Words of Advice:

"Never Feel Sorry For Anyone Who Owns an Airplane."-- Tina Marie

If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It.
" -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot,
by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse.
" -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Friday, September 18, 2015

German Engineering At Its Finest

VW and Audi had software on their diesels that could detect when the cars were being emissions tested. (If I had to guess, it could have been as simple as determining when the drive wheels were spinning and the other wheels weren't.) The software would then turn on the full emissions-control system. But when the cars were being driven normally, the software would then shut off the emissions-control system.

VW has admitted to it, because they were caught red-handed.

All of those cars, almost half-a-million, will be recalled. And VW/Audi faces fines of up to $37,500 per car, which is around $18 billion.

There was nothing "inadvertent" or "a minor oversight" about this. Sock it to them, guys.


Will said...

You should realize that CA politicians and bureaucrats hate diesels even more than they do gasoline engines. They get especially stupid about smog regulation of both of them. When you get those types deciding what can come out of the tailpipe, without any idea of science, this is the response to expect from the public and the manufacturers.

For some years now, they have been demanding less and less, chasing the last bits, with higher and higher costs for everyone, with the stated goal of eliminating all gas and diesel motors from the state. I expect that this discovery will be the death knell for diesels in CA. Those ignorant assholes will be happy to bankrupt VW, in their quest for their vision of utopia.

BTW, they cheat the public when it comes to smog regulations. Not common knowledge that they change the target specs that their state smog computer system sends to the smog station equipment. A friend who is a smog tech discovered this when testing a Ford Ranger with oem carburetor, a few years ago. Those '83-86 carb equipped trucks now have to meet specs they weren't designed for. There was a stack of old test forms in the glovebox, and he compared them to the current test, which showed the state was screwing people. You were forced to scrap it or sell it out of state, because it will not pass.

The other cute trick is that only catalytic converters that are CA approved are allowed to be sold or installed in the state. Only two manufacturers have bothered to sell them here. It doubles the price, but the real killer is that they don't really match the oem requirements. The only one that is certified for my car seems to be sized for the smallest engine, a 1.8L, and I have the 2.0L turbo. Passes the smog test, but chokes the engine, and kills the gas mileage. I'm fairly sure that they won't last as long as an oem one would, but there is no recourse, since it was mandated by the state.

Comrade Misfit said...

Assuming that everything you wrote is true, Will, how does that pass the "so, what" test? How does any of that justify what VW admitted doing?

There's a word that describes people and corporations that knowingly break the law for monetary gain: Criminals.

Big Sweetie said...

And I'm sure that once again, there will be enormous fines, but no criminal charges for any of the slimebags responsible for this act.

CenterPuke88 said...

Enormous fines, no...as usual, the total paid will be less than 1% of the potential fine, just my humble opinion. As for CA having it in for diesels, perhaps, but that certainly wouldn't bankrupts VW. If VW couldn't make a compliant diesel that would sell in CA, they wouldn't have bothered with this scheme. However, the fact that the cars could pass the test and then would switch to a more economical scheme probably has the interesting side effect of making VW's advertised MPG closer to reality that usual (given that the engine with the defeat device engaged likely runs more efficiently). The interesting point with be what people, whose VW's are fixed, do when their performance drops because of the change in software...their drivability will likely suffer a bit, but their MPG will probably suffer more.

dinthebeast said...

So Will, do you think cleaner running cars is a bad idea?

-Doug in Oakland

BadTux said...

The core problem is that the VW diesels, like every other auto diesel on the planet, was designed for European Tier 5 standards. These same standards have been adopted by every other nation on the planet that has auto emissions standards -- except the United States. Tier 5 allows roughly 5x more NOx emissions for diesels than the US Level II standards (which cover *all* vehicles -- both gasoline and diesel).

I don't think fundamental laws of physics allow a Tier 5 diesel to meet US NOx standards without rendering the vehicle pretty much undrivable. This is because diesels are compression-ignition engines. That means they inherently have higher pressures in their combustion chambers, which in turn forces nitrogen and oxygen in the air together to create nitrous oxide. The only way to not do this is to spew so much fuel into the engine that you combine all the oxygen with carbon from the fuel before the combustion chamber gets hot enough to combine nitrogen and oxygen, but then you've killed your fuel economy and power and also need to have an air pump to pump oxygen into your catalytic convert to burn off the resulting carbon monoxide.

So basically the only way to meet the standards without creating an undrivable car is to cheat. Which is probably why VW is the only automaker selling auto (as vs truck) diesels in the United States -- it simply wasn't possible for any diesel engine on the entire planet to meet the US standards without cheating, and VW was the only automaker willing to cheat.

The new US Level III standards coming into effect in 2017 are even worse. They basically will outlaw all auto and light truck diesels in the United States. This appears to be part of a national plan by the US government to reserve all stocks of diesel fuel for farm and cargo transport purposes, so that in future fuel shortages, private autos can be targeted by shutting down gasoline deliveries while leaving mass transit, farming, and cargo delivery still functioning. Of course, gasoline engines also aren't as efficient as diesel engines so they emit more carbon per mile than diesel engines, but hey, we're already past the point of no return on global warming, so what's a little more heat? (Said as dozens of Californians literally burn just a few dozen miles north of here).

BadTux said...

Will, I've heard that about the California standards too. Note that it's illegal if CARB is doing that. Federal law only allows California to apply the emissions standards of the year that the vehicle was made, period, and only the emissions standards applicable to the vehicle (i.e., if it was a Federal vehicle, it has to be tested against the Federal standards). If they're actually doing that, it's a lawsuit in the making. Well, except for the fact that they're targeting people who are too poor to be able to sue the state... but some enterprising attorney is going to file a class action lawsuit sooner or later. Hmm...

3383 said...

It would be nice to see some suits go to jail, but this is as likely as a bankster getting shot while resisting arrest. I also wonder how big a fine would put VW/ Audi out of business? Will they can trade US diesels for gasoline cars, if a compliant diesel proves unsatisfactory?

Why are diesels so unusual for passenger vehicles in the US? Fuel expense in Europe and elsewhere means countries will take more smog with better mileage, but a better fuel supply in the US/ Cali coupled with the greater effects of NOx relative to carbon emissions makes diesel less desirable for cars here.

Every bit of hydrocarbon fuel we can reach will be extracted and burned sooner or later. How long to we want our limited supply to last?

BadTux said...

3383, when Fiat bought Chrysler their initial plan was to meet CAFE fuel economy standards by bringing over their European diesels from their VM Motori division, which were designed by a joint GM-Fiat team to Euro Tier 6+ standards which require half the NOx production of the Euro Tier 5 standards to which the VW diesels were designed (GM pulled out and Fiat bought their share of VM Motori during the GM bankruptcy, BTW). Then they discovered that a) US NOx rules are even stricter than Tier 6+ -- Tier 6+ allows emitting over twice as much NOx as US NOx rules (and those are the Level II rules, not the upcoming Level III rules which are even stricter), b) the equipment needed to meet US NOx rules while preserving fuel economy and power costs over $8,000 per vehicle, and c) that equipment is so bulky it won't fit on on any passenger car in their inventory. They finally ended up importing only two of their European diesels, a cheaper one for the ProMaster van which doesn't have to comply with Level II passenger car rules because it's officially rated as a medium duty truck due to being sold as a cargo vehicle rather than as a passenger vehicle, and one with the full Level II gear that's only available on high end luxury SUV's and on light pickup trucks, where they have sufficient room to fit all the emissions gear and can absorb some of the costs at the expense of their profit margin (which is huge on the high end vehicles) because who is going to pay $8K extra for a diesel engine?

Fiat's CEO had originally fired Chrysler's hybrid vehicle team and pooh-poohed hybrids as an overly complex solution for meeting fuel economy standards compared to diesels. Now he's not doing so. Chrysler's first hybrid is likely next year, when they introduce their new line of minivans, which will use a hybrid all wheel drive configuration pioneered by Nissan (and sold on a Nissan minivan that isn't sold here in the USA). For better or for worse, US emissions standards are forcing automakers to use hybrid technology rather than diesel technology to meet future CAFE standards because you just can't fit all the gear to make diesels meet those emissions standards while preserving power and economy into an ordinary car. Not one that's not specifically designed to fit all that gear, anyhow... which is likely why you won't see diesel VW's in America next year, because VW simply doesn't sell enough cars in the United States to justify redesigning their entire lineup when the whole rest of the world is fine with the Euro Tier 6 standards that the cars are capable of meeting.

So say goodbye to any chance of there ever being more passenger car diesels sold in the United States. Nothing on the planet is capable of meeting the Tier III standards coming in 2017 without the super-expensive gear that Fiat is putting on their luxury SUV's and pickup trucks -- and nobody on the planet could sell a vehicle other than a luxury SUV or pickup truck with all that gear, because it's impossible to swallow $8K in costs on a car that sells for less than $30K. It just can't happen. Automakers are going to go to hybrid vehicles instead because it's the only way to make gasoline engines efficient enough to meet new CAFE standards. Hybrid technology is complex, sure... but it doesn't violate fundamental laws of physics the way that the emissions standards for diesels do, so hybrid is how it's going to be.

montag said...

Just curious why the 2012 & 2013 diesel Passats were not included. Did standards change for 2014?

Ole Phat Stu said...

Can we asume that less people died from VW exhaust fumes than from the use of guns in the USA?


Comrade Misfit said...

Really, Stu? That's your defense for corporate lawbreakers, a complete non sequitur?

But to follow your train of logic can we also assume that more people have died from VW exhaust fumes than were eaten by Armin Meiwes?

Will said...

The point is that when a government gets stupid on a subject, people will look for workarounds. It's reminiscent of that maxim for leaders: "never give an order you know won't be obeyed".

One of the earlier bits of stupidity that CA engaged in with diesels was in the early 90's when they decided to ban sulfur in the fuel. No idea what the results might be, just do it. It ate just about every diesel fuel injection pump in the state (they were mechanical then).
The lawsuits cost the state in the 9 figure range.

My '83 Mazda diesel pickup (2.2L) was off the road at the time, but I priced a rebuild at $6-$900, with no guarantee it would last. It went to El Salvador. (a group of guys were going around and buying up all the diesel mini-pickups they could find) That truck got 42mpg freeway. Wish I still had it. I bought it new, and expected to keep it for life.

The big rig truckers decided that the safest thing was to stop buying fuel in CA. They added more fuel tanks, and would top off before crossing into CA. The fuel was about a $/gal cheaper, which helped pay for hauling around the extra weight. The drawback was in a wreck, they might have 200, to as much as 400 gallons available to leak onto the road, into the sewers, and to burn. Lots of fun!

I was told that if a trucker got caught short, the fix was to buy one tank full after a quick oil change, but to dump the used crankcase oil into the tank first.

My '85 4x4 v6 Ranger went to Mexico, after my buddy said he couldn't get them to pass, even with a new carb installed.

3383 said...

Badtux: FIAT? Ha. I got burned by them before they stopped selling cars in the USA (write off a big market rather than make good cars!?) and am glad I prevented a few friends from experiencing the serious transmission problems some 500s have.

Will: I remember a suggested fix was to add some ATF to the fuel. A better idea would be to top off (if not intrastate) and refill before, say, 2/3 of the fill was gone.

I do wonder how the air would taste if these measures had not been mandated.

BadTux said...

3383, I'm actually quite impressed by how well Fiat has supported Chrysler's vehicles since coming back to America. They inherited a grab-bag of designs that dated back to the Daimler and Cerberus eras, and the later Daimler/Cerberus designs in particular were rushed and had a lot of flaws. They've systematically gone through the lineup and fixed everything that could be fixed (some things, alas, will require a total redesign) *plus* they have supported their customers well beyond what the law and industry tradition requires. Problems that the previous owners of Chrysler denied and refused to deal with, they've stepped forward and fixed. Design problems that no other US manufacturer or Japanese manufacturer would have fixed, they've stepped forward and fixed at their cost. They had a rough early entry into the US market, but they've done their best to do right by their customers, and I, for one, appreciate that. It's certainly a refreshing change from the usual, which is deny, lie, hide, and avoid.

As for what happened with Fiat in the early 70's, that was forty years ago. Fiat's current executive team was still eating paste in kindergarten back then, and had nothing to do with anything that happened back then. The reality is that *all* of the European makes other than the Germans pulled out at around the same time. It wasn't just Fiat. The British and French pulled out too. And sales of VW/Audi plummeted to the point where they probably should have pulled out too, but they were too stubborn to do so and so kept losing money on the US market every year until their fortunes revived in the 21st century -- for a while, at least.

Will said...


I don't have a problem with a mandate to clean up vehicle exhaust. I remember being shocked the first time I rode over the hill into the LA basin from the coast highway, in '79. You could see the air! It was brown!
The problem I have with it now is we passed the point of diminishing returns some time ago. Those idiots are flogging a dead horse at this point. But, they keep on demanding the automakers produce giant strides in their ideological war on civilization. Part of it, I'm sure, is the thinking that they have to show continuing improvements to justify their jobs. Another part is the intent to drive everyone onto "public transportation", which is another dead horse. That won't work in this country.
At some point in the not too distant future, either the car manufacturers will stop selling in CA, or people won't be able to afford the cars that are certified to be sold. Then, people will hold onto their cars, instead of buying new. CA will then retaliate by mandating what the Japanese did, which is a car can only be used until a certain mileage is reached ( I think it was 40k miles).

Earlier this year, I was reading about an auto mag writer that was looking at a prototype Corvette. He was told it made at least 500hp, and gets 30mpg on the highway, and GM was NOT going to build it. The reason? No market for it, since the package ADDED $30k to the cost of the top of the line 'Vette. This is the reality that the makers have to deal with. The cost of smog regulations on vehicles has been climbing fast, and it is about to skyrocket when the future regs take effect.

I expect it to resemble the USSR at some point. You order your car, and wait years for it to be delivered. There is only one or two makers supplying cars, and you have a choice of one or two models from each, if you're lucky. You'll require .gov permission to buy it, and have to prove you require a car. Think I'm joking?