With voting soon to happen on 3 continents: the US Presidential Election, the UK’s decision on Brexit and the Australian General Election, we are all used to lots of emissions coming from Governments – mostly hot air and empty promises. We have also seen Governments around the world attack the car industry for failing to deliver on their own emissions test.
Last year when the VW “scandal” broke, and I use the term in quotes because it really wasn’t a scandal as such – they were delivering the test results that the Government wanted and I noted in several articles that many Governments were complicit in the issues that were raised, however they wouldn’t admit it.
Many car manufacturers were suspected of doing what VW and other members of their group had done, simply providing test results by manipulating the software in the engine management system to recognise that the car was being tested. Mitsubishi have recently been outed as well, only their method of fixing the results goes back 25 years – far longer than VW!
However, the big issue I have with these cases has been the interference by Governments at all levels. Several years ago, a UK Government department commissioned a report by a university who found that levels of emissions from cars, whether petrol or diesel, failed to meet what they expected to see based on the results given by the manufacturers. The British Government ignored the findings.
The emissions tests in question have always been vague and the industry has been quite critical of them simply because they did not reflect real world driving conditions. The manufacturers had to comply with them even though they knew the tests were ridiculous. Manufacturers in Europe are apparently allowed to test “prototypes” of models that are set up specifically for the testing. So in effect, they were allowed by the Government to massage the tested vehicle to comply with the test. This clearly lead to someone in the VW Group (I heard it was an Audi engineer who came up with the solution) to develop what I would term a subroutine that only ran if certain conditions were met, i.e. static test conditions.
Why did the European Governments not listen to the industry and make the changes requested? Votes and jobs probably. The result has been that today’s cars pump out far more emissions than the tests indicated however no Government ever wanted to test the test! Would it not make sense to review the results? Over the water in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does just that, randomly testing a car and if it fails to meet the test results then the manufacturer can be fined.
After VW had admitted that its vehicles were designed to pass the test, many Euro Governments followed the EPA’s example and randomly tested cars. What they found matched what the British University had found years earlier but this time they didn’t ignore it.
Now a new “flaw” in the testing has been found. Government testing allows the emissions systems to be switched off in low temperatures, ostensibly to protect the engine. However several German manufacturers have been ordered to recall cars because this could happen in cool temperatures as well. Problem is, this issue doesn’t break any regulations – it is totally legal!
Renault and now PSA Peugeot Citroen are being investigated for breaches of the tests. I can understand PSA because they had a tie up with Mitsubishi for the development of diesel engines and some shared vehicles. Renault too, shared vehicles with Mitsubishi within the last 25 years and there could be a suspicion that other technologies relating to emissions controls were also shared.
It is unlikely that Governments around the world will stop interfering in the industry – even when the world is full of electric cars, they will find something to complain about and then tax us more and prosecute someone who is trying to follow the legislation!