U.S. regulators have ordered German automaker Volkswagen to officially recall nearly half a million cars because of a device that effectively disguises vehicle emissions.
Volkswagen has received a notice from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for installing the software, identified as a “defeat device,” in Volkswagen and Audi models designed during the period of 2009-15.
Whenever the vehicle is undergoing emission testing, the software turns on full emission control only for that period of time. During regular driving situations, the emission control system remains turned off.
The E.P.A.’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance, Cynthia Giles, said, “We expected better from Volkswagen.” She also said that the E.P.A. is seeing the automaker’s actions as a massive threat to public health.
The Volkswagen recall will primarily involve 4-cylinder Audi and Volkswagen vehicles. The software is especially effective at concealing the amount of nitrogen oxide emitted by the vehicle. Nitrogen oxide is a major pollutant responsible for creating smog and ozone.
Unregulated vehicle emissions aggravate a host of public health problems. Cases of asthma attacks, along with other respiratory diseases, rise stupendously if such pollutants are left checked.
According to automotive technology experts, disengaging the pollution controls on a diesel-fueled vehicle can enhance performance, as it leads to increased acceleration and torque.
International Council on Clean Transportation’s executive director, Drew Kodjak, said that there is indeed a trade-off between emissions and performance while the controls are functioning.
It was Kodjak’s organization that first discovered the discrepancy in Volkswagen’s emission results during lab testing and during regular driving.
The issue was immediately raised to the E.P.A. After running several tests, the E.P.A. discovered that Volkswagen was using the “defeat device” in its vehicles.
The state of California has issued another separate notice to the automaker. The Justice Department, the state of California, and the E.P.A. are currently investigating the matter together.
The E.P.A. has said that vehicle owners can expect to receive a vehicle notice within the next few years. There will most likely also be information on how to get the vehicles fixed without incurring the owner any cost liability.
The E.P.A. is taking aggressive measures to control vehicle emissions, and this particular case should send a strong message to the auto industry.
Some of the affected diesel vehicles in the Volkswagen recall include 2009-15 models of Volkswagen Jetta, Audi A3, Passat, Golf, and Beetle.
[Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images News]