Friday the EPA announced that VW violated the Clean Air Act and has admitted to purposely designing its U.S.-market diesel vehicles to trick emissions testing. As bad as this is for VW, these charges may be just the start of VW’s legal problems with dirty diesels. The EPA claims VW purposely designed its 2009-2015 diesel cars to detect when then they were being tested for emissions and to meet the test requirements. However, they would run “dirty” when not being tested, spewing up to 40-times the legal limit of NOx (oxides of nitrogen) according to EPA.
Could this same thing have happened in European VW models? The discrepancy between what diesel cars should be producing and what is being measured in Europe has been detected during the same period. The International Council On Clean Transportation says that European real-world NOx pollution is far worse than it should be. A study published in 2011 by Kings College London and the University of Leeds concluded, “For diesel cars, it is found that absolute emissions of NOx are higher across all legislative classes than suggested by UK and other European emission inventories.”
In the U.S., VW is a small automaker and always has been. Diesels are a minority of VW’s total sales in the U.S., where we do not artificially boost diesel sales with tax policy. However, VW dominates the European marketplace. Not only does VW have the lead in sales in the European market, but diesel models are the bulk of those sales. Could VW have been cheating on diesel emissions in Europe?