fuel, but mostly by direct combination of atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen in flames. Nitrogen oxides are produced naturally by lightning, and also, to a small extent, by microbial processes in soils.

          "

          http://www.apis.ac.uk/overview/pollutants/overview_NOx.htm

        4. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Alltogether Now

          "This raises an interesting point. If European diesel normally has a low nitrogen content than US diesel"

          Are you sure you didn't mean sulphur? In this case your post would make a lot more sense. Historically, oil from the North Sea has had a very low sulphur content, but oil from places around US has few orders of magnitude more.

        5. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Alltogether Now

          "Also, I have no idea if it economically to remove the nitrogen compounds from diesel."

          Assuming you were talking about sulphur, not nitrogen - yes, there are ways to do that.

          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrodesulfurization

          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claus_process

          But I remember reading somewhere about a desulfurization plant in Sweden blowing to smithereens. Lots of nasty stuff flying about.

          1. I am not spartacus

            Re: Alltogether Now

            "Assuming you were talking about sulphur, not nitrogen - yes, there are ways to do that."

            Well, your answer is correct, but it should also be noted that, from a systems perspective, there is a cheaper way of dealing with the problem.

            Now, sulphur in fuel is a bit nasty (not entirely without redeeming features, because it increased the lubricity of fuels, but it is likely to burn to oxides of sulphur and they are similarly nasty to oxides of nitrogen). More specifically, they increase the load on expensive vehicle catalytic converters.

            So, sometime around ~2000, EU limits on sulphur in vehicle fuels were tightened quite significantly. Now, apart from a temporary outbreak of wearing out of high pressure fuel pumps in 20 minutes, on engine test rigs (not in the UK - UK fuel suppliers maintained reasonable levels of fuel lubricity, in spite of the removal of sulphur) you might wonder where all of the nasty, high sulphur, crude went? Did it all get cleaned up, in expensive sulphur-removal plants? Did they leave it in the ground, unpumped? Nah, it powers shipping, where the sulphur regulation is less well developed, and there aren't any catalytic converters to worry about.

      2. Alistair Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Alltogether Now

        Okay --

        I have a 2009 TDI.

        I have *no idea* where anyone is coming up with the smell test issue on jetta tdi's. My wifes 2006 Grand Caravan smells like it emits 10 times the NOx.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Alltogether Now

          My wifes 2006 Grand Caravan smells like it emits 10 times the NOx.

          Really? What does NOx smell like?

    3. skeptical i

      Re: Alltogether Now

      re: "we need to boost the great American auto industry"

      True, but with Toyota and other non-Merkin manufacturers having set up plants (with the always- politically- defensible JOBS!) on U.S. soil, the rally round the flag might not be as fervent as it would have been in decades past.

    4. John Gamble
      Boffin

      Re: Alltogether Now

      There's a third element; governments are in cahoots with these car makers. Clearly VW must have rubbed someone the wrong way in the USofA to have been picked as the first.

      Y'know, it's not like this stuff is hard to look up.

      “No one had done that before in the U.S.,” said Arvind Thiruvengadam, a professor at [West Virginia University]. “It sounded very interesting, to test light-duty diesel vehicles in real-world conditions. We looked around at each other said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

      And the reason they were doing it at all was because the International Council on Clean Transportation wanted to show how much better diesels were doing in the U. S. and to get the European models up to that (now known to be false) standard.

      The study also did not target Volkswagen specifically. It was something of a fluke, he said, that two out of three diesel vehicles bought for the testing were VWs.

      It did not take long for suspicions to set in. The West Virginia researchers were well-versed in diesel performance on real roads, and had certain expectations for how the test cars should ebb and flow in their emissions. But the two Volkswagens behaved strangely.

      Article by Bill Vlasic and Aaron M. Kessler, NYT, Sept 21, 2015

    5. clatters
      Mushroom

      Re: Alltogether Now

      I have to agree with Frenchie, let's keep in mind this is an IT magazine and we need to think like software developers.... It is not impossible for ALL the other manufacturers to purchase a VW Golf (say) take the plastic box off of the ECU and backwards engineer the code (I would if I was in the job). Five minutes later and you yell " hey, look at what those crafty fuckers have written here!!!! ".

      So the only reason that all the rest have not "fessed up" is that they have something similar/the same.

      Just a thought.

      1. annodomini2

        Re: Alltogether Now

        You don't need to reverse engineer it.

        They all have a dyno mode, which is necessary for safety.

        If (dyno_mode == true)

        {

        tune = x;

        }

        else

        {

        tune = y;

        }

  27. LDS Silver badge

    Bench tests and aerodynamics

    I always wondered how a bench test could be representative of real use especially since cars with enormous frontal sections (and thereby high drag) have been introduced (also, today cx is no longer a selling point, guess why). It's pretty clear the same engine on such cars needs to remap to produce more power, even it means more emissions, to obtain the same performance compared to a car with a far less aerodynamic drag. IMHO, one of the reasons to cheat is this one.

  28. Chris Evans

    ARM did it!

    CPU designer have benchmark programs in mind when they design.

    IIRC ARM added an extra instruction to their ARM 1 design for ARM 2 as an extra test had been added to the common benchmark program used at the time.

    1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: ARM did it!

      > IIRC ARM added an extra instruction to their ARM 1 design for

      > ARM 2 as an extra test had been

      No, you don't recall correctly.

      The ARM1 to ARM2 instruction set changes included adding a multiply instruction, and removing certain complex shifts. I'm sure that adding multiply would have improved benchmark results, but you can't argue that it is also useful in real applications.

      But more to the point, the changes were completely public and were not designed to work around government rules that were intended to protect peoples' health.

      1. I am not spartacus

        Re: ARM did it!

        Apart from the upvote,, for being generally correct:

        "I'm sure that adding multiply would have improved benchmark results, but you can't argue that it is also useful in real applications."

        I can argue that it would be useful. I want to multiply two numbers. A multiply instruction would be useful for that. There is a multiply instruction. That's useful.

        QED

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: ARM did it!

          > I can argue that it would be useful

          OK, I'll fix my sloppy grammar:

          "I'm sure that adding multiply would have improved benchmark results, but you can't argue ((with my assertion)) that it is also useful in real applications."

      2. Chris Evans

        Re: ARM did it!

        You misunderstood me, I wasn't suggesting ARM had done anything underhand or wrong. I was responding to the posts that all manufacturers have benchmark etc in mind when designing things.

        My memory may be failing me but your statement that ARM 2 added a multiply instruction does ring a bell with me and that it was added with BM9 (or was it BM8?) in mind!

        IIRC a talk I heard a few years ago from Sophie Wilson ARM added another instruction specifically to get Nokia as a customer. I suspect ARM would be very different (even maybe not exist) if they hadn't done that. A world without ARM doesn't bear thinking of!

        n.b. I've used an ARM based desktop computer as my main computer since the Archimedes came out (1987)

        1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: ARM did it!

          > IIRC a talk I heard a few years ago from Sophie Wilson ARM added another

          > instruction specifically to get Nokia as a customer. I suspect ARM would be

          > very different (even maybe not exist) if they hadn't done that.

          The main thing was adding a completely new MMU in order to get Apple as a customer, for the ARM610 in the Newton.

  29. Yugguy

    Better official test.

    Instead of rolling roads at set speeds do a real road course at varying

    1. annodomini2
      FAIL

      Re: Better official test.

      Can't make the test repeatable, variations include (but not limited to):

      Driver

      Driving style

      Air pressure

      Air temperature

      Humidity

      Rain

      Track surface

      Etc

      Needs to be a controlled, repeatable and representative test.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Better official test.

        Needs to be a controlled, repeatable and representative test.

        Within parameters. If the test can be repeated to within, say, 25% of required conditions each time, then the tested vehicles can be given figures to meet ±15%. That, of course, doesn't work when our lords & masters in parliament want to use the results to set tax levels, since a tax limit which is only accurate to ±15% could be challenged as being unfair.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Total effect?

    If 11 million cars are emitting 40x the pollution we thought they were, does that mean our pollution models are understated by a factor of 440 million? For VW's alone?

    Yikes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Total effect?

      "If 11 million cars are emitting 40x the pollution we thought they were, does that mean our pollution models are understated by a factor of 440 million? For VW's alone?

      Yikes."

      What !

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Total effect?

      No, it means that, assuming the worst possible VW case and approximately a billion vehicles on the road world wide, that the NOx pollution would be understated by a factor of 11/1000 * 40, or about 44%. In reality it will be a lot less than this.

  31. x 7

    three questions

    1) does anyone know which engine models are affected?

    2) which car models are they in?

    3) are these engines used by any other car manufacturers? My understanding is some VW engines plants are joint ventures with other European companies

    1. Irony Deficient

      three answers

      x 7,

      1) The 2.0 liter four cylinder 16 valve TDI common rail variety of the EA189 engine is the most prevalent affected one in the States. (It was also available in Canada and in Europe, if not elsewhere.) Its EA288 replacement in model year 2015 cars was also affected. I’d heard on the radio that a 1.6 liter engine was also affected, but that engine wasn’t available in the States, so I’m not sure if that’s an EA189 engine or an EA188 engine.

      2) The affected US market models can be found in the EPA letter linked here. Perhaps analogous agencies in other countries will have their own lists of affected models (e.g. in Mexico, the Jetta used to be called the Bora).

      3) The affected EA189 engine was only available in cars with VW Group marques, viz VW, Audi, SEAT, and Škoda, with only the first two available in the States. I don’t know if the same applies to cars with either the affected EA288 engine or the affected 1.6 liter engine.

  32. Stratman

    Never mind VW, can they fix whatever the software fault is in BMWs that prevents the indicators from working?

    1. Loud Speaker
      1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Fixed that!

        Problem exists between steering wheel\column & chair!

  33. cd

    Emission Impossible

    As always, should any of your team be caught or killed, the CEO will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Teaching to the test

    As an engineer at one of the aforementioned PC places in the 90s, I had a long chat with a man from a magazine trying to work out how we'd made a particular model so fast. I blathered on about cache and disk tuning and whatnot since I wasn't going to say we ran the memory a wait state less than the spec allowed (all of that model PCs shipped that way to my knowledge and there wasn't much blood on the streets as a result).

    When the article came out, it said "the engineers avoided saying just how such performance was achieved, but we figured it it out-- a bit more cache and disk tuning".

    Gasoline cars were caught cheating the US EPA testing at least as far back as the 1980s. Seems the test at the time required having the doors or bonnet open while the car was nominally at-speed.

    1. John Gamble

      Re: Teaching to the test

      Yes, it was Cadillac that famously had the "emissions test" mode on when the hood (bonnet) was lifted.

  35. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    I doubt others are cheating

    "If VWs dramatically reduce their emissions while stationary (i.e. a test environment), is that actually so wrong?"

    Well, yes, because they are reducing the emissions to the point they are supposed to be at ALL THE TIME.

    As for other car cos cheating -- I DOUBT IT. I mean, maybe a few models will be found that just scrape by the standardized test and are just a bit too dirty on a road test... but in the US, *ALL* diesel vehicles (cars and semis, lorries to you brits), except Volkswagens, have been using urea injection for years now. A little tank, and a computer-controlled mechanism to inject a little urea into the exhaust stream as needed, are just not that expensive, and it's fully effective in cutting the NOx down. Since it's exhaust treatment it doesn't compromise power or economy.

    And gasoline engines? Newer ones with variable valve timing and direct injection are running clean enough to meet emissions without even needing an EGR valve*.

    *Or are they? I guess it'd make sense to test the Chrysler Pentastar V6, since it is EGR-free. I seriously doubt they're cheating though, their other engines all use EGR so I doubt they'd leave it off just one engine unless it really didn't need it. But who knows?

  36. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Emissions figures are not comparable

    "b) how come all the emission figures of comparable cars are in the same set of ranges."

    They aren't.

    In the US in recent times, you've had LEV (low emissions vehicle), ULEV (ultra low emissions vehicle), SULEV (super ultra low emissions vehicle) and PZEV (nonsense term "partial zero emissions vehicle" -- because California wanted to mandate something like 20% "zero emissions vehicles" i.e. electric, and the car cos pointed out that it was dumb, there wasn't enough electricity in California to charge them.. instead of eliminating the mandate, they just made an extra-clean emissions tier and said car cos could ship those instead to meet the requirement.) In Europe you've had Tier 1 through Tier 6 vehicles (Tier 6 being the cleanest.)

    Cars sold here, the sales sticker shows a little "emissions compared to other vehicles in this class" sticker, ranging from 0 to 1 (with 1 being the legal limit). You'll see some that are 0.9-1, a general range from 0.4-1, and some as low as 0.1 or so. (Not counting the one electric I saw, the EPA pretends coal-fired power plants don't produce pollution and rates those a 0.)

    In a general sense, a car company that has been using the same engine unmodified for years will have the hardest time meeting emissions, it'll need more intervention from emissions controls and touchier engine tuning to perhaps just barely meet emissions. If the engine is not inherently at least somewhat clean it can be very difficult to have it meet emissions and have decent driveability. A car co that has been using the same engine but modifying it's internals from time to time will have fewer problems (my 2000 Buick has SULEV emissions... well it did new, I don't know if it does now with 225,000 miles on it... despite using a 3.8L V6 that originally came out in the 1950s -- but GM had updated and refined it in the 1970s, a major rework in the 1980s, another in the early 1990s and another in 1998.). A car co that comes out with a brand new engine design knows they are maybe be using it at least 10 or 20 years, so to make sure they have a fighting chance of meeting whatever emissions there are then, it usually runs substantially cleaner than required when it comes out.

  37. IanDs

    Urea injection (Adblue, Bluetec etc.) does reduce NOx emissions both during emissions tests and normal driving, which is why most manufacturers use it. VW decided to save money by not fitting it, so the only way they could then meet the standards -- especially in the USA -- was by cheating.

    Other manufacturers may have done similar things but there's no evidence yet, and no need for them to do it -- if you've gone to the expense of fitting urea injection you can pass the tests without cheating.

    Whether all diesels emit more pollutants in real driving than during tests is a separate issue and not unlikely, in the same way as they don't deliver the same economy in real life as in tests. But that's nothing to do with cheating like VW did, it's due to the tests being completely unrealistic and easy to get too-optimistic results with various fiddles which are within the rules.

  38. JustWondering
    Meh

    I believe in Karma

    I believe that some days, I am other peoples' bad karma; they deserved it!

  39. Cincinnataroo

    This may have been misrepresented in important ways

    The standard press story on this looks pretty odd to me so I did some digging. The digging suggested some misdirection:

    1) The vehicles all have a "dyno mode" of operation. This is for testing where the driven wheels turn and the others don't. With modern vehicles if you did that in normal driving the vehicle would shout foul, lock up and stop (or something similar). So you need a test mode for the dynamometer. No magic, no cunning, just what has to be done. (How do other manufacturers handle dyno mode?)

    2) The pollution watchdogs of the worlds countries say about 200 of them haven't noticed this in say 6 years. What are these guys doing? Are they idiots, lazy, part of the scam...?

    3) Humans and their governments are meant to be worried about this stuff. Nobody noticed, nobody measured it for themselves... What a smart species we are?

    4) Auto technicians fix the control devices regularly. How did they not notice.

    5) The systems in question run a way of removing NOx's that is different from what other manufacturers use, from what other VW models use. (NOx adsorption on zeolite vs. catalytic destruction of NOx's with 32.5% Urea solution injection.) This has been discussed in the industry. If you have figured that the adsorption is impractical in your own designs, how can you not research the design that seems to have done what you couldn't?

    ....

    There's more here than meets the eye. More bureaucracy and legislation may be a move in the direction that caused this in the first place. It may be that most government simply can't work and is not fit for this purpose.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: This may have been misrepresented in important ways

      It may be that most government simply can't work and is not fit for this purpose.

      Or it may just be a case of brown envelopes.

    2. Stratman

      Re: This may have been misrepresented in important ways

      " So you need a test mode for the dynamometer. No magic, no cunning, just what has to be done. (How do other manufacturers handle dyno mode?)

      Mercedes have a hidden setting which can be accessed from the steering wheel controls (it's called Dyno Mode, believe it or not) which they don't advertise. It's for dyno testing and turns off not only the traction control but all other electronic driver aids including ABS and 'keep it on the road when driver is being a twat' mode It's engaged using a non intuitive sequence of button presses.

      I'm a member of a Mercedes forum which has a steady trickle of kiddies asking "How do I turn off the traction control so I can use all the power?" type of question. Eventually someone will tell them and sure as night follows day, a couple of weeks later the same kiddies are asking for a cheap source of body panels.

  40. chivo243 Silver badge
    Alien

    VW quietly tweaked the test mode.

    Hmmm sounds vaguely familiar, I'm guessing they've had their fill of Star Trek and Jim Kirk.

    Kobayashi Maru ring any bells here? If you can't beat the test...

  41. MarketingTechnoDude

    Back in the the 80's

    My Ford RS Turbo had an interesting factory fitted switch under the bonnet. It was curious as there was no engine bay light. Well I by chance found myself on an off site training course and happened to be sat next to the chap who designed the ECU. Apparently the purpose of the switch was to inform the ECU that the car is in an emissions or approvals test as the bonett was raised. It set everything to be as clean as possible in this mode. When the bonnet was down, it changed the parameters to be more performance orientated with less emphasis upon emissions.

    Nothing much has really changed in 30 years other than the ability of the ECU to autodetect it is under emissions testing.

  42. Willem55

    realy?

    a software routine that reduces fuel usage and emissions during operations with no real functional load.

    ain't that what all cars should do?

    EPA testing in a garage is a joke to begin with it has nothing to do with what happens on the road and how you want you engine to respond to the reality of day to day commuting.

    Anyone ever watch during an annual test car in neutral? probe in the tailpipe run engine in low rpm.....

    all digital motor management systems run extremely clean under those conditions.

    It's a green political farce and all VW did was expose it for what it is.

  43. ecofeco Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good follow up

    Well done on the follow up El Reg.

  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. Paul Woodhouse

    well, IIRC among the cars that were in the test that busted VW was a BMW... and that passed the on the road tests, I'm surprised BMW aren't trumpeting that as loudly as they can..

  46. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Really?

    To be fair, VW 'fessed up quite quickly...

    As I heard it, they came up with a series of ever more convoluted fairy stories until the US regulators turned around and said: "Give us a fucking believable answer or we revoke sales approval for the entire VAG 2016 model range.".

    Difficult call: take the potential multibillion dollar fine or definitely lose the multimultibillion dollar market.......

    As usual in a company stuffed with useless execs at board level, the immediate threat to revenue and bonuses had a fantastic mind-focussing effect.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not so fast

    So far all of the VW diesel engines have passed the require emissions regulations with the possible exception of cars sold in California. Where VW erred was by adding emissions test detection code which is illegal. Thus the software will need to be upgraded sans the test detection code. In addition if the ECU programming does not provide compliance to the emission laws 100% of the time then it will need to be altered. The systems employed however do meet all emissions requirements. California is the only place where it has been demonstrated that the VW Diesels may allow higher NOx than allowed. The allowed NOx values are so low in CA however that it's difficult to accurately measure it with the portable equipment used and also to test exactly as specified by CA emissions laws.

  48. 2Fat2Bald

    Do me a Lemon.... Electic Cars?

    Electric are - in anything like the short term - a dead issue. Everyone talks as if we could just start buying the darn things and plugging them in. Unfortunately there isn't anything like enough capacity in the power grid for that. Electric cars require a truly spectacular amount of juice to charge them up quickly enough for them to be a practical proposition. We're pretty close to generating capacity and distribution capacity as it is (in fact, we've been reducing it for "environmental" legislative reasons). We can't have every Mondeo man in the country come home at 6pm and plug their car into the mains. The power stations couldn't cope with the demand, and the grid would actually bloody *melt* trying to distribute all that power. In real terms it's about 3 amps (of 240v domestic supply) per BHP you need, so in real terms a 13 amps domestic plug can supply 4 hp (12amps), so if we say a car nominally uses an average of 40bhp throughout it's commute, you can charge it at a tenth of the rate you can drive it. Not entirely impractical, if you have a short commute. However that would mean a every plugging in a totaly new 13 amps at the same time of day... And charging virtually continually until the next morning. HMM. And the fact is a lot of people would get 30 amp superchargers, making the charge less of a problem for them, but the drain on the grid much greater.

    SO... before we're all pushed to drive Renault Zoes we'll need a reliable, clean energy sorts (and a metric expletivetonne of cables!). Well, the only real candiate is Nuclear, and I don't think the hippies are going to like that idea one bit.

  49. Elf
    Pint

    Some day ...

    I'm going to find myself in the UK...Im going to have to hunt Dobbsy down and force a few pints of the bugger.,

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020