The importance of on-road emissions testing


    The importance of on-road emissions testing was highlighted last week when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Air Resources Board and Environment Canada discovered illegal software in some Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche diesel cars with 3.0-liter V6 engines encompassing model years 2014 through 2016.

    Audi and Porsche are the premium brands of Volkswagen, which disputed the findings and pledged to cooperate with the EPA “to clarify the matter in its entirety.”

    Previously, on September 03, VW admitted that it had installed deceptive software in 11 million diesel vehicles to make it appear that they met air quality standards for nitrogen oxide, which is harmful to the lungs.

    VW acknowledged its scheme after a year of disputing the findings of the EPA, which on September 18 ordered the recall of nearly half a million VW 2.0-liter TDI diesel vehicles in the United States. Subsequently, the German government ordered VW, Europe and Germany’s largest auto manufacturer, to recall 8.5 million cars in Europe with the tainted software.

    In the new tests, the cars found to have the software installed are the diesel versions of the VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5. Regulators have not found similar illegal software on diesel models produced by other automakers.

    The new tests were conducted randomly and in real-world conditions on the road rather than in traditional laboratory settings by automobile industry regulators in the US and Canada.

    US regulators believe that while road tests cannot match the precision of lab results at detecting nitrogen oxide and other fine particles and pollutants, they do validate lab findings by catching cars whose road performance reveals higher emissions readings.

    Road testing involves capturing exhaust gases with a machine the size of a pair of large suitcases that fits in the trunks of most cars, with a few pieces hanging off the back. The technology developed by an EPA engineer is decades old and until now has been used mostly to test diesel trucks.

    Explaining its findings, the EPA said VW’s devices were set up to defeat a federal emission procedure known as FTP 75. The EPA described how once the vehicle’s electronic brain detected the car was being tested, it would direct the car to operate emission control parameters- including injection timing, exhaust gas recirculation rate and fuel pressure – to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Once back in normal driving conditions, the car would increase the release of nitrogen oxide up to nine times EPA’s standard.

    Also last week, VW admitted it had understated emissions of carbon dioxide for about 800,000 of its vehicles sold in Europe and overstated the cars’ fuel economy, including a limited number of gasoline-fed cars. Most of the cars with the carbon dioxide problem have an engine known as the EA 288, of which there are 1.4-liter, 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter versions.

    Meanwhile last September, VW Philippines announced that none of the vehicles it sells has the deceptive software and that all its vehicles comply with the Euro 4 air quality standard (50 parts per million), which takes effect on January 1.

    As the only Philippine affiliate of the FIA (International Automobile Federation), the Automobile Association Philippines supports the FIA’s global campaign for clean air and sustainable, environment-friendly motoring.

    With reports from the INYT, Reuters and AP


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