Senior engineer reveals the different methods used to remove emissions test cheating software

A senior Volkswagen engineer has exposed why technical differences between European and US-spec VWs have ensured that one software fix can’t be applied to all emissions-cheating cars.

Speaking in yesterday’s Transport Committee meeting, Oliver Schmidt confirmed that physical differences between the exhaust systems of European and US VWs meant that each region needed its own bespoke recall plan.

He explained that Euro 5-spec diesel VWs in the US feature a more comprehensive filtration system compared with equivalent cars in the EU.

“In Europe, there is no NOx after treatment on the system, you only have an oxidation catalytic filter and a particulate filter,” he said. “So there is nothing that reduces the nitrogen oxide on the Euro 5 engine.

“On a US engine, on older generations you have a lean NOx trap, and on the newer generations you have an SCR selective catalytic reduction system. In the US, the [ECU] software influenced the function of those two systems, but they are not present [in European cars].”

Cars from each region will need their own fix, but VW UK boss Paul Willis confirmed that it wasn’t simply a case of one fix for each side of the Atlantic either.

“In Europe, for 1.2 and 2.0-litre diesels we have a software fix – the fix starts on week nine [of this year]. But for the 1.6-litre diesel engine, there’s a software and hardware change that’ll commence from month nine.”

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Schmidt went on to explain that the EA189 1.6-litre diesel engine, which is fitted to 430,000 UK vehicles, will need its flow transformer (which measures the volume of air flow into the engine) changed in order for the software fix to work.

“In the configuration that was brought to production, the onboard computer couldn’t get a proper reading of what was going on, so the actual volume of air was not what we read on the sensor,” he said. “Our new transformer – or flow rectifier as it’s sometimes called – gives you a laminar [smoother] air flow that can be more easily measured.”

This change allows the ECU to accurately inject the correct amount of fuel into the engine, which VW says will improve efficiency.

Schmidt compared the software and hardware fixes with upgrades to smartphones: “What we do on the 1.2 and 2.0-litre is we put new apps on your phone, so we are only changing calibration data. But on the 1.6, we give you a new operating system.”

Willis said VW was confident its fixes would be enough to bring affected diesel engines into line with the law. He added that VW was going beyond its legal requirements to ensure its diesel emissions were reduced.

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“Though the NOx trap we have been using is sufficient to pass emissions tests [with the software fix], we are still going to fit all EU diesels with our SCR system between 2017 and 2020,” he said. “We are also developing all future diesels to work towards SCR systems.”

Questions in the latter parts of the Transport Committee meeting turned from what and how, to ask why illegal software had been written for diesel cars. One committee member asked what motivation VW engineers would have had in developing cheating software for both the EU and US markets, though Schmidt declined to offer a solid answer.

“All I can do is speculate [that it was done] to keep costs down,” he said. “The only thing that comes to mind is people wanted to meet American emission laws with the technology available at the time.”

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Comments
13

26 January 2016

"In the configuration that was brought to production, the onboard computer couldn’t get a proper reading of what was going on, so the actual volume of air was not what we read on the sensor”

Incompetence as well as dishonesty? With a $13.5B USD development budget in 2013? Must be all the prostitutes and via gra the management put on expenses. Visiting a prostitute could constitute researching female anatomy I suppose.

A34

26 January 2016
winniethewoo wrote:

...Must be all the prostitutes and via gra the management put on expenses. Visiting a prostitute could constitute researching female anatomy I suppose.

MIght be worth explaining that prostitutes on expenses were an earlier (2005) VW scandal.

26 January 2016

Lol, typing via gra triggers the spam filter

26 January 2016

Odd that they actually prefer to highlight technical incompetence than come clean about the real reason for all this - an out of control management and engineering culture. VW really does seem to be an integrity-free zone.

27 January 2016
Clarkey wrote:

Odd that they actually prefer to highlight technical incompetence than come clean about the real reason for all this - an out of control management and engineering culture. VW really does seem to be an integrity-free zone.

We all know the real reason, its called "Greed", its all about the money.

27 January 2016
Clarkey wrote:

Odd that they actually prefer to highlight technical incompetence than come clean about the real reason for all this - an out of control management and engineering culture. VW really does seem to be an integrity-free zone.

Having spent all my working life in engineering manufacturing industry including working for Siemens on air management systems mainly on the plenum chambers and induction manifolds, although more at the oily rag end of engineering, I have never worked anywhere where the top management could possibly know all that was going on. Indeed different departments or indeed project teams were deliberately kept in the dark to keep work for different companies secret from each other. There are supposedly about 600,000 employees at VW let alone vastly more throughout the world developing and manufacturing all the various parts of cars. There are huge companies heavily involved in designing, developing and making components that many outside of the automotive industry have never heard of.

28 January 2016
Campervan wrote:
Clarkey wrote:

Odd that they actually prefer to highlight technical incompetence than come clean about the real reason for all this - an out of control management and engineering culture. VW really does seem to be an integrity-free zone.

Having spent all my working life in engineering manufacturing industry including working for Siemens on air management systems mainly on the plenum chambers and induction manifolds, although more at the oily rag end of engineering, I have never worked anywhere where the top management could possibly know all that was going on. Indeed different departments or indeed project teams were deliberately kept in the dark to keep work for different companies secret from each other. There are supposedly about 600,000 employees at VW let alone vastly more throughout the world developing and manufacturing all the various parts of cars. There are huge companies heavily involved in designing, developing and making components that many outside of the automotive industry have never heard of.

But its well known that VW has a very autocratic, inward looking management system. The old joke was that they couldn't change the dimensions of a screw at Audi without top VW management knowing about it, so operating within this culture may be very different to elsewhere.

27 January 2016

“Our new transformer – or flow rectifier as it’s sometimes called – gives you a laminar [smoother] air flow that can be more easily measured.” If you flow through a mesh, the resultant multiple expansions cause a fully turbulent flow - it certainly WON'T be laminar.

27 January 2016
pauld101 wrote:

“Our new transformer – or flow rectifier as it’s sometimes called – gives you a laminar [smoother] air flow that can be more easily measured.” If you flow through a mesh, the resultant multiple expansions cause a fully turbulent flow - it certainly WON'T be laminar.

Who said anything about a mesh????

27 January 2016
Paul73 wrote:
pauld101 wrote:

“Our new transformer – or flow rectifier as it’s sometimes called – gives you a laminar [smoother] air flow that can be more easily measured.” If you flow through a mesh, the resultant multiple expansions cause a fully turbulent flow - it certainly WON'T be laminar.

Who said anything about a mesh????

An earlier explanation from VW published in Autocar showed how inserting a mesh prior to the air intake sensor would smooth out the flow enabling the sensor to more accurately measure air flow under all conditions.
At least that was my understanding of the previous article.

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