After initially denying charges leveled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Volkswagen told regulators today that the company did, indeed, also cheat on emissions tests involving a second turbodiesel engine.
The concession covers an additional 75,000 vehicles using a 3.0-liter turbodiesel, on top of the 482,000 vehicles equipped with a 2.0-liter diesel called out by the EPA in mid-September for using a so-called “defeat device.” The latest problem involves products sold by both the VW and Audi brands and, for the first time, the Porsche marque, as well.
In the case of the 2.0-liter diesels first cited by the EPA for cheating in September, VW used hidden software code capable of detecting when the vehicles were undergoing emissions tests. With the 3.0-liter system, the diesel engines were improperly fitted with what a spokesman called auxiliary emissions controls.
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It is unclear if the technology surreptitiously fitted onto the 3.0-liter diesel resulted in the same massive increase in emissions such as oxides of nitrogen as with the smaller engine. On the 2.0-liter package, the illegal software would activate more stringent pollution control systems only if it determined an emissions test was underway. At other times, they were permitted to emit up to 40 times the legal pollution limit.
An official from Volkswagen was not immediately available, but spokesman Brad Stertz previously told TheDetroitBureau.com that VW was using technology designed to warm parts of the exhaust system, ostensibly to reduce emissions, since such components as catalytic converters work better when warm. Stertz told the Reuters news service on Friday that the maker failed to “properly notify regulators” it was using the additional controls – which are legal in Europe.
The meeting between VW and the EPA was initially intended to review a proposed fix for the problem with the 2.0-liter diesel. While the maker has said it will begin repairs in January for the nearly 11 million vehicles with the small diesel sold in other markets, it cannot begin to fix the U.S. models without EPA permission.
There has been speculation that might require significant effort, perhaps even including the installation of addition hardware. But Stertz said the focus was on “reprograming” engine control systems, something that would be relatively inexpensive.
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Separately, a report in the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche said the fixes for a 1.6-liter version of the diesel engine sold outside the U.S. could cost as little as 10 Euros, or around $10.74, for a sensor to be added inside the air filter. A software update would also be needed.
It appears VW may need to “reflash” its software on the 3.0-liter diesel, as well.
The automaker faces a potential fine of $18 billion for violating the U.S. Clean Air act on the 2.0-liter turbodiesel. It could run up a fine of $3.2 billion more for cheating on the 3.0-liter powertrain. It also faces potential sanctions by the U.S. Justice Department, along with numerous suits by owners of its diesel vehicles.
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