In a stunning late-Friday announcement, the EPA announced that it has evidence that Volkswagen and its Audi brand knowingly designed and installed a software algorithm intended to trick emissions testing equipment. The EPA says that the vehicles involved would normally operate at a level of polluting emissions 10 to 40 times the legal amount. However, the “switch” as it is called, could detect when the vehicle was being tested for emissions compliance and would alter the vehicle to produce a passing grade. These devices were installed in VW and Audi “clean diesel” models such as the Golf, Jetta, Passat, Beatle, and Audi A3 for six years up to and including, the current model year.
The EPA says that West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions discovered the “switch” that VW was using and alerted the agency. In a step by step, six-page letter the EPA lays down the evidence and details the charges against Volkswagen. Ominously, the EPA General Counsel closes the letter by informing the chief lawyer for VW that EPA is “…authorized to refer this matter to the United States Department of Justice.”
In its letter, the EPA asserts that after significant review in conjunction with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), EPA was not going to certify any 2016 Volkswagen or Audi diesel vehicles because of the apparent “switch” that had been discovered. The agency says that, at this point, Volkswagen admitted to designing and installing the law-breaking system.
The law that EPA is accusing Volkswagen of violating is not some obscure rule. It is the Clean Air Act (CAA). The CAA specifically prohibits anyone, particularly automakers, from installing any device “…where a principal effect of the part or component is to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative and device or element installed on or in any motor vehicle or engine in compliance with (emission controls)…”
The penalties to Volkswagen listed in the letter are almost too enormous to grasp. Up to $37,500 per violation according to the letter. With the EPA asserting that almost a half-million vehicles were altered, the fines could conceivably go beyond billions of dollars. Read the letter yourself at this link.
Photo by John Goreham