By on November 2, 2015

2014_touareg_tdi_3401

Responding to the Environmental Protection Agency’s notification that it had uncovered an illegal “defeat device” in some 3-liter, diesel Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche models, Volkswagen AG said in a statement Monday that it “wishes to emphasize that no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner.”

The statement flies in the face of the EPA’s allegation that a “temperature conditioning” mode in the vehicles’ computers timed exactly to the length of the agency’s 75 initials emissions tests allowed the cars to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by up to 9 times.

In its letter to the automaker, the EPA alleged that deliberate software was installed on the car’s engine control computer, designed to cheat emissions. From the EPA’s letter Monday to Volkswagen (emphasis mine):

VW manufactured and installed software in the electronic control module (ECM) of each vehicle that causes the vehicle to perform differently when the vehicle is being tested for compliance with EPA emission standards than in normal operation and use.

In other words, either Volkswagen doesn’t agree with the EPA, believes its “temperature conditioning” setting — which the EPA said was timed to the second of its tests — coincidentally helped the car achieve lower emissions, or some sleepy lawyers in Lower Saxony haven’t gotten their coffee yet.

Either way, the Volkswagen diesel saga may have gotten a lot more interesting.

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43 Comments on “Volkswagen, EPA Disagree on ‘Defeat Device’ in 3-liter Models...”


  • avatar
    DeeDub

    So VW doesn’t yet know how their cheat software came to be or who in the organization was responsible for it, but they are certain that there isn’t any such software in the ECMs of these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Nein, nein, nein. The EPA test cycle lasts 1,370 seconds and it’s a pure coincidence that at 1,371 seconds the car changes from “temperature conditioning” mode to regular mode.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        If only it was 1372 seconds instead, Gaja would be so much greener and happier…… not to mention 1373….

        As long as the EPA insists on testing cars according to a usage pattern clearly different from those exercised by almost all customers, and millions/billions is at stake dependent on the outcome of their silliness; every manufacturer everywhere will tune their engines to perform maximally “well” during the EPA test, while being maximally powerful/responsive/fuel efficient/whatever paying customers care about, in usage different from whet EPA employs. You’d think that would be obvious even to a multi generation progressively indoctrinated sheepherd; but I guess that’s just me being guilty of discounting Mencken too heavily again.

        Next thing you know, the dimbulbs will be raising their fists and stomping their boots for government provided ECUs: Equal for everyone. And stuck at the end of the Brezhnev era.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Denver

          If we end up with government issued ECUs it will be because of rotten apples like VW who ruin it for everyone. The EPA relied on self certification and it’s like Animal House – they f’ed up – they trusted VW.

          I think at a minimum automakers are going to have to release source code. Who knows what other cheats and vulnerabilities lie hidden inside your ECU at this point? Release the code and reward hackers who find cheats, vulnerabilities and flaws. It’s just as well – as cars become more software bound you have situations like Tesla refusing to turn on a car after it’s been in an accident.

        • 0 avatar
          sirwired

          The EPA uses a standard test cycle to put all manufacturers on an even footing. It’s not that necessarily that it doesn’t approximate “real world” usage (especially since everybody’s usage is different) rather that the manufacturers know what the test is already, and they are designing their ECU’s to match. Notice that the latest EPA test cycle is actually pretty close to what most people get in daily driving, unless you drive an EcoBoost.

          Think of it like standardized tests in school. It’s not that they are a poor representation of what students are ordinarily supposed to learn and be tested on, it’s that the general outlines are known ahead of time and teachers/schools feel an irresistible urge to teach only those things, to the exclusion of anything not on the test.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            The “standardized testing” of students is equally silly. Not because of the test, but because of the legal, or at least civil liability structures built around it. Just like the EPA tests. Due to that, the tests take on a life of their own, people build careers and lives around them; and consequently our UNlimited government gets dragged in as soon as there are hints someone with a quarter brain or more simply decides to route around the sclerotica. Just as with banking bailouts, ZIRP, and pretty much anything else the government has been involved in since at least the Civil War.

            By getting the government out of the way, there would be a plethora of tests. Want to apply to MIT? Take their test. To pay-for-degree-don’t-discriminate-against-idiots-in-grading-nor-admissions university? Take theirs. And if the needs of one test consumer changes, he could create his own. Yet there would still be a bias towards standardization, since most people would prefer to deal with the known, unless it is rather obviously flawed. Want to apply to a smaller school like Caltech? Just submit scores from the MIT test. They have a reputation for not being too clueless about aptitude assessment.

            And if you have to have a government, minimum standards, test; test for worst case. Pay “finders fees” for managing to drive a car in a manner that pollutes like mad. Not much room to hide then, compared to what the EPA is currently doing.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Yep Dee Dub thats their story and it seems their sticking with it, I thought all the 6 cal engines used Ad Blue, guess not.

    • 0 avatar
      klossfam

      They DO use DEF…but DEF alone doesn’t solve all the issues. Most of the newer V6 diesels have a regen mode where they burn off excess ash etc with the help of high temps and additional DEF fluid being injected. Looks like VW ‘might’have used this regen process to help lower the NOX readings…In fact, my 3.0 RAM EcoDiesel ran a regen today on the way home…

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        How can you tell when your engine is going through the regen cycle?

        • 0 avatar
          redliner

          You can tell because there is a distinct burning smell (somewhere between overheating brakes and overheating oil) and if you happen to turn the engine off during a regen cycle, the radiator fans go into “OMG it’s on fire!” mode and run at max speed for about 10 minutes.

          The only other way to know is with a VAG com scanner.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Interesting about the smell. My only experience with DPF-equipped vehicles is with city buses, where any smells are 60 feet away from the driver. The remarkable thing about those buses was the absence of soot inside the tailpipes.

          • 0 avatar
            brettc

            Yep, it smells like a tire fire to me. I’ve occasionally put my car into the garage while it’s in the regen cycle. Have to leave the garage door open until it finishes its business. Kinda crappy.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          You’ll also know by the regen indicator light on your instrument cluster. Then you’ll not want to shut the engine off, and keep its temperature up, until it’s done.

          • 0 avatar
            brettc

            The 2.0 TDIs don’t have an indicator light. I’ve found that you can tell from the driver’s seat by looking at the idle fuel consumption in metric. During a regen it goes up to something like 1.1-1.3 litres/hour. Normal idle shows as about 0.8L/hour.

            Otherwise you can get out and listen for the fans and the burning rubber scent.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Why don’t they have a ‘regen’ indicator light? It’s something important you should know, like not to shut the engine off, or let it idle, until it’s finished with the cycle. But is the regen cycle based on sensors reading an almost plugged trap or simply based on miles driven, hours on, or fuel consumed?

            If it’s based on a plugged trap especially, you want the cycle to finish, or it’ll keep kicking into regen mode repeatedly, once engine temperature reaches a set minimum, and until the cycle is compete, while wasting fuel and risking engine, turbo and or emissions equipment damage.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        DEF is not used when regenerating the DPF. These newer diesels have several pieces of equipment under the vehicle, each do distinctly different things, but they can support the processes of the other systems. So:

        The first device in the exhaust stream is a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst or DOC. The DOC converts/reduces CO and HC and creates heat and other exhaust byproducts used further downstream during that process.

        Within the same housing (usually) and downstream of the DOC is the Diesel Particulate Filter or DPF. The DPF is solely responsible for capturing soot particles and preventing them from escaping into the air. When the DPF becomes saturated with soot as determined by a differential pressure sensor, the engine injects excess fuel post-combustion into the exhaust stream. This excess fuel reacts within the DOC creating the heat necessary to ignite the soot trapped within the DPF. As the soot turns into ash and the exhaust restriction is reduced, the engine computer reduces the fuel and uses the variable geometry turbo to help “snuff out” the combustion occurring in the DPF. This process is repeated as needed as the DPF loads up again and is called active regeneration.

        There is also a process known as passive regeneration that occurs when enough heat is naturally present due to the drive cycle that the vehicle is being operated under. High speed and high load operation can often cause passive regeneration. Passive regeneration helps reduce the need for active regenerations.

        Ash, the byproduct of the burned soot, never leaves the DPF and eventually will render the DPF inert after enough buildup. In commercial trucks, the DPF housing is often serviceable and the ash can be removed. On light duty trucks, ash buildup usually means DPF replacement unless you use one of the services that washes out the DPF. Eventually this becomes ineffective as the precious metal washcoat on the DPF becomes inert or is simply washed away, and the DPF will eventually need to be replaced.

        The SCR system operates somewhat independently of the rest of the system. The only real dependence is on the basic heat requirements and exhaust gas makeup that the SCR system needs to function, but this can happen under normal operation and without a DPF regeneration happening first. The SCR system uses an upstream and downstream NOx sensor to monitor NOx exiting the engine just aft of the turbo. Based on this reading, DEF is injected into the SCR catalyst which when combined with heat, chemically reacts with the NOx pollutants and converts them into carbon dioxide and water. In many cases the NOx sensors are more of “belt and suspenders” approach to help fine tune DEF injection rates and the initial calculations are made based on fuel usage and other operating parameters.

        The EGR valve plays an important role in all of these processes as it can influence the oxygen content of the exhaust stream, so a properly functioning EGR valve is critical.

        All of these modern “clean” diesels also have a Variable Geometry Turbo or VGT. The VGT is important as it can directly influence exhaust gas flow, velocity and temperature by varying the vane angle or nozzle position. Obviously exhaust temperature and flow are critical to the processes going on downstream.

        Now, having said all that, a passive DPF regeneration is largely transparent to the driver – no weird smells or high fuel consumption. An active regeneration causes the high temps and unusual odors described by another poster. DEF injection happens essentially continuously once the exhaust is up to temperature and the outside ambient temp is above a certain threshold. DEF injection and the SCR process is also largely transparent to the driver unless they happen to catch a whiff of ammonia smell when coming to an abrupt stop.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          Thanks, that’s the most succinct description I’ve read of these systems.

        • 0 avatar
          jthorner

          In other words, trying to make diesel engines meet modern emissions standards is absurdly complicated and expensive, and most vehicles would be better off using hybrid technology to meet their emissions and fuel economy goals :).

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            Which is why I will never buy or own a modern-day diesel. I have had three diesels, and still have a 1996 Passat TDi which has a very reliable engine and emission control system.

          • 0 avatar
            brettc

            What do you have for mileage on that old B4 Passat? Those are still nice looking cars, 19 years later.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    This sounds like the undisclosed AECD that prompted VW to withdraw their application for the MY16 4-cylinder TDIs. The outcome of this finding may come down to exactly how and if VW disclosed this particular form of operation in their conformance application.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I don’t think it makes a difference at this point. They should follow Toyota’s 2009 strategy and recall anything that’s even remotely questionable. get all the PR damage over-with at once, like pulling-off a bandage.

    • 0 avatar
      Waftable Torque

      It seems like there’s no one at VW coordinating crisis management and PR. A good response from a company under siege would be something along the line of “we received new information from the EPA, we intend on investigating its merits” instead of a knee-jerk reaction that they’re wrong. If the accusation is correct, it damages their credibility even more.

      This will be a future MBA case study of what NOT to do,

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Not only is their no coordination, it seems various subsidiaries are pointing the finger at each other. Just look at the apologies issued by VW in the USA – all fingers point back to the fatherland.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Couldnt have this article been added onto the last one?

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    As a past VW owner (all gasoline) I say fine them a couple billion and move on. Lets see, VW cheated and as a result your oil burner has more power and gets better mileage. Boo Hoo, I like power and mileage, you want low emissions, get a leaf or Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Pissed off former TDI owner here. I will probably be getting a Leaf or a Tesla next, over a Volkswagen.

      Volkswagen sold me unreliable poorly engineered junk that couldn’t hold a candle to a decade-older Ford design in terms of reliability, AND they tried about the specifications of their cars (the next generation car from the one I owned, but it’s still one of the cars I’d be considering (along with a new one) if I were to buy another VW).

      I really liked that POS Jetta TDI on those occasions when it ran, so I’d like to see VW fix their problems and start selling good cars which perform as specified, for a change. But, until then, I’ll be looking to Tesla, Nissan, and Toyota for my next ride.

  • avatar
    Silence

    VW really need to STFU and get to work on some boot-licking penitence. Uncle Sam really doesn’t screw around when companies start screwing with them.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    “What we did in these engines wasn’t technically illegal” is precisely the OPPOSITE of the correct answer to be giving at this time.

    I don’t personally know any Germans, but would this kind of blatant disrespect and contempt be an effective negotiation tactic with the German or EU authorities? The EPA is going to print an extra-special truckload of books for the sole purpose of throwing them at VW.

    I’m not even sure it would be POSSIBLE for VW to make their situation worse except maybe it being found out that their DEF is made from whale oil or something…

  • avatar
    wmba

    Nobody really in charge back home in Wolfsburg, ten senior executives gone and the rest suspicious of each other. Nothing is going to happen positively for VW until someone takes real charge. That may not happen, in which case VW is kaput.

    If Piech comes hurtling back as the octogenarian savior, all is kaput as well, since he never majored in diplomacy, opting instead for ordering everyone about. Lecturing what he regards as dumbkopfs will go down like a lead balloon.

    These twits are going to find out that US justice is just as unflinching as Piech is, whether completely justified or not.

    Piech is the one who should be called out, because it’s his management style of not accepting anything but success which led to the cheating in the first place.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Will the other shoe (emission variations of gasoline cars during EPA testing .vs. real world driving) be falling soon? I hope not !

  • avatar
    jthorner

    VW said in another piece:

    “no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner.”

    Ah, there is that calculated use of the weasel words “in a forbidden manner”. So VW isn’t just denying that their software alters emission characteristics, but is trying to say that it does so in a way which is not explicitly forbidden.

    I said from the get-go that this way of doing things was likely to end up being found to be business-as-usual at VW and not limited to a few rogue engineers on one engine family.

    The $99B question is: Are there other auto makers at which this is considered standard industry practice as well ????

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Yeah, I picked up on that too. Splitting hairs may have worked if these were the only cars that were part of this situation. But at this point, arguing about split hairs with the EPA is 100% guaranteed to only enrage them further.

      They are like a petulant child that has been grounded for, say, finger-painting his parent’s wedding portrait, and is told to “clean your room”. The child dusts the top of the dresser, leaves the rest of the room like a pig-sty, and proudly announces he has “cleaned his room”. When the parent discovers this subterfuge and calls the child on it, the child objects “Well, you didn’t say HOW MUCH to clean!”

      And just like that child, the result of that weasel-wording might have elicited no more than a stern rebuke in “normal times”, but when already in trouble, it sends them into DEFCON 1 levels of punishment.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I think what Volkswagen is saying is that the 3-liter V6 diesel uses software that reduces pollution from a cold start, but 1) it acts the same way on the road as on the test and 2) that software was disclosed. Therefore, Volkswagen believes it achieved EPA certification under the letter of the law. The EPA created a test and the manufacturer optimized control software to pass that test. I suspect that ECU code optimized to pass EPA tests is standard industry practice. The EPA needs to change the test if they want different results.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      There is the grey area of ‘designing to the test’ (like ‘teaching to the test’). At some level eeveryone does this. There is no point in making something poorly optimized for testing. (Do you not act your best when applying for a job?)

      The problem is: at what point does this become cheating instead of putting your best foot forward?

      [Uncle Sam is not altogether clean in this either, just look at some of the military equipment debacles]

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy.”

    “I shot the sheriff, but I swear it was in self defense.”

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      VW in a letter to the EPA:
      “I shot the sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy.”

      EPA finds the deputy in the hospital with a VW-branded bullet in his chest:
      “VW, you are under arrest for shooting the deputy, you filthy liars. Murder 1, and we are revoking your bail for use of a firearm by a confessed felon.”

      VW:
      “Well, yeah, the deputy’s in the hospital (but he’s not dead!), and yeah, there’s a bullet in his heart with a VW logo on it, but we actually jammed it in there using a ramrod and a mallet, so that doesn’t technically count as “shooting” him, and it’s not a firearms violation.”

      EPA: “And you actually think that helps your situation?”

      EPA proceeds to dust off old laws to charge VW with things. In addition to a 30-year sentence for shooting the sheriff, EPA charges them with Jaywalking, Spitting on the sidewalk, Cursing in public, Honking a motor vehicle after 8PM, etc. to extend punishment by approx. 1,000 years.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I have been known to disagree with traffic cops over the speed at which I was traveling. This typically results in an additional ticket for not enough rubber on the tires or something. This is not necessarily right, but it is the world I live in. You can argue about the EPA using bully tactics all you want (IMHO it is a loosing argument…they cheated and got caught), but the EPA is part of the world in which VW operates and to not be doing all they can to appease them at this point is simply bad business.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      And I am no fan of EPA overreach, but this is EXACTLY why the EPA exists. I’m no fan of 70’s era LA smog either.

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatist

        This is a false dichotomy. 70s smog is a problem licked long ago. If all VWs stayed just the way they are, it will not be back (think back to 2002, not 1970). The potential issue for debate is whether the EPAs recent moving of the goal post was realistic (this does not justify cheating, however).

        Regulators don’t have to carry the practical and financial costs of their decisions, they just appeal to the ‘altruism’ of their jobs. The manufacturers and their customers wind up paying the cost of technologically unreasonable standards in terms of initial cost, reliability and durability.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I think I understand VW’s position although I think the obvious intent of the software was to deceive.

    So I guess the question is, do VW’s V6 diesels begin the “cheat mode” when the car is turned on? Or when the car is plugged into test equipment? If it begins when the car is turned on, VW will simply argue this a design element for engine longevity (or some other BS) and that the 1371 seconds is simply coincidence. They have no way of knowing when the test cycle will begin with any particular car after it is actually started. However, if the 1371 seconds is triggered by the car being plugged into emissions equipment, weeeeellll, get out your checkbook VW.

    At least I think this is the distinction VW is trying to make. Ill conceived given the circumstances.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I this case, the “cheat mode” stays on for almost 23 minutes. That covers a large percentage of actual operation. If Volkswagen hadn’t just been caught both cheating and covering up what they did with the 4 cylinder models, Volkswagen and the EPA could probably come up with some “voluntary” recall to resolve the issue.

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