Volkswagen cheated on Audi, Porsche diesels, too — EPA

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The scandal over Volkswagen Group’s use of software to circumvent federal air pollution standards in some of its diesel cars broadened today to include some Porsche and Audi models, U.S. EPA said.

Continued testing after the first deceptions were announced in September revealed that an additional 10,000 Audi, Porsche and VW diesel-fueled vehicles have been sold that also contain “defeat devices” designed to evade air pollution tests, officials said. An unknown number of new cars that are currently for sale also violate the Clean Air Act, they said.

“Volkswagen has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance.

EPA’s initial notice of violation Sept. 18 accused Volkswagen of installing software in about half a million cars designed to pass federal emissions tests but release higher-than-acceptable levels in everyday driving situations. The software was installed in 482,000 diesel cars sold since 2008 in the United States, though VW has said about 11 million cars with diesel engines globally were equipped with the algorithms.

The software allowed VW cars to activate emission controls during testing but during normal use to release up to 40 times the permitted amount of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, which generate nitrogen dioxide — low-hanging ozone that blankets cities — and particulate matter, which causes breathing issues and is linked to millions of early deaths (ClimateWire, Sept. 21).

The new notice of violation identifies the diesel versions of the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg; 2015 Porsche Cayenne; and 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8 L and Q5. The cars all have six-cylinder engines, while the models identified in the September notice — the VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat, and Audi A3 — have four-cylinder engines.

The new violations were found by using “unpredictable” testing procedures, officials said. The cars were programmed to emit low amounts of NOx during testing, then revert to “normal” operations one second after the 23-minute testing procedure normally ends. The adjusted settings involve changes to injection timing, exhaust gas recirculation and fuel injection pressure.

“In sum, as soon as the vehicle senses that it is not being tested, it uses ‘normal mode,'” the notice says. “In ‘normal mode,’ tailpipe emissions of NOx are up to 9 times the applicable NOx standard levels,” depending on model type and driving conditions.

EPA still has not issued any recalls or fines, and said all the cars are still legal to drive and resell. Officials declined to comment on their discussions with Volkswagen and said testing is ongoing.

“We’re already making changes and upping our game, as we say, on our testing program,” said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “We will continue to be unpredictable, using all the tools at our disposal.”