Firm admits it is "theoretically" possible it cheated Euro tests - but claims it may not breach regulations if it did
Jim Holder
9 October 2015

The Volkswagen Group has admitted its cars could "theoretically" have used its manipulation software during European emissions tests - but is trying to establish whether doing so would be illegal.

Asked by Autocar if VW had established whether the manipulation software was employed during European emissions testing, a spokesman said he could only confirm that "the software used in some diesel vehicles can theoretically detect a dynometer set-up and influence the emission strategy."

He added: "So far as we know today only vehicles with diesel engines by code EA189 are affected."

The spokesman also raised the possibility that, even if VW Group cars are found to have employed the software manipulation system in European tests, it may not breach regulations. "It is not certain whether this function can be catagorised as a defeat device under European standards," he said.

Blog: when is manipulation software not a defeat device?

Although the regulations clearly state "the use of defeat devices that reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems shall be prohibited", the spokesman's comments suggest VW is investigating not only whether the software activated, but also whether, if it did, it constitues a defeat device under the definitions of the European tests.

Under European regulations, a defeat device is described as "any element of design which senses temperature, vehicle speed, engine speed (RPM), transmission gear, manifold vacuum or any other parameter for the purpose of activating, modulating, delaying or deactivating the operation of any part of the emission control system, that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system under conditions which may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal vehicle operation and use."

To date, the VW Group has only confirmed that the software was used during emissions tests in the USA (a process called FTP75), where cars must achieve lower levels of NOx emissions than in Europe, and that around 11 million vehicles worldwide are fitted with the cheat software, including almost 1.2m in the UK.

Blog: Could Volkswagen be doing a better job of managing the crisis?

VW claims that the delay in establishing whether it also cheated European tests is a result of the scale and complexity of the EA189 engine production cycle. The single EA189 code incorporates three different cubic capacities and multiple power outputs - and the powerplant has also been paired with three different manual gearboxes and three specs of DSG dual-clutch transmissions. It was also fitted across four brands - VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda - and most cars were modified every model year. 

The spokesman added: "Only EA189 engines show a significant difference between cycle test results and on-road results. Whether and how this software really interacts is part of internal and external investigations. We are working at full speed  to implement technical measures to eliminate these deviations. That’s why these questions are based on speculation."

A VW spokesman has previously declined to speculate on how much effect the 'defeat device' could have had on NEDC results. In 2009 Europe’s NOx regulations were not as strict as those imposed in the USA, when legal limits were set at 70 milligrams/km, a drop of 90% compared to the limits that had previously been in place. That has led to suggestions affected cars would not have needed to activate the cheat software during European testing because it would not have been required to pass the tests. In 2009 the EU5 emissions limit for NOx was 180mg/km.

 

Read more on the Volkswagen emissions scandal:

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Bugatti under threat as boss warns of 'painful' cuts

VW to recall affected cars in January

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Blog - How Volkswagen can survive its emissions scandal

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Comments
30

2 October 2015
What a catastrophe.

2 October 2015
Worth mentioning too, for some perspective on NOx, that EU3 (2000) was 500 mg/km, and EU4 (2003) was 250 mg/km. EU5 was from September 2009. There are likely to be a lot of EU3 & 4 vehicles of many makes on the road, pouring out many times more than the EU5 limit that is now of media interest and public concern. Probably spewing out plenty of particulates as well. The stirring of interest in the matter of "cleaning up" the older vehicles does not seem to have the same "legs", however, which is a pity. Time is ripe for another scrappage scheme perhaps.

5 October 2015
EU5 limit is 180mg/km NOx, so when the VW spills out forty times the limit when it's not on rollers, this is 7200 mg/km. This dwarfs even an EU2 combined HC+ NOx of 500 mg/km. Can you see now the magnitude of the issue? It's nearly 15 times the level of a reasonably maintained 1997 diesel. And the 2.1 million vehicles VAG products on UK roads which will lead to lung disease and premature deaths. This is an act of criminality - if it's not actually premeditated murder, it is certainly manslaughter and no-one should play down VW group's conniving deceit, lies, incompetence and now cover-up.

10 October 2015
I may be wrong, but I thought the 40x was in relation to the US 31mg, rather than EU figures. Worrying, nonetheless. We don't yet have the multipliers for other makes.

2 October 2015
In reply to Adrian987

I own a 2004 Bora TDI which is in perfect mechanical condition (but looks like an old taxi) and regularly delivers 60+ mpg in normal driving.

I was feeling fairly pleased with myself until all of this forced me to have a think.

I was horrified by the previous scrappage scheme, because it sent a lot of classic cars to the crusher before their time, and the environment impact of building a new car is horrendous.

I do actually think my car should come off the road, however I would not support this until new cars are REALLY delivering those figures you state above, in normal driving. At the moment I believe the main difference between my car and a new one, is the new one is better at doing exams...!

And also - here in Glasgow anyway - I regularly see absolutely horrendous old buses belching black stinky smoke out of them. These buses are used 18 hours per day, when my car is only on the road for about an hour a day. They need to tackle that too. Scrappage scheme for old buses I say!

Autocar fan for over 35 years.

2 October 2015
Good points, @ lightbody. And as we are already aware, vehicles on the road will be emitting much more than the exam pass figures. I am very much with you on the old buses thing, and as readers may have seen from a previous post of mine on Autocar, it is seemingly the bus engines that are left running when at least some of the dutiful public switch off their own engines in stationary traffic. As a cyclist and walker, I notice these things. Buses are doing a public service, but hardly helping our health in the process. Media interest in this is likely to be negligible, however. Unless someone can find a scandal out of it. Re Glasgow, whatever happened to the tram?

2 October 2015
Love it. Well done.

2 October 2015
That's perfect description of emission regs, and I'm sure applies to euro NCAP too. No single test can ever replicate what goes on in the real world. And who has never ever cheated at exams!

2 October 2015
There are many conflicting reports about what the software actually did to get around the US test. If as has been widely reported the software caused an additional amount of Urea to be injected into the exhaust during the US test then this whole story is irrelevant to the European market (from an EU emissions test perspective) as none of the Euro 5 cars with 1.6 or 2.0 engines had Adblue technology, that was only bought in for the 2.0 and above Euro6 engines. However in the US these "Clean Diesel" engines did have Adblue technology. If there is other code in there to do something else to also confuse the test equipment used in Europe then that is clearly a different matter.

I also find it strange that all these lawyers and "owners" are claiming they bought their cars on the basis of its environmental credentials. The only published credential that allows the consumer to choose one car over another is the CO2 emission level and the compliance with Euro5 or Euro6 standard. As far as I am aware the CO2 emissions are not being questioned as part of this process (the focus is on NOX) and the need to conform to Euro5 or Euro6 was a industry wide requirement in order to be able to sell the car and no data is published that I have seen to show that Car A performed better in achieving its Euro rating than Car B and thus allow a potential owner to make a choice on that data.

Ultimately what all of this has shown is how flawed the emissions tests are and the sooner we move to real world tests rather than fake lab tests the better. Clearly VW has behaved badly and needs to address the issue, however to criticise it for simply passing a bad test (when the rest of the industry is doing the same as various studies seem to be showing) seems to be the press and legal profession jumping on the bandwagon, unless of course it is shown they faked the results

8 October 2015
elan2s wrote:

There are many conflicting reports about what the software actually did to get around the US test. If as has been widely reported the software caused an additional amount of Urea to be injected into the exhaust during the US test then this whole story is irrelevant to the European market (from an EU emissions test perspective) as none of the Euro 5 cars with 1.6 or 2.0 engines had Adblue technology, that was only bought in for the 2.0 and above Euro6 engines. However in the US these "Clean Diesel" engines did have Adblue technology. If there is other code in there to do something else to also confuse the test equipment used in Europe then that is clearly a different matter.

I also find it strange that all these lawyers and "owners" are claiming they bought their cars on the basis of its environmental credentials. The only published credential that allows the consumer to choose one car over another is the CO2 emission level and the compliance with Euro5 or Euro6 standard. As far as I am aware the CO2 emissions are not being questioned as part of this process (the focus is on NOX) and the need to conform to Euro5 or Euro6 was a industry wide requirement in order to be able to sell the car and no data is published that I have seen to show that Car A performed better in achieving its Euro rating than Car B and thus allow a potential owner to make a choice on that data.

Ultimately what all of this has shown is how flawed the emissions tests are and the sooner we move to real world tests rather than fake lab tests the better. Clearly VW has behaved badly and needs to address the issue, however to criticise it for simply passing a bad test (when the rest of the industry is doing the same as various studies seem to be showing) seems to be the press and legal profession jumping on the bandwagon, unless of course it is shown they faked the results

Totally agree with your last sentence. I have already said it on another one of Autocar's unlimited number of "VW scandal" articles, that yes they have cocked up quite frankly and been caught out, but they won't be the last in this ongoing investigation. Aside from the press, it is also giving the VW haters an excuse to constantly lay into them. I am not really sure how to respond to it - they are still good cars but I guess if you dislike something enough, as soon as you hear something negative you jump on that bandwagon you mention and have a pop at them at every opportunity. Before this all came out I remember reading countless posts on this site of VW reviews where readers would slate them...I guess it's their time to stick the knife in. How boring, and quite frankly, get a life...

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