EPA: Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests, 482,000 cars affected, penalty could be $18bn
Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health.
California is separately issuing an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen, and EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have both initiated investigations based on Volkswagen’s alleged actions.
“Using a defeat device in cars to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
“Working closely with the California Air Resources Board, EPA is committed to making sure that all automakers play by the same rules. EPA will continue to investigate these very serious matters.”
A sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test.
The effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations.
This results in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory or testing station, but during normal operation, emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard. The software produced by Volkswagen is a “defeat device,” as defined by the Clean Air Act.
EPA and CARB uncovered the defeat device software after independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, working with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a non-governmental organization, raised questions about emissions levels, and the agencies began further investigations into the issue.
In September, after EPA and CARB demanded an explanation for the identified emission problems, Volkswagen admitted that the cars contained defeat devices.
The allegations cover roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2008. Volkswagen can face civil penalties of $37,500 for each vehicle not in compliance with federal clean air rules and if each car involved is found to be in noncompliance, the penalty could be $18 billion. ■