back to article VW Dieselgate engineer sings like a canary: Entire design team was in on it – not just a few bad apples, allegedly

A Volkswagen engineer has agreed to spill the details of his involvement in the VW emissions scandal. Former engineer James Robert Liang took a plea deal with the US federal government to cooperate with its ongoing investigation of how the German carmaker cheated American emissions tests and passed off its "clean diesel" …

  1. More Jam

    Everything has a wire somewhere

    So everything is wire fraud.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Everything has a wire somewhere

      It would be too difficult to convince the current set of morons in Congress that there could be such a thing as "wireless fraud"

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Everything has a wire somewhere

        I get the impression its am old anachronism from the days when the only kind of crime that could possibly manage to cross a state line was over the morse code telephone line.

        ...and now any crime affecting people in another state is wire fraud?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Everything has a wire somewhere @Prst.V.Jeltz

          Thats because the Supreme Court has mis-used the Interstate Commerce clause to give the Federal Government control over everything.

          http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2012/1209/How-Ernest-Hemingway-s-cats-became-a-federal-case-video

        2. fijired2

          Re: Everything has a wire somewhere

          @Prst. V.Jeltz - Love the name!

      2. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Everything has a wire somewhere

        You think US laws are arcane - the English law of "Offenses Against The Person" based on a nineteenth century act seems to take the words Grievous, Actual and Aggravated and metaphorically slug you about the head.

      3. Medixstiff

        Re: Everything has a wire somewhere

        "It would be too difficult to convince the current set of morons in Congress that there could be such a thing as "wireless fraud""

        Because the internet is pipes right?

        1. robjcamb

          Re: Everything has a wire somewhere

          Tubes. Definitely tubes.

        2. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: Everything has a wire somewhere

          Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication

          there you go wireless fraud.

  2. Herby Silver badge

    If the government had better tests...

    We wouldn't have this problem. If the test was more realistic, then they couldn't have "cheated". They were just conforming to the test at hand. The engine passed the tests as they were designed, and they (obviously) didn't reflect the actual driving of the vehicle.

    This is VERY similar to compilers that sense benchmarks, and compile VERY specialized code that was (possibly) hand tuned to make the compiler and run-time system look good. When this was discovered, the benchmarks were constructed to not have this "advantage" readable, and the manufacturers got called out on it. Big deal.

    If the EPA/CARB wants non-cheatable tests, they had better reflect actual driving conditions, or things like this will happen. As is said in school, you "teach" to the test.

    I fault the test, not the vehicle!

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      Yes, but you have various car companies furiously lobbying to set the test parameters. You have to deal with a government agency that is responding to pressure they are getting because car company X has plants and parts suppliers in 60 congressional districts, and a good many of those Congresspeople are pinging Department of Transportation leadership about why these tests are endangering jobs and companies in their district.

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      Or the cheats might just have to be more creative. Perhaps give the firmware a list of known government testing facilities and have it go slow-and-eco when the GPS picks it up as near one.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        "Perhaps give the firmware a list of known government testing facilities and have it go slow-and-eco when the GPS picks it up as near one."

        Funnily enough one maker was pinged for doing exactly that.

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          "Perhaps give the firmware a list of known government testing facilities and have it go slow-and-eco when the GPS picks it up as near one."

          "Funnily enough one maker was pinged for doing exactly that."

          I'm not saying I approve of any party's actions, but you have to admit that that the VW approach is somewhat more sophisticated and elegant.

          As a driver of a car with one of the engines in question, the solution seems to be dragging on a bit. I got a letter in January saying that there'd be a recall for some tweaks to the engine management software....9 months on and neither I, or any of my friends who are also waiting for the same recall, have heard anything further

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: VW Software change

            And quite a few people do not want it in case it makes their car thirstier and slower

    3. JoeCool

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      Using a dynometer is the correct way to perform a controlled test. Otherwise your results are plus/minus X% due to wind humidity temperature and road differences, so that the tests aren't actually repeatable.

      What VW did is more like a teacher giving his students the answers to a standardized test, and arguing that it is the fault of that test that it uses questions choosen before hand.

    4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      In the UK, the government set targets for the National Health Service for dealing with patients. They were surprised when they discovered that hospitals massaged the rules to hit the "letter" of the target without hitting the "spirit" of the target.

      If you set someone a target, they'll find the cheapest/easiest way to hit the target, which may not be done in the manner you intended.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        "They were surprised when they discovered that hospitals massaged the rules to hit the "letter" of the target without hitting the "spirit" of the target."

        Yup. It's easy to keep your waiting lists down by refusing to provide certain types of operations (like hernias)

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          Yup. It's easy to keep your waiting lists down by refusing to provide certain types of operations (like hernias)

          It's even easier to keep your waiting lists down by refusing to allow people to book an appointment more than a certain time in advance.

          "Sorry, we're not booking appointments for next Thursday yet. Can you call back on Tuesday?"

          1. Mutton Jeff

            Re: If the government had better tests...

            Luxury!

            My GP are able to have no waiting list, by making everyone phone at 8AM, if you can get through (redial, redial) you /might/ get an appointment for later in the morning.

            1. theModge

              Re: low NOX for stop-start and low speed driving

              This would seem sensible: when the regulations were draw up they represented a clear choice: we will emit more C02 in exchange for less NOX; it's a trade off, one or the other if you reduce NOX you make the engine less efficient and thus more fuel and carbon is needed. One could put forward a convincing argument that because VW cheated they did the global environment a favour, they merely made the local environment in built up area's a lot worse.

              Also re:bus emissions, I (just, last week) saw a bus that claimed to be euro compliant.

          2. ntevanza

            Re: If the government had better tests...

            There's a law for this. IT folks will have seen this up close & personal.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell%27s_law

          3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

            @dajames - Re: If the government had better tests...

            It's even easier to keep your waiting lists down by refusing to allow people to book an appointment more than a certain time in advance.

            A relative had one better: If it looked like the hospital weren't going to make the deadline, they'd just take you off the waiting list. You'd then re-apply and go to the back of the queue.

            When you're waiting for heart surgery, "deadline" gets a whole new meaning...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          Or worse, when I worked in the NHS you were paid by the number of people you put through for a scan in something or other (few years back now). £1.35 a line in an excel spreadsheet. Needless to say you can see money grabbing opportunities. Or cash strapped NHS departments can see a life line.

          Or you could consider the MOT, it is meant to be a minimum level you can't go below. But it is seen as a minimum you have to live up to.

      2. pop_corn

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        That is the dilemma of monitoring.

        On the one hand you have the "What you don't measure, you can't manage." brigade.

        On the other hand you have the Observer Effect, changing what you observe.

      3. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        If you set someone a target, they'll find the cheapest/easiest way to hit the target, which may not be done in the manner you intended.

        Another formulation of the same wisdom:

        Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      The thing about NOX emissions is that they're only a problem in tight urban areas and even then they're no longer the prime contributor.

      Just over half of NOX emissions in London in 2009 were due to gas/oil boilers and stationary power generator plant accounts for another few percentage points. NOX itself is only really measureable within the North/South circulars and only on main arterial routes between there and the inner London ring road. Inside that is where it starts to be problematic and only exceeds environmental standards within 2 miles of the City.

      Having the engine run in "low NOX" for stop-start and low speed driving, switching to "power" (efficiency) for high speed running would go a long way to dealing with both issues. One could even fit a NOX detector on the vehicle so that it goes to low emission mode if external levels are climbing, such as during smog events.

      That point about the percentage of emitters is important: the law of diminishing returns kicks in unless legislation is passed to allow councils to condemn older boiler installations emitting excess levels (new boilers have had NOX level limits since 2001 and condensing boilers emit virtually zero NOX as it gets dissolved into the condensate water). The interesting thing is that boiler NOX emissions are quite localised and in several cases are known to come from clusters of boilers along one side of a given street.

      This is one of those areas where a sniffer mounted on a microdrone would confirm which boilers are involved and the CAA needs to sort its regulations out to allow lightweight operations instead of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut (they're also really useful for roof/guttering inspections, etc)

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        AB "..."low NOX for stop-start and low speed driving..." Etc.

        Those are some good ideas.

        Simultaneously now-obvious to most of us, and likely "impossible to comprehend" by our thick headed regulators.

      2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        Sorry, but that is simply not true

        That was the officual explanation. One that failed because pollution failed to diminish on summer, when boilers are mostly not used.

        The problem is the buses. They produc several times the amount of nox that they claim to producr, and it shows on streets that are bus only...they are extreme pollution points... Up to a point impossible if the Euro levels were of any use.

        The politicians have known this for long, that is why they blocked petitions for on the road tests. Euro pollution leves are little more than industry protections.

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          That [domestic boilers being responsible for urban NOX] was the officual explanation. One that failed because pollution failed to diminish on summer, when boilers are mostly not used.

          Domestic boilers will still be in use in the summer for hot water, probably for the same hours but without the additional load for central heating. Exactly how that affects their NOX emissions I don't know, but it would be wrong simply to assume that they'll be lower.

          1. paul clinch

            Re: If the government had better tests...

            Well according to my gas bill, the amount of gas burnt is considerably, so it would be amazing if more NOX was not produced by the boiler in the winter. (Although mine is condensing)

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: If the government had better tests...

              (Although mine is condensing)

              I was under the impression that increased levels of NOX were to be expected when you have more efficient combustion. Hence condensing boilers, produce more NOX than a less efficient non-condensing boiler...

        2. Ross 12

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          Ahh, the tell-tale illiteracy of a Brexiteer

        3. Fr. Ted Crilly

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          Ahh yes QV; when the bus drivers go on strike in London miraculously the nox levels and pm2.5's go down around very central London..

          Bring back electric trolley busses, given the state of battery tech these days, plenty could be done with reducing the overhead wiring, jus sayin.

    6. Jemma Silver badge

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      My experience was more like "you lie to the test", sort of like dieselgate for education.

      I don't think I've found a single "fact" I learnt in school that hadn't been kenobi'd in some way - except possibly maths. Reality and GCSE/A level coursework in anything that isn't fixed, like science and mathematics, in that there is a 100% right answer and a 100% percent "you just got plated to the roof of the reactor building" area of study the variation between the right exam answer and actual physical reality is mindblowing...

      Hands up all those who were told in history class Churchill was a fat borderline alcoholic racist who spent most of his life roundly disliked by everyone who knew him (and whose father died of tertiary syphilis)? Or that a major reason we "won" the Battle of Britain was Goering was out of his box on morphine (being shot in the area of the testicles hurts apparently)?

      Getting back to the subject in hand, I'd like to see a comparison between a brand new car and say something from the 1960s (properly tuned) in day to day driving.. I suspect it's not as massive a difference as you'd think.

      Here's one for the Americans. In New York in 1939 there were 3000+ listings for Hitlers in the phone book. In 1946 there were 3..

      ... The more you wish you didn't know.... 0 to Trump in 6 years.. Might explain a few things..

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        "I'd like to see a comparison between a brand new car and say something from the 1960s (properly tuned) in day to day driving.. I suspect it's not as massive a difference as you'd think."

        There's almost no difference - except that the 1960s car starts to go out of tune almost immediately whilst the 2016 one will keep its profile a lot longer.

        1. Ole Juul Silver badge

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          Like everything else in the physical world, it's not really about tests. What matters here is the actual pollution.

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          In the 1960s, most engines were relatively low pressure ratio, guzzled cheap low octane fuel at low temperature and didn't produce NOX. The requirements for better fuel economy, forced the use of higher pressure ratios, which caused the NOX problem. So ironically, the whole NOX issue was caused by environmentalist and government meddling in the auto industry.

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        Jemma "...mathematics....there is a 100% right answer..."

        Kurt Gödel much?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If the government had better tests...

          Jemma "...mathematics....there is a 100% right answer..."

          Kurt Gödel much?

          Well, there is still a 100% right answer: "This question can not be answered given the inputs".

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Goedel says you can't cheat.

            Well, there is still a 100% right answer: "This question can not be answered given the inputs".

            No, that's wrong. The question always has an answer. (To quote Wikipedia, "For [a qualifying system], there will always be statements...that are true, but that are unprovable within the system.".) So it could be a statement's unprovable within the system or it could be the proof hasn't been found yet; there's no way to tell. So if you say "a question cannot be answered given the input" you can't be sure I won't come along and show you it can.

            It's the same as the halting problem. An algorithm must terminate after N iterations. (Where N may be infinite.) But there's no general process for determining that, except running it and waiting.

            1. Pompous Git Silver badge

              Re: Goedel [sic] says you can't cheat.

              So it could be a statement's unprovable within the system or it could be the proof hasn't been found yet; there's no way to tell.

              No!

              The first incompleteness theorem states that in any consistent formal system F within which a certain amount of arithmetic can be carried out, there are statements of the language of F which can neither be proved nor disproved in F.

              You can make such a statement provable by adding axioms. The price of this is the generation of new unprovable statements. See Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems if you want to make your head hurt a bit. Hint: that's what philosophers do for fun ;-)

      3. nijam

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        > Churchill was a fat borderline alcoholic racist

        Scarcely news: fat (easily observable); borderline alcoholic (well known from several quotes attributed to him); racist (par for the course in that period of history). It's only modern image-conscious politicians who would care about those labels, it fairly clear that Churchill didn't.

    7. Jon 37

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      > I fault the test, not the vehicle!

      It will always be possible to cheat the test if you try hard enough.

      That's why the EPA doesn't *JUST* do the test. They also requires a certificate signed by the manufacturer giving a *complete* list of things that affect emissions, and saying that there's no special test-detection code. Then, if it turns out the manufacturer lied on that certificate, the manufacturer has to pay a big fine and the relevant employees go to jail. Hopefully that discourages people from doing it again.

      The system is working as designed.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        re the relevant employees go to jail

        " the relevant employees go to jail"

        which ones are they then?

        If it was up to me it would be EVERYONE above the lowest ranking one that went to jail - because thats how salaries work isnt it . No boss is on less than his staff - even though the staff might be far more skilled , doing much harder work (technicaly or physicly) for longer hours.

        No, the boss is on more because he's responsible . He Carries The Can . CEOs are on obscene salaries because , they claim , the huge weight of responsibility.

        well time to pay the piper!

        (not that anyone above 'the design team' is mentioned in the article)

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: re the relevant employees go to jail

          So, the "desgn team" kept it all quiet for years from senior management? Seems a little far-fetched....

      2. nijam

        Re: If the government had better tests...

        > saying that there's no special test-detection code

        There has to be test-detection code, that's been discussed many times in these very columns. It only becomes dodgy when the EMU is coded to misuse that information. Whatever "misuse" means in that context, which I suspect is a very grey area.

    8. MR J

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      If the GOV had better test then they would just bribe the people who admin the test.

      A local in the city I am from was arrested last week, he was selling Commercial DL's.

      I would like to see ALL makes tested, I would bet the majority of them are doing similar things.

      When this is all said and done, only a few people will be in jail, and none will be the people who asked for and approved this type of thing

    9. bigphil9009

      Re: If the government had better tests...

      This must be the first time in Register history that a computing analogy has been used to explain an automotive issue :-)

    10. Glen Turner 666

      Realistic tests are a recent development

      The problem with faulting the 'government' tests is that you assume that the test is possible outside a lab. Remember how VW got busted: a lab had finally made it's emissions test gear small enough to fit inside a car, so emissions could now be tested in the field.

      Before the car-portable test what is the government to do? To not regulate at all, because no realistic test was possible? Or to regulate a lab test and then ensure some real-world effect by preventing car makers from optimising specifically for the test?

  3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    One of the interesting things aboht all this is how quiet all the other car makers are being about it. AFAIK not one of them has issued statements along the lines of "oh no, not us, honestly".

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I thought that most of them had issued statements saying as much.

      How long has it been? A year? That's plenty of time for alerted authorities to discover similar defeat device programming. But there's none.

      Anyway, so they guy says there were a lot of people involved. I don't think there are any great surprises there.

      1. GBE

        A lot of people involved in a decision in a large German corporation?

        "Anyway, so they guy says there were a lot of people involved. I don't

        think there are any great surprises there."

        No kidding.

        I've worked with a number of large German corporations, and there are _always_ a lot of people involved. In everything. I remember one specific standards meeting where I went to represent my billion-dollar corporation in one particular area of an industrial communications protocol spec. The other representatives in that sub-committee working group were all from German companies. They were all great guys and we had no problems working out details of the profile for a certain type of device. After the three days, they said "great! We will all take this back to our managers for review and approval and you do the same and then everything will be done." I told them that there was no higher level approval needed on my end -- if I said it was good, it was good.

        They looked at me like I had just grown a second head.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          @GBE -- Re: A lot of people involved in a decision in a large German corporation?

          Therein lies of the problems with what is going on with VW. Liang claims it was the design team... no mention of management. We know that management had to know if for no other reason than to CTA if the crap hit the rotating air movement device.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A lot of people involved in a decision in a large German corporation?

          "They looked at me like I had just grown a second head" ---GBE

          To be fair, I would have too. In my experience, the bigger the corporation the more fervently it will pursue a policy of ensuring that the intersection between those equipped to make decisions and those authorised to do so is the empty set.

          AC because I work for a company which is probably the best example of this corporate strategy on the planet.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. LOL123

      Not true

      I got a very specific email from Ford confirming that their cars meet all required environmental standards.

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        Re: Not true

        @ LOL123 - Did they say HOW their cars met the standards?

        1. midcapwarrior

          Re: Not true

          Guessing they met the standard by not producing any diesel cars.

          Different standard for trucks and that's what the domestics produce.

      2. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Not true

        "I got a very specific email from Ford confirming that their cars meet all required environmental standards."

        Volkswagen said the same thing. They all meet required standards UNTIL they get caught. The UK Government did some tests and they found all of the cars they tested were miles out of their stated emissions. BMW, amazingly, were closest to the mark. The Peugeot 30008 was over 10 times the stated number.

        No manufacturer will come out and say they're not up to it, because I don't think they know if they are up to it or not. That said, Renault have eluded to the fact they're going to stop producing diesel engines due to complexities getting the engines to meet emissions. So I think that, in itself, is quite telling.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not true

          "The Peugeot 30008 was over 10 times the stated number."

          Did they force them to multiply the model number by 10 as well to reflect this?

          Didn't even get that quite right; 30008 is only 9.98 times "Peugeot 3008". ;-)

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      I would be amazed if this wasn't known at some levels within most of the other car companies - my dealings with the auto industry in the US were involved with a project at one company to purchase cars from other manufacturers and give them a complete shakedown to see exactly how they performed. The engineers running the program were very smart folks - I just can't see VW coming out with a super clean diesel engine and none of the other manufacturers asking themselves why their engineers can't make clean engine.

    4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      "...how quiet all the other car makers are..."

      All the other (small diesel engine) car makers make cars with urea fluid tanks for the SCR system, or something similarly explicit, obvious, and complex

      VW omitted this technology. They "didn't need it."

      That doesn't mean that other makers' control systems don't modulate the urea dosing to account for conditions, but they don't cheat they way VW did.

      Look up the wonderful CCC tech video searching:

      C3TV - The exhaust emissions scandal („Dieselgate“)

      ...if you'd like to see how brazen the cheat code actually was. The code reportedly actually contained the official test Time-Distance Limits chart to compare with.

      Jaw dropping video. Well worth watching if you have an hour.

      Here's the punchline if you're short of time.

      https://youtu.be/xZSU1FPDiao?t=58m

      edit: Actually this might be another issue... VWs with AdBlue, still cheating?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...how quiet all the other car makers are..."

        CCC as in the Chaos Computer Club?

        A quintessential German institution if there is one. Would love to attend one of their meetings some day.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...how quiet all the other car makers are..."

        > Jaw dropping video. Well worth watching if you have an hour.

        I've watched it and I concur. Even if you're not interested on the VW affair, the first half is a great insight into the auto industry.

  4. matchbx
    Facepalm

    It seem to me

    that the most interesting admission in the article was :

    "According to Liang's admissions, when he and his co-conspirators realized that they could not design a diesel engine that would meet the stricter US emissions standards,"

    This tells me the folks setting the standard have no clue about how the standards they set and how they impact the engine design process.

    1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

      Re: It seem to me

      I think the point is that a *petrol* engine could meet the standards.

      Or possibly they were setting the standard based on what would be acceptable healthwise.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: It seem to me

        "I think the point is that a *petrol* engine could meet the standards."

        That's where it gets interesting. Some of the proposed new standards are impossible for petrol engines to meet too.

        The conflicting demands for low emissions in urban areas and reasonably performance/efficiency mean that compromises need to be made. The amount of computing power available in engine control units means they can move from one mode to another as required - even sniffing the air to decide which mode is best at any given time.

        1. fnj

          Re: It seem to me

          @Alan Brown:

          Some of the proposed new standards are impossible for petrol engines to meet too.

          The green mania is a fetish. It's not about a reasoned tradeoff. It's gone way beyond that. You couldn't have the industrial revolution if you started now. No part of it. We would be limited to hunting and trapping and picking berries, warming ourselves over open fires, the lucky ones having caves. Disease would be so rampant that life expectancy would be about 25.

          1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Re: It seem to me

            The green mania is a fetish

            Not in this case. While painful, the standard was technically achievable using technology available at the time. Personally, I think the standards were a bit too lenient on Petrol and too stringent on Diesel, but definitely not impossible to comply with.

            All that was needed was for VW to concede that making the "VP of Engineering" subordinate to the "VP of Brand Development" has produced the expected results and they are behind both GM/Isuzu and Mercedes on engineering and innovation. However, instead of licensing either (or both) diesel emission reduction designs, they decided to cheat on the emissions test.

          2. MacroRodent Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: It seem to me

            > We would be limited to hunting and trapping and picking berries, warming ourselves over open fires, the lucky ones having caves. Disease would be so rampant that life expectancy would be about 25.

            Modern research indicates the life expectancy went down quite a bit after agriculture was introduced. Hunting and picking berries really was healthier! Among other things, agriculture meant living in close proximity to animals, which caused infectious diseases (such as smallpox) to jump to humans. Agriculture also made the diet less varied. Altogether a bad idea.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: It seem to me

              "Modern research indicates the life expectancy went down quite a bit after agriculture was introduced. Hunting and picking berries really was healthier! "

              Mmm. Yes, and no. Mostly no.

              While yes, being outside, always active etc was good for you, you got robbed constantly when gangs decided it was easier to wait until you'd done the hard work killing, an animal and dragging it back and cooking it and then just robbing you. This resulted in groups (tribes) for mutual defence, which resulted in having a 20% chance of dying a violent and brutal death, exclusive of the deaths due to illness.

              As socities got larger, the chances of dying a violent and brutal death went down. In the last hundred years, despite two World Wars, the holocaust and other genocides, the atomic & nuclear strikes on Hiroshima & Nagasaki this figure fell to 1%. Medicine also reduced the number of deaths due to illness, so if you don't die a violent death then your more likely to die of old age than disease, complications of childbirth etc.

              1. MacroRodent Silver badge

                Re: It seem to me

                > you got robbed constantly when gangs decided it was easier to wait until you'd done the hard work killing, an animal and dragging it back and cooking it and then just robbing you.

                Much the same happened in early agricultural societies. Stationary farmers made easy targets for robbers. The solution to this, organized defense, eventually caused other problems: feudal lords, serfdom.

                Of course, things have improved now, at least here in the comfy first world.

          3. Tridac

            Re: It seem to me

            Fetish ?. Far worse that that. More like a fundamentalist religion with the worshippers very sensitive about any kind of criticism or (gasp) questioning the scientific basis for it all. 1960's Club of Rome stuff all over again. You don't have to be paranoid either. Just read UN Agenda 21 to see what the real deal is all about...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It seem to me

      Consumer vehicles with diesel engines are rare in the US. The domestic car makers probably lobbied for strict tests because they don't want to build denial and don't want imported competition.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It seem to me

      It's clear that we're starting to hit a wall in terms of fuel efficiency and cleanliness from non-hybrid, fossil fuel systems. A somewhat similar problem exists for gasoline engines; a few years ago they hit an efficiency barrier with port injection, and started switching vehicles over to direct injection to keep in line with the standards. While direct injection does provide more power and efficiency through more complete combustion of the fuel, it's also leaving behind far more fuel sediment, to the point where some engines (looking at you, Mini) require expensive cleaning every few years.

      Governing bodies are aware that the standards they set are going to eventually be unattainable on fossil fuel. The point is to move away from fossil fuel, period, with the expectation that car companies should respond to efficiency barriers with alternative fuel systems, not further development on fossil fuel. But since the United States controls the world economy via the petro dollar, companies like Volkswagen would rather cheat than risk being blackballed by the oil barons.

      1. Jemma Silver badge

        Re: It seem to me

        Umm where do you think hybrid cars get their energy from, either from the ICE engine or from regen energy from the brakes, ultimately, the ICE engine...

        Then you've got plug ins hybrids or battery electrics, that charge from the grid.. You know, the lovely clean coal, gas, lignite, or pwr reactors that are great for the environment in comparison until someone closes the wrong valve and the reactor top plate is on its way to Mars before you can say Scram...

        I think it was Singapore that clobbered a Tesla owner with a massive pollution tax bill, because they concluded, correctly, that coal generated electric energy is about as clean and environmentally friendly as, well, burning coal.

        Give me Thorium-Uranium 233 based, self moderating molten salt reactors powering everything - then you can call hybrids or electrics clean.. For a given value of clean..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It seem to me

          Which is why that tesla owner shouldn't have been clobbered with a massive tax bill. The amount of pollution generated by the tesla is directly proportional to the electricity used. If the electricity is making so much pollution, electricity usage should be taxed accordingly. Everyone using the electricity is making pollution. It is not the tesla owners fault the power plants currently are coal, which could change at any time. The tesla owner could have been completely off grid, solar and wind, not using anything from the coal power plants, but still being taxed for it.

          Petrol and diesel cars on the other hand can't be taxed only on fuel consumption, as shown by the current scandals, fuel usage is not directly related to pollution.

          1. fnj

            Re: It seem to me

            It is not the tesla owners fault the power plants currently are coal

            They aren't; or more precisely, more are non-coal than coal. Worldwide, 39% of all electricity is generated by burning coal; 22% gas; 5% oil; and 35% hydro, nuclear, and "other". In Europe, coal is only 25%. In North America, 33%.

            [2014 figures] chart

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: It seem to me

              But Jemma, the point is the pollution produced where the vehicle operates. Fossil fuel power stations don't blow their concentrated emissions into the faces of children walking to school on the High Street. They don't blow their output into town centre streets with high buildings on the sides to contain the filth in a little micro-atmosphere.

              Fixed power stations can use equipment, that would be too heavy to carry on a vehicle, to clean up emissions.

              Fixed power stations are creating emissions to make electricity that is used to make car fuel, that produces emissions anyway.

              So, cars running on electric power in congested urban areas are already cleaner for their immediate environment than conventional cars regardless of where and how their power is generated.

              1. Jemma Silver badge

                Re: It seem to me

                It makes little difference, in fact powerstation pollution is worse. While you don't tend to see school kids standing under coal station stacks sucking pollution - the average car doesn't produce massive doses of it a day and doesn't conveniently squirt it into the upper regions of the atmosphere where it'll do the most damage. As it stands its a toss up between vehicular pollution or uncontrolled UV from industrial pollution clobbering the ozone layer (which it turns out isn't that clobbered), and it's all the same air, the only difference is in a town you can smell the vehicular portion.

                And let's be blunt, we're all going to die anyway, it comes with the package as standard, like rust on an Allegro.

                1. werdsmith Silver badge

                  Re: It seem to me

                  No Jemma, it's NOX that is causing the toxic atmosphere in the town centres.

            2. Jemma Silver badge

              Re: It seem to me

              And in Singapore, from the article on here, it was almost all coal.

              The point is this, in your own words, 65% is polluting generation, a fair percentage of the other 35% is fine until someone nicks a relay out of the pressure release valve control system on the reactor because he couldn't be bothered to get a replacement and figured "when is it ever going to be used)"(yes that actually happened). Now since I pay road tax, for a petrol car

              , and that's partly based on pollution and 70% of any energy a hybrid takes in is from polluting generation, not to mention pollution from making fluffy-power(TM) infrastructure how is driving a TESLA any different from driving anything else?

          2. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: It seem to me

            The tesla owner could have been completely off grid, solar and wind, not using anything from the coal power plants, but still being taxed for it.

            Don't expect any of this green shit to make any sense. I live in Tasmania where we have hydro-electrickery. Hydro Tasmania sells its energy to the mainland where the consumers get brownie points because it's "clean and green". In return, the mainland sells its electrickery that's generated with brown coal, the most polluting sort, and we in Tasmania are dirty, filthy polluters as a consequence. Needless to say, there's no need for any electron flow betwixt the two regions for this to be "true".

        2. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: It seem to me

          Give me Thorium-Uranium 233 based, self moderating molten salt reactors powering everything - then you can call hybrids or electrics clean.. For a given value of clean..

          I really don't understand why that got you downvoted. Have an upvote!

        3. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: It seem to me

          > where do you think hybrid cars get their energy from, either from the ICE engine or from regen energy from the brakes, ultimately, the ICE engine...

          In the end they reuse energy that non hybrid cars waste as heat (primarily through the brake pads) and by supplementing the performance with an electric motor they can use a smaller engine and run an Atkinson cycle and still keep up in traffic.

          Even if all their energy is ultimately derived from the ICE, efficiency is not measured by quantity used but as a quantity used per unit of work. By reclaiming a proportion of kinetic energy that is otherwise going to heat, you can achieve more work for the same input.

          Plugin hybrids can in many cases forgo the gearbox entirely using direct drive only at higher speeds.

          1. Jemma Silver badge

            Re: It seem to me

            Yes you are entirely correct but where did the now not wasted heat ultimately come from? You accelerated to 35mph with the engine, you now need to stop, the inherent energy you used from the engine is now converted to friction, heat, and or regenned into the drivetrain. It still comes ultimately from fossil fuels (just not quite so much fossil fuel).

            1. Adam 1 Silver badge

              Re: It seem to me

              All that matters from an efficiency perspective is how much fuel was used over a specified distance.

              Unless your driving pattern involves continuously driving at 35Mph without ever braking until your fuel tanks are dry, your economy will benefit from kinetic energy capture systems. Anything reclaimed is fuel that doesn't need to burn.

              I'm not going to make a case for or against a phev. It is largely dependent on a combination of your local energy mix and your driving distance requirements. But your complaints about well to wheel efficiency of them would hold a bit more water if you stop assuming that we drill for gasoline and start to understand the huge amount of energy required to refine it to something useable. It is not beyond possible that your gasoline car consumes more electricity via that one refining step than some EVs.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: It seem to me

      they could not design a diesel engine that would meet the stricter US emissions standards WITHIN RESTRICTIONS MANDATED BY MANAGEMENT

      Management mandated that they do not use Mercedes urea injection or the GM/Isuzu variable EGR. Though the variable EGR would have fallen short of the delivering the USA reqs. It delivered Eu IV and V reqs and reqs in most other parts of the world at the time. USA at the time was more like what Euro 6 is now and that needs the piss in the exhaust.

    5. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: It seem to me

      It tells *me* that anyone else selling diesels in the US should be investigated. If the test is so hard that VW thought it was worth the risk of cheating (the company may go under now) then the chances are no-one else can build one either.

  5. Stuart Halliday

    You're clean honest and true until someone finds out.

  6. Alistair Silver badge
    Coat

    VW Dieselgate engineer sings like a canary

    ........in a coal mine.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Actually the canary in the coal mine sang its heart out while all was well, and keeled over and fell of the perch when things were about to get very bad.

  7. Bruce Hoult

    They couldn't —but they did

    I don't get this "could not design a diesel engine that would meet the stricter US emissions standards" thing.

    If it meets the standard in a particular software mode then … just leave it in that software mode all the time. Job done, you've designed an engine that meets the standards, no cheating.

    So they CAN do it. Presumably that has some adverse affects, such as hurting drivability or power. But they can do it.

    1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      Re: They couldn't —but they did

      It's not particularly fuel efficient or drive-able in test mode.

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: They couldn't —but they did

      It's a balance.

      Fast.

      Clean.

      Efficient.

      Pick any two.

      They have it run fast+efficient on the road, and clean+efficient in the test room. By greatly reducing power output.

      1. matchbx

        Re: They couldn't —but they did

        I've heard the same thing with Application Development.

        Time

        Cost

        Quality

        pick any two.....

        1. gerdesj Silver badge

          Re: They couldn't —but they did

          "pick any two....."

          I think "one" is more appropriate.

          1. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: They couldn't —but they did

            "I think "one" is more appropriate."

            You always deserve one.

            If the project is really well managed you might get two.

            If you get three either you suffer from delusions or you, your supplier and your team are incredibly good at your job.

      2. Brian Miller

        Re: They couldn't —but they did

        In 1975, a 1959 Opel got 376.59MPG, with its stock 4-cyl engine. Yes, they modded the rest of it like crazy, and drove it at a steady 30MPH, but that's still a rather significant achievement.

        So: Clean. Efficient. And, um, that's pretty much it.

        Yeah. 1975, 376+ MPG.

        1. Chris 244
          Pint

          Re: 376 MPG

          The "car" was a stripped shell without even a proper seat. No transmission (straight chain drive off the engine to the rear axle), no radiator, 500 ml fuel capacity, hard rubber tires and no suspension. This thing was never driven far enough or hard enough to need a cooling system!

          In real-world conditions I can go faster further and more comfortably more safely using my bicycle, and instead of requiring nasty petrol I can do it powered only by 500 ml of 5% ABV 100% eco-friendly barley-based fuel.

          1. Steve Todd

            Re: 376 MPG

            The current world record is actually 12,600MPG (US), but that's at a steady 30km/h and the vehicle is highly impractical for daily use.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pac-car_II

        2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: They couldn't —but they did

          "Yes, they modded the rest of it like crazy, and drove it at a steady 30MPH, but that's still a rather significant achievement."

          Generators run at a single speed (1500/3000 or 1800/3600 rpm) and achieve very good efficiency. So long as you don't mind travelling at a constant 30mph avoiding all hills, brakes with a long throw before biting to make sure there's no drag, hard tyres with almost no grip, tape over every possible joint, no wipers, and probably a direct transmission with no gearbox, I am sure you would do better with a modern car.

          It's just a measure of how real world conditions and the need for driveability and safety oppose improved fuel consumption.

      3. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: They couldn't —but they did

        "It's a balance.

        Fast.

        Clean.

        Efficient.

        Pick any two.

        They have it run fast+efficient on the road, and clean+efficient in the test room. By greatly reducing power output."

        But now the standards are trending towards "All or Nothing, toot sweet" because of all the competing and justified demands. Clean because of pollution (eg. asthma) concerns, efficient because the cost of fossil fuels is trending up again (plus the matter of being reliant on unreliable foreign powers), fast because it won't sell otherwise plus you can also say this goes to range--they want enough of a tank so it can go a couple hundred miles at a fill.

      4. dajames Silver badge

        Re: They couldn't —but they did

        It's a balance.

        Fast.

        Clean.

        Efficient.

        Pick any two.

        It's more complicated than that. "Clean" can be measured in terms of CO2 emissions, NOX emissions, and Particulate emissions (soot). The VW engines in question are designed to give very low CO2 and carbon particulate emissions, and they achieve this by burning a leaner mixture of fuel and air, which leads to more complete combustion of the fuel but makes the engine operate at a higher temperature than most other diesel engines. At these temperatures some Nitrogen from the air reacts with Oxygen (which is present in excess because of the lean burning) and forms the mixture of Nitrogen Oxides commonly known as NOX.

        In other words, it is because VWs engines are so very clean with respect to CO2 and soot that they produce NOX. I suspect that this comes from an engine design decision at a time -- and in a jurisdiction -- in which NOX pollution was considered relatively more acceptable than CO2.

        So it's not just a question of balancing fast+efficient against clean+efficient, you also have to balance different kinds of clean.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: They couldn't —but they did

          dajames

          Very well put.

  8. P0l0nium

    I wouldn't be surprised ...

    ... if somewhere there's an exchange of emails with a "regulator" that says:

    - "Is it OK if we pass your stupid test like this ??"

    - "Yeah, sure !! - Where's that lunch that you promised us ??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wouldn't be surprised ...

      > - "Is it OK if we pass your stupid test like this ??"

      I was going to comment but... glass houses, etc.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "So they CAN do it. Presumably that has some adverse affects, such as hurting drivability or power. But they can do it."

    Elsewhere he (Liang) says some customers complained about performance/mileage and it turned out their cars were running in "test" mode.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Yes they can do it but.

      But now unclean due to CO2 as it is thirstier

  10. Blatant Coward Bronze badge

    That's right, throw the book at him.

    But then if he knew this for to long why didn't he do something about it earlier?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      He was trying to get away with it. But now that that's not an option, he opted to spill first.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      The whole thing is a bit smelly. Pick on one bloke, dump the whole thing on him, make criminal charges that, for him, are tenuous at best and then offer a plea bargain.

      They should be prosecuting the VW board. That's what Directors are for. But the board will have good lawyers and political connections.

      It's a stitch up, and any fair court should refuse to accept.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "make criminal charges that, for him, are tenuous at best"

        Yeah. I mean, "wire fraud"? WTF? That seems to be the primary "catch-all" in the US justice system these days. Throw every possible charge you can think of to scare the shit out of the suspect (not "perp", since he's not got to trial yet, innocent unless proven guilty and so on, it still exists, just) in hope they will confess and plea bargain.

  11. Woger the 2nd

    Disgusted

    I am absolutely disgusted by the behavior of VW. I lived in rural New Hampshire for 10 years where the air was beautifully clean. I've now moved back to the UK and I can smell every diesel that passes. The taxi rank outside my local station is just foul. London is vile. These people are poisoning us with toxic air and shortening our lives by bypassing the law for a quick profit. I'm sure it was not just the engineers, it was the management that signed off on it all the way to the top. I hope they all get jail time, in the United States, and if an engineer at the bottom of the heap can squeal to lock up the upper management who engendered the mindset of the company, then they should get a medal.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Disgusted

      "The taxi rank outside my local station is just foul. London is vile."

      The engines in London taxis are very old tech and they're amongst the worst offenders for emissions along with most of the London bus fleet - and that's AFTER the very worst ones were banned from the streets.

      London is a particular problem because of the population, but inversion layers and smog happen in a lot of places. The problem is that writing your clean air laws for those places means that 99% of other locations pay an efficiency penalty when they really don't need to or don't need things to be set so stringently.

      What's needed is engines which can dynamically change their tuning and emissions profiles based on atmospheric pollution levels (possibly coupled to geolocation) and a blanket ban on non-variable engines in the worst-affected areas.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @Alan Brown -- Re: Disgusted

        The problem is that writing your clean air laws for those places means that 99% of other locations pay an efficiency penalty when they really don't need to or don't need things to be set so stringently.

        Here in the States, California wrote it's auto emissions rules because of L.A. The Feds took a look at California's laws and mimicked them. And so it goes.....

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: @Alan Brown -- Disgusted

          "Here in the States, California wrote it's auto emissions rules because of L.A. The Feds took a look at California's laws and mimicked them. And so it goes....."

          I think it was more the case that California Emissions were tight out of necessity (due to the L.A. problem) and carried a lot of the auto sales in the country (California's big AND the most populous state in the union) The Feds found it easier to just fold California's rules into their own and give the auto makers a bit of a break by having them adhere to just one tight standard rather than a bunch of different ones. It also headed off some independent streaks from New York (the state is #2 population-wise; the city is itself a pollution hotbed due to its relative density and because of its status has its own independent streak).

    2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: Disgusted

      Oh, dear, Woger, you're speaking from massive ignorance. The UK (and European) standards are _different_ from the US ones, more rigid in some respects and more lenient in others. So nothing that happened with regards to the US VW 'incident' has any bearing on your little taxi rank data point. That said, as always the current status quo is a function of past history, so that when the UK decided to promote fuel economy and low CO2 emissions that resulted in many more diesel vehicles. The US doesn't care about fuel economy and huge parts of the country doesn't believe in CO2 so they have many more ridiculously inefficient petrol engines. Additionally, while EU considers "ultra-low sulphur" diesel to be 10ppm, but in the US it's 15ppm for new engines. And so on.

      Meanwhile, the biggest impact on your life caused by motor vehicles is the chance of being involved in a road traffic accident, which are at least twice as frequent in the US as in the UK, in large part due to the increased number of vehicles in use (i.e. the paucity of public transit).

      1. 404 Silver badge

        Re: Disgusted

        'The US doesn't care about fuel economy and huge parts of the country doesn't believe in CO2 so they have many more ridiculously inefficient petrol engines'.

        Actually, it was acid rain from particulates in the 70's that drove the US/Congress to gas (or petrol) engines over diesel engines.

        1. fnj

          Re: Disgusted

          Actually, it was acid rain from particulates in the 70's that drove the US/Congress to gas (or petrol) engines over diesel engines.

          No it wasn't. First, Congress had nothing to do with air quality regulation, beyond setting up the EPA, an independent authority. Second, US automobiles were 100% gasoline powered from way before the EPA. Third, acid rain is exacerbated by all combustion which liberates SO2 and NOX - not specifically or especially diesel engines. It is true that diesel fuel in the US (which was and continues to be used by locomotives, trucks, off-road vehicles, and a few imported cars sch as Mercedes and later VW) had a shockingly high sulfur content, but that wasn't rectified until 2006, when it was lowered to significantly below the level mandated for gasoline.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Disgusted

            It's very obvious if I go out for an early morning run (4:30ish) before things have got moving. Overnight the quiet roads have become cleaner as the breeze has wafted away the miasma, and I can tell a diesel or petrol car passing by the stink of the diesel. Later when the roads are busy it all merges into one stench and I stop noticing it.

            Modern petrol cars don't normally stink much, but if a classic petrol car passes then there is a mighty stench of emissions that takes me back to my childhood days when there were manual chokes, no catalytic converters and carburettors were usually badly set up.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Disgusted

              > It's very obvious if I go out for an early morning run (4:30ish)

              That's not early morning, that's mid-evening.

        2. itzman

          Re: Disgusted

          Actually particulates don't cause acid rain.

          NOx and SOx might though

        3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Disgusted

          "Actually, it was acid rain from particulates"

          Caused by the burning of brown coal or residual oil in power stations. There were not enough Diesel vehicles on the road in the US in the 70s to cause significant acid rain. I worked in Diesel R&D in the 1980s with companies like Caterpillar as customers, they were well aware that even trucking companies were resistant to Diesel due to the first cost and the very low price of gasoline.

          A lot of the US actions were protectionist, e.g. the California ban on small two stroke motorcycles (imported) despite the tiny contribution they made to pollution.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Disgusted

            " e.g. the California ban on small two stroke motorcycles"

            I wish there would be a worldwide ban on those. If you've ever stayed at a hotel in Rome and spent the night being woken up by the scream of the engines from those little ********, it's enough to cause anyone to spend the next day accidentally driving into other cars.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Too many asterisks

              > spent the night being woken up by the scream of the engines from those little ********

              There are only four letters in Fiat.

          2. The Travelling Dangleberries

            Re: Disgusted

            "A lot of the US actions were protectionist, e.g. the California ban on small two stroke motorcycles (imported) despite the tiny contribution they made to pollution."

            Rather like my Trabant.

            In my little rural valley we get temperature inversion layers in winter. The bottom of the valley fills up with wood smoke from the wood burning stoves despite many houses having heat pumps and electric heaters (using electricity from hydro electric power). The air quality is dire on occasion. The main road up the valley is full of heavy lorries in addition to other traffic and, at the weekends, people driving up from nearby cities to their huts in the hills. In the summer you can hear the sound of diesel engined tractors, diggers and dumpers and two stroke petrol chainsaws and bushwackers from early in the morning to late at night. Then there are other pollutants such as the smell of drying paint in the house painting season and barbeque smoke in the summer.

            In comparison to that cocktail of emmisions, the Trabant 2-stroke engine (low NOx of course) which only smokes when cold is a mere spit in the ocean.

            Although, having said that, my near neigbours who only see it in blue smoke mode, after starting from cold, might not agree.

        4. IT Poser

          Re: Disgusted

          "Actually, it was acid rain from particulates in the 70's that drove the US/Congress to gas (or petrol) engines over diesel engines."

          I am not old enough to remember the 70's so it is possible I don't have all the information. I do, however, remember acid rain in the 80's. The blame was placed on industrial sulfur emissions. By the time I made it to the finger lakes area factories and power plants were required to have scrubbers but we didn't have 'clean' diesel. Just based off of what I have seen I am skeptical of this claim. I am happy to be proven wrong though.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: Disgusted

            I am not old enough to remember the 70's so it is possible I don't have all the information. I do, however, remember acid rain in the 80's. The blame was placed on industrial sulfur emissions.

            It was indeed. What is often omitted is that the acidic sulphur emissions were neutralised by soot emissions until the clean air acts required electrostatic precipitators be fitted to power station smoke stacks. I note also that neither SO2, nor SO3 are particulates; both are gasses.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disgusted

      Once upon a time, I spent several hours in the middle of the day having my car 'smog tested'. It passed with flying colours. On the way back to the office, I was waiting a red light, when a city bus went flying across the intersection trailing a huge column of thick sooty smoke.

      Car: parts per million

      Bus: thousands of cubic meters of soot

      Public Transit isn't always 'Green'. Sometimes it's endless orders of magnitude worse, by any standard.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disgusted

      > I've now moved back to the UK

      Tunbridge Wells?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Disgusted

      If you haven't realized yet, every car manufacturer is doing the same thing.

      Legislators think they can tighten the emission limits forever and eternally without any knowledge at all that how those limits will be achieved.

      A hint: They won't, in real life.

      By now everyone is cheating, one way or another.

      One reason why the hybrids are latest fashion.

    6. nijam

      Re: Disgusted

      > These people are poisoning us with toxic air

      I note that none of "these people" are driving Volkswagens, which I think would be a very great deal cleaner than the taxis you mention.

    7. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Disgusted

      "I've now moved back to the UK and I can smell every diesel that passes."

      That suggests your air quality is pretty good. Like the eye, the nose "forgets" stuff that is part of the background, and notices changes. So your normal air must be quite fume free.

      A former colleague who was in the Commandos in WW2 used to tell of how they were set on a living off the land exercise for a week on Dartmoor. On returning to civilisation they reached a road with the wind blowing towards them and smelled a disgusting stink. It turned out to be from a car half a mile away.

  12. Dieter Haussmann

    Snitches get stitches.

    I don't see it as that wrong, it's a bit like going to WeightWatchers on Thursdays, so on Thursdays we wear light clothes, eat nothing and perform a maximum defecation.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      No, it's like Weightwatchers using special scales that make the punters think they've lost weight every week.

  13. SharkNose

    Colour me surprised

    This surprises me not a bit.

    Several years ago I owned a Toyota, specifically an Auris D4D SR180 model. It had a 2.2L Turbo Diesel engine, using what Toyota claimed was "Clean Air Technology", and supposedly had the lowest NOX emissions of any available diesel. I think this was all true, as the fuel economy sucked massively.

    It had about 170-180BHP, comparable to the more sporty VW Golf TDi models of the day. But the MPG of the Toyota was *way* below what the Golf produced. With reasonably restrained driving, I used to see 28-35Mpg from the Toyota. The comparable Golf I owned gave at least 10Mpg more. On the forums at the time there was a well liked tweak to improve MPG, which involved removing the EGR valve. Of course, the purpose of the EGR valve was to recirculate exhaust gases back into the engine, which removed excess oxygen leading to much lower NOX.

    In other words...it seems to have long been the case that to make diesels "clean" in terms of NOX emissions, you can choose MPG or power, but not both. I think Toyota got so fed up at people moaning about poor MPG from their genuinely clean diesels that they gave up and have gone with hybrid technology instead.

    1. Ralph Online

      Re: Colour me surprised

      I too had a 2008 Toyota with a D4D with the DPF fitted (a T-180 Avensis). And yes, MPG would peak at 38MPG, usually averaging about 33MPG. Much worse than the older Avensis with same engine, but without the DPF. Unimpressed.

      In hindsight I think the problem was a gradual build up of soot in the EGR valve/Exhaust manifold - strip it and clean this and people claim that MPG > 40MPG can be achieved. Should have been a service item?

      So were Toyota being incompetent, and/or unethical towards their customers?

      VW engineers clearly were competent but highly unethical with their cheat devices.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Colour me surprised

        In hindsight I think the problem was a gradual build up of soot in the EGR valve/Exhaust manifold - strip it and clean this and people claim that MPG > 40MPG can be achieved.

        One of these in the tank after each service keeps it there. I tried the Wynn's equivalent, it is nowhere near as effective.

        So were Toyota being incompetent, and/or unethical towards their customers?

        Neither, they were just licensing that one from Isuzu. They now switched to a partnership with BMW for diesel engines.

        By the way, the EGR valve in all engines which use the GM/Isuzu variable EGR tech is computer controlled. You do not need to remove it. You can simply program it not to open most of the time using a suitable ECU map. As they say: "Your mileage may vary". Also, if you do it knowingly, you are technically not road legal. You can of course pretend you do not know it. I did for two years (the previous owner had that map loaded in the ECU). As a result I had consistent 38.5 MPG or thereabouts on a 2007 diesel truck in normal UK driving conditions. It is now down to 34-35MPG as the ECU lost its custom map when the old battery died. While I know I can push it back up to 38.5 and significantly higher power, I prefer not to. The newer 2012+ model no longer has variable EGR and uses urea injection so it runs all the time in high power mode (just injects urea) and at 37MPG+.

    2. Jason 24

      Re: Colour me surprised

      I've an Alfa 159 2.4 Turbo Diesel engine, with a DPF and EGR. It's 200BHP and returns around 38MPG up and down the A65 every day, so I think your Auris is probably on point, the golfs are clearly doing something they shouldn't to get those results.

      Again similar reports on the forums that removing the EGR and DPF can give you much more power and MPG, presumably at the cost of more NOX emissions.

      I think the DPF removal is more to do with back pressure, it's basically a huge blockage that has to be overcome to get the exhaust fumes out the back. A lot of people have everything removed, I bought mine second hand with both DPF and EGR removed, but had them both put back on by the garage as DPF is now an MOT requirement and they are cracking down on it.

  14. casperghst42

    One of the reasons why Ford introduced the SUV was that it's a mini-van/truck not a car, and therefor is not tested to the CARB standard ....

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "it's a mini-van/truck not a car, and therefor is not tested to the CARB standard ...."

      And it's the popularity of SUVs which has resulted in CARB rules being extended to minivans and light trucks along with their derivatives (The Ford Explorer is built on a Ford Ranger chassis, as a f'instance)

      Odd factoid: The PT cruiser is officially a light truck, not a car.

      For places like London, and Los Angeles, HGV emissions are a substantial contributor to the issue and these need to be regulated too.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, what happened to the conspiracy theories that "they" have engines that can run a gazillion kilometer on half a liter of dino diesel with added water but won't produce them because this would for some reason "hurt profits". Yeah, sounds likely ...

  16. dan1980

    This article shows exactly why the claim of 'a few bad software engineers' is - and always was - utterly ridiculous.

    Because even if it really was just a tiny group - say 5 or 10 - software engineers who conceived of and implemented this, the fact is that they only would have done so after realising that the engine couldn't meet the specs otherwise. And, that being the case, how is it possible that no one else in the design and engineering team realised this too?

    And, given that this information must have been widely known, how likely is it, really, that people in high management didn't know too?

    I am fully prepared to believe that a small team to engineers designed and implemented this but they did so with the knowledge of large portions of the engineering and design teams and with the approval or at least some of the upper-level management.

    1. itzman
      Holmes

      This is the converstaion:

      Engineering team leader: "This engine will never pass emissions without either detuning or massive urea injection."

      Management: "You are not paid to come up with insoluble problems: You are paid to come up with solutions. Fix it."

      End of management's involvement in the 'solution'

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other NEWS

    Executive bonuses to rise and a new Jacuzzi is being installed in the exec washroom!

  18. Nifty

    If the car can perform magic it ought to pass the test

    So all you have to do is measure the fuel consumption and particulate buildup in the filter during the test. If either/both leaps upwards as soon as any cheatware engages it'll be the telltale. No need to devise 'uncheatable' tests!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If the car can perform magic it ought to pass the test

      "No need to devise 'uncheatable' tests!"

      Measure the power and fuel consumption too, while running an emission test.

      Easiest cheating method is to drop the power to the minimum and everybody can use that: Less power, less emissions.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hypocrites in DoJ

    "... order to cheat the emissions tests," the US Department of Justice (DoJ) "

    This guy is a jesuit: The legislation is requiring passing of emission tests.

    Nothing more, nothing less.

    The method used for passing is irrelevant from legislation point of view and this guy knows it. US cars use air pumps to dilute emissions to pass emission tests and that's totally OK for DoJ, no problem at all. Only foreigners are a problem.

    But of course whole requirement exists solely for protection purposes, keep the diesels out and from that point of view it's obvious that any excuse will be used.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Hypocrites in DoJ

      Forget the technical part of the test. Hand in hand with it is a certification, from the OEM, that the car does not run a different engine emissions programme when on test from what it uses on the road.

      All cars need to know if they're being tested, as the bonnet is normally open, the rear wheels are stationary, the air pressures are all wrong (the car's not moving), etc. These would normally cause the car to throw all sorts of errors, and de-rate the engine to limp-home mode. So, you have a test mode, where it allows the engine to run "normally."

      Certifying that the engine is behaving normally during the test is an integral part of the test - if you have to lie about that, you're not passing the test. You're failing the test. It just takes longer to find out.

    2. AndrewDu

      Re: Hypocrites in DoJ

      "Only foreigners are a problem."

      Ain't that the truth.

      See also under BP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hypocrites in DoJ

        It was BP America that was fined not the BP.

  20. CJatCTi

    Should fail MOT but cheat in place there too

    My Audi A1 with the low emission engine, had it's first MOT a month or so ago, as part of the test the engine is meant to run flat out & the exhaust levels checked. But it can't, when stationary the revs are limited to 1500, low speed, low emissions, MOT has to let it through.

  21. AndrewDu

    I wonder what would have happened if this were an American company?

    My guess - nothing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Recall the issue of keys spontaneously accidentally knocked out of the ignition of GM cars while they were running? Buick and the like are all American makes. Toyota (subject to a number of recalls lately) has several American manufacturing plants.

      When it comes to car safety, America isn't really favoritist. The government bureaus really don't want the flak if they were caught doing so.

  22. jms222

    Just get the F***ing things off the road and allow normal consumer law processes to roll.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      So what you tell the owner of one of the affected cars who nonetheless NEEDS it in his/her daily life?

  23. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    green energy

    look at the bigger picture.

    Electric cars (god dont get me started, people seem to think electricity grows wild and is rounded up by sheepdogs or something..) burn coal. or gas or whatever.

    Sooner or later - and this is the "big picture" bit all the fuel that was stored up (the ancient sunlight) will be used . Not tomorrow - this is decades after the coal mines have been reopened and H&S laws repealed in desparation for energy.

    We will eventualyl HAVE to move on to green energy, and it will be a very painful comedown before we get there. The only reason we have the fuel for this massive blowout we've been enjoying 'recently' is that no one noticed it building up in the bank for the last 100 million years - now its gone in 200 years, like some idiot lottery winner.

    So dont worry about global warming - it'll sort itself out

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: green energy

      "We will eventualyl HAVE to move on to green energy, and it will be a very painful comedown before we get there. The only reason we have the fuel for this massive blowout we've been enjoying 'recently' is that no one noticed it building up in the bank for the last 100 million years - now its gone in 200 years, like some idiot lottery winner."

      What about atomic energy then?

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: green energy

        We will eventualyl HAVE to move on to green energy, and it will be a very painful comedown before we get there.

        After 130 years of "peak oil" I suspect that the "painful comedown" will not occur in the lifetime of anyone now living. Don't today's kids ever hear the story of The Little Boy Who Cried "Wolf!"?

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: green energy

          " will not occur in the lifetime of anyone now living"

          I said big picture!

          Our descendants will be digging up examples SUVs and saying "unbeliveably in ancient history they would take this 2 ton steel box, and move it 1/4 mile and back , burning 130k watts of energy to get a pint of milk!

          Anyway there hasnt been 130 years of peak oil - its barely 130 years since oil was discovered.

          the term peak oil was first muted in the 70's by that Hubbert guy, who was later proved right. Its only new extraction methods , and shale and fracking that are are softening the blow .

          "Peak discovery" occured in the 60s the amount of new oil discovered per annum has been decreasing rapidly since the mid 60s

          Shale and fracking have extremy low EROEI ratios - you have to invest a large amount of energy to recover slightly more 1.2:1 ratio . Not like the glory days when it was more like 24:1

          We might have slowed our demise long enough to outlive it ourselves , but our descendants are going to know the value of energy . not just spunk it all over the place like we currently do.

          -------

          Atomic? yes our best bet to stretch the party out a bit longer . few people realise this , although i suspect theyll stop bleating about safety when theyre freezing their nuts off in the cold and dark with no food.

          Right I'm going to crawl back under my conspiracy nut website....

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: green energy

            its barely 130 years since oil was discovered.

            Herodotus lived in the fifth century BC (c. 484–c. 425 BC) and Diodorus Siculus wrote Bibliotheca historica 60 and 30 BC. Both mentioned oil and its uses, so I call bullshit. You are indeed a conspiracy nut.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: green energy

              yeah yeah I knew that . I not talking about some ancient Greek navel gazer making a candle out of his own earwax . um . "in earnest" was the gist of my thrust

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: green energy

                I not talking about some ancient Greek navel gazer making a candle out of his own earwax

                I've never heard the city of Babylon (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world) described in that way before. You really are a bullshitter aren't you?

                Petroleum has been used for less than 50 years, and it is estimated that the supply will last about 25 or 30 years longer. If production is curtailed and waste stopped it may last till the end of the century. The most important effects of its disappearance will be in the lack of illuminants. Animal and vegetable oils will not begin to supply its place. This being the case, the reckless exploitation of oil fields and the consumption of oil for fuel should be checked.

                In the Titusville Herald (Titusville, PA) July 19, 1909 rather than "in earnest".

            2. herman Silver badge

              Re: green energy

              Not to mention the second extant book ever - The Odyssy of Homer, written circa 850 BC, which mentions the black ships of Odyseus and Achilus and Greek fire - waterproofed with and fueled by - rock oil.

            3. Stuart Halliday

              Re: green energy

              Heck the Scottish were using Oil back in the 19th Century!

  24. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Who could have predicted this?

    Oh, hang on ....

  25. gebjon

    This was safety critical software...

    I'm astonished that no-one has pointed out that the "few bad apples" theory is not at all credible. The software involved is safety critical i.e. people could be killed or injured if it is wrong (as demonstrated recently by Tesla). Processes and standards for developing safety critical software are (or should be) extremely rigorous to ensure the software does what it is supposed to and is not dangerous. There should be multiple levels of review and approval, during all of which the "defeat device" would be seen - in fact, there would have to be a requirements spec describing it. VW would have us believe that some rogue engineers hacked the code about on their own initiative? That is equivalent to claiming they have no standards or process for safety-critical software, which would actually be worse than defeating the emissions tests.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This was safety critical software...

      OR they were the smartest apples in the bunch and were able to devise it such that they could fool everyone else.

  26. ElaisaBukaKasan

    The fact that we burn petroleum for energy is an enormous scam!

    We have not needed petroleum for energy for more than 70 years.

    Please learn more and demand accountability for this crime against humanity.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      The fact that we burn petroleum for energy is an enormous scam!

      We have not needed petroleum for energy for more than 70 years.

      Please learn more and demand accountability for this crime against humanity.

      Let's see, a fit adult human generates about 1 kw/h per day and a litre of petrol should generate something of the order of 4 kw/hrs of useful energy. I have a breast plough here for skimming the turf off 4 acres of land we could sow down to wheat. You should be able to complete the task in a little over 3 working weeks. The cost in petrol for that work would be somewhat less than $AU5, but I'm happy to pay you ten times that in return for the entertainment value of watching you prove that burning petroleum for energy is a scam.

      1. IT Poser

        "I'm happy to pay you ten times that in return for the entertainment value of watching you prove that burning petroleum for energy is a scam."

        I got a good chuckle until the thought occurred to me that there are millions(if not billions) that would gladly take that $AU50 for a just three weeks worth of work.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          I got a good chuckle until the thought occurred to me that there are millions(if not billions) that would gladly take that $AU50 for a just three weeks worth of work.

          I was fully conscious of that when I wrote those words. It is very sad that there are problems in the world that could be solved, but the green blob would rather make sure the money is spent tilting at windmills (so to speak).

          When Indur Goklany was on the IPCC for AR4, he pointed out that the document quoted the number of people who would be disadvantaged by global warming, but not the number of beneficiaries. Twice as many would be better off. This latter number remained omitted from the document. It's likely not a surprise that we in the first world were the ones to become worse off. Those who would benefit were all in the third world.

  27. rtb61

    They Lied Again

    So the Volkswagen engineers could actually achieve those targets, just a matter of tuning but they could not get the performance targets when they adhered to the emission requirements.

    So every Volkswagen can be tuned to achieve the emissions goals just at lower performance, likely more fuel efficient, settings.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: They Lied Again

      No, in Europe the big bad is CO2 so anything to drop CO2 is good, this is opposite to NOX.

      To lower NOX they will be slower and thirstier unless urine exhausts are used.

      It is a case of different goals. Change to US from EU and they would be a lot worse to drive.

  28. Pedohammad

    VW found their scapegoat.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whisstleblowing

    There are whitle-blowers and NOx-blowers.

  30. Adrian Tawse

    I don't believe it

    Sorry, I do not believe for one thousandth of a second that the design team decided entirely on their own to implement this cheat. Are they claiming that at no time did any chief executive get asked "Sorry, the current engine cannot be made to comply, it needs a complete re-design. However, we may have a sneaky work-around. What do you want us to do?" and that he did not reply "Just do it, but don't tell me how."

  31. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Happy

    Wasn't Michael Winterkorn an engineer?

    Before he was VW CEO?

  32. Potemkine Silver badge

    While VW executives have claimed that the use of a defeat device to artificially limit emissions during tests was the work of a "couple of software engineers,"

    a former VW executive... maybe there might be some Justice on Earth after all.

  33. Adrian Tawse

    Senior Management must have known

    So, the entire design team was in on it. Is someone trying to say that no one higher up had the fainest idea? I do not believe it. For this to be true VW must be a terminally dysfunctional organization. This is taking conspiracy theory to Trump levels.

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