EU was warned two years ago over VW type emission cheat devices
EU officials had warned of the dangers of defeat devices two years before the Volkswagen emissions scandal broke, highlighting Europe’s failure to police the car industry.
A 2013 report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre drew attention to the challenges posed by the devices, which are able to skew the results of exhaust readings.
But regulators then failed to pursue the issue despite the fact the technology had been illegal in Europe since 2007. EU officials said they never specifically looked for such a device
themselves and were not aware that any national authority had discovered one.
The technology is at the heart of a scandal that exploded last Friday when US regulators revealed Volkswagen had used it to rig emissions tests, potentially laying itself open to
criminal charges and substantial fines.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the devices turn on emissions controls when the vehicles are being tested but turn them off during regular driving.
Volkwagen’s supervisory board announced yesterday that it had appointed Matthias Müller, the head of Porsche, as its new chief executive. He replaces Martin Winterkorn, who stood
down over the scandal.
Initially the focus was exclusively on cars sold by Volkswagen into the US market. But Germany has now said that the company cheated in the same way in Europe as well. The
inability of regulators across the EU to expose this deceit has shone a spotlight on the lobbying power of the European motor industry, which has made a huge gamble on diesel.
Some 53 per cent of new car sales in the EU are diesels, up from just more than 10 per cent in the early 1990s.
The JRC’s report argued that diesel cars should be tested on the road, rather than in the lab, to reduce the risk of manipulation. “Sensors and electronic components in modern lightduty
vehicles are capable of ‘detecting’ the start of an emissions test in the laboratory,’’ it said. The devices could also “activate, modulate, delay, or deactivate emissions control
On road emissions tests conducted by the JRC “show that the real world nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions of . . . lightduty diesel vehicles substantially exceed the regulatory
emissions standards,’’ the study added. “The existing on road tests unequivocally point to weaknesses in the current type approval procedure.’’
Since the EU banned defeat devices in 2007, the European Commission has attempted to introduce legislation to test diesel cars in a more realistic “real world” environment. It argues
that these new on the road tests will be able to counter the effect of illegal software.
Green campaigners and members of the European Parliament have protested that these reforms have been delayed by the powerful diesel lobby.
The European Commission said: “When it comes to policing of companies’ compliance with EU law and investigative powers, that is for the national authorities in this area.’’
Christian Oliver and Jim Brunsden Brussels Jeevan Vasagar Berlin
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