EPA/CARB accuses VW, Audi, cheated on emissions regulations

Before the VW Group follows through on their promise of electric car leadership by 2018, VW has to face an EPA and California investigation over evasion of emissions laws.  Within minutes of publishing my previous piece saying the VW Group may be in the opening stanza’s of an electric vehicle symphony, news broke that the EPA and California regulators accused the VW Group of cheating on emissions testing.

Today, the EPA issued a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.  covering four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015.  California separately issued an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen.  Both have initiated investigations based on the allegations.

According to EPA and California regulators, the VW Group installed  “a sophisticated software algorithm” in certain vehicles that “detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing”.  The algorithm then turns on full emissions control equipment during emissions testing, leaving it off for normal use.

Hence, this limited effectiveness of emissions control equipment in affected cars.  The car meets emissions requirements in the laboratory, but not on the road.

The so-called “defeat device” was discovered by independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, and the International Council on Clean Transportation.  They raised questions about emissions levels causing regulators to investigate further.

When EPA and CARB demanded an explanation, the VW Group admitted to having installed the defeat device.

“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters.”

“Working with US EPA we are taking this important step to protect public health thanks to the dogged investigations by our laboratory scientists and staff,” said Air Resources Board Executive Officer Richard Corey. “Our goal now is to ensure that the affected cars are brought into compliance, to dig more deeply into the extent and implications of Volkswagen’s efforts to cheat on clean air rules, and to take appropriate further action.”

The VW Group is responsible for fixing the affected cars, and has issued a recall affecting about 500,000 vehicles.  Additionally they may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief for the violations alleged in the NOV.

Affected diesel models include:

  • Jetta (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Beetle (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Audi A3 (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Golf (Model Years 2009 – 2015)
  • Passat (Model Years 2014-2015)

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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