Volkswagen took the easy way out when the walls started closing in. In 2010 the company started selling their amazing “clean diesel cars.” They were mileage efficient and eco-friendly, and it seemed too good to be true – perhaps because it was.
While other major automakers employed hybrid electric engines, or efficient pollution controlled gas engines, VW bet on diesel fuel because of how efficient it can be when burned at a high temperature. The problem is, when fuel is burned at a high temperature, it emits more ozone destroying pollutants. VW thought that they could start selling diesels and by the time the NOx regulations got tougher, they would have found a solution. But when that time came, they did not, so they cheated.
VW installed software in 11 million cars that activates the emissions control only when undergoing an emissions test. This allowed the cars achieve more miles per gallon on the road because there was nothing keeping them from spewing as much NOx emissions as possible. VW advertised a “perfect” car that reduces NOx emissions, and greenhouse gases, which helps save money at the pump. In reality the cars are only clean when being tested, and only efficient when on the road. Of course, the scheme couldn’t last forever.
In 2013, the International Council on Clean Transportation decided to test some American diesel cars on road, to encourage European makers to lower emissions levels which had never been done before. The VWs consistently emitted high levels of NOx in all terrains, because, we now know, the pollution control was not on.
When the Council and the EPA confronted VW, they shot back by challenging their knowledge of cars, poking holes in the test methods, and coming up with vague answers.
To confirm the suspicion, the Council tricked the car into thinking it was on the road when it was actually on a dynamometer, or car treadmill, and, sure enough, the car spewed out 40 times the amount of emissions allowed in the U.S.
Obviously their cars are killing the environment, but the risk they took is also impacting one in every 7 workers in Germany. Their nearsighted, careless behavior is backfiring.
The only other explanation for their crime is that they were focusing more on reducing greenhouse gases by getting more mileage out of each gallon. One might say that the NOx regulations were too tight anyway, but when Steven Meyers, GE lawyer and air pollution specialist, was asked if the NOx restrictions were truly too harsh he responded with an answer that confirmed the absurdity of the notion that because a law is strict, means you can ignore it secretly. “That’s an irrelevant question,” he explained. “Compliance is job number one. Beyond that, we can be as creative as possible.”
At the 2014 Super bowl, VW broadcast an ad in which their engineers sprouted angel wings, however the VW engineers have been anything but pure, and apparently, neither is their diesel.
—Nick Meyers, Staff Writer