By on February 29, 2016

2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

After staying relatively clean in the ongoing diesel emissions scandal that’s keeping European automakers up at night, Mercedes-Benz now finds itself the potential target of an Environmental Protection Agency investigation, Automotive News Europe reports.

The EPA’s request for information targets the nitrous oxide emissions of the company’s Bluetec diesel engines, and comes less than two weeks after a class-action lawsuit was filed by law firm Hagens Berman (of General Motors ignition switch fame).

Yes, that sound you’re hearing is executives loosening their collars in Stuttgart.

The lawsuit alleges that Mercedes-Benz programmed its diesel engines to emit up to 65 times the allowable amount of NOx once outside temperatures drop below 50 Fahrenheit.

From the suit:

The suit filed Feb. 18, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey accuses Mercedes of deceiving consumers with false representations of its BlueTEC vehicles, which it marketed as “the world’s cleanest and most advanced diesel” with “ultra-low emissions, high fuel economy and responsive performance” that emits “up to 30% lower greenhouse-gas emissions than gasoline.”  According to the complaint, on-road testing confirmed that Mercedes’ so-called Clean Diesel cars produced average on-road NOx emissions that are 19 times higher than the U.S. standard, with some instantaneous readings as high as 65 times more than the U.S. limit.

On Mercedes-Benz diesels, urea and deionized water (“AdBlue”) is injected into vehicle’s exhaust gases to lower tailpipe emissions.

A spokesperson for parent company Daimler has refuted the allegations, stating Mercedes-Benz has done nothing illegal, though it admits the emissions system does diminish the urea injection at certain times to prevent condensation buildup and corrosion in the exhaust system.

The lawsuits cites the full range of diesel-equipped Mercedes-Benz diesels, from passenger cars and SUVs to commercial vans.

Is everything above board at Mercedes-Benz? The EPA gets to have the final say on that.

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28 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz Hasn’t Escaped the Diesel Dragnet...”

  • avatar

    who performed the testing to determine that Daimler vehicles emit that much? the linked article doesn’t say. At least when the VW story broke, we were told who the group was which found the non-compliance. Right now all we have against Daimler is a “class action” suit started by a law firm.

    So where is the evidence?

  • avatar

    Well, NOx is not a greenhouse gas, so their advertising holds up so far…

  • avatar

    Not sure how this will play out 99% of MB diesels are 6 cal, not the 4 cal that has VW in most of its trouble, I am sure BMW is next in line with their diesels, the only clean company here is Mazda, they kept saying we bringing a diesel to the US but could not meet the regs so they gave up.

    • 0 avatar

      It will be interesting to see how this plays out for MB. The US diesel emissions standards are set extremely high. It would not surprise me to find out that MB and BMW are not able to comply when measured against real world tests.

      Like you said Seth Mazda (and Subaru) both gave up because they could not find a way to make their diesel engines comply. This could be true of both Toyota and Honda as well, but they would be too arrogant to actually admit that… so instead they just say that they have been focusing on their hybrid tech.

      • 0 avatar

        They don’t have to comply with the real world tests. They have to comply with a very specifically detailed laboratory test that is “supposed” to reflect the real world (but doesn’t). As long as they are not cheating on the lab test ala VW, what happens in the real world should not matter.

      • 0 avatar

        “The US diesel emissions standards are set extremely high. ”

        I wish people would quit saying this. They have to meet the same standards as gas engines. if that’s too difficult to do, then maybe diesels need to go.

        • 0 avatar

          I think it may be a slippery slope. The next thing you’ll hear is “gas engines are held to the same standard as hybrids, so may be gas needs to go”. Then hybrids in favor of full electrics, then in favor of hydrogen fuel cells, etc…

          I’m afraid that this is just a way for agencies to push certain technologies they deem favorable onto the masses and brush aside what they deem unfavorable away.

          • 0 avatar

            The European auto industry had, perhaps still has, a lead in small, passenger car, diesel engine tech, that they did not have in gas engines. Which they then took to the Eurocrats, along with sales pitches for why diesel was better than gas. It’s how the German Overengineering Team has been operating for the better part of 3 decades. In every field. And the poor saps in the regulatory agencies over there, are just as easily blinded by crass credentialism and Herr Doktors as their counterparts over here.

            Now, 60 whatever percent of Euro passenger cars are diesel. Hence; time to encourage customers to switch back. Or, at least, to ensure their current cars are banned from inner cities, so they need a new one. Either “diesel gassers” (DI, turbo, crazy compression, diesel in all but fuel, gassers), or diesel hybrids (electric in cities, diesel outside), which, cue drumroll, the German Overengineering Team again coincidentally happen to lead the world in producing….

        • 0 avatar

          Well said. It’s the European law that allowed for so many years different standards in favor of diesel.

        • 0 avatar

          There is something to that. But OTOH, test results are more dependent on the tests in question, than emissions of the underlying engine.

          In Europe, many of the diesels that sell (or sold, things are getting loopier there too) well, are powered low enough that people simply wouldn’t put up with a gas engine that “weak.” But diesel is acceptable, because the power band is right where most people drive most of the time.

          During the silly “test loops/cycles” the industry-captive agencies are using to score engines for compliance and emissions, the diesel is, to exaggerate just a little bit, running flat out. While the Corvette is idling. Meaning, you’re measuring worst case for the diesel, 10% of worst for the ‘Vette. Of course, as soon the ‘Vette leaves the test lab, it’s burnout time……

          As I’ve been arguing for two decades, measure worst case. Or, at least, make worst case a significant sub component of what is measured. Say, 50% each of current EPA and Baruth on speed with free reign of the ‘Ring. Anything less, are just varying degrees of invitation to game whichever arbitrary rules happen to currently be in place.

  • avatar

    As far as Liberals are concerned, everything is a greenhouse gas and you have no right to drive a car – not unless you’re paying taxes to the Welfare state.

    Simple fact: There is no “waste-free” energy source.

    Even cow gasses add to “global warming”.

    I’m just gonna drive my new Jeep and my new Hellcat knowing that unlike the German cheaters – I passed emissions inspections TRUTHFULLY.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “instantaneous readings as high as 65 times more than the U.S. limit”

    Thank you for reporting this with precision. However, amid all the furor, I’ve never been able to determine whether instantaneous emissions excursions are actually prohibited.

    I’m more interested in the time-weighted readings, but I don’t know if the EPA agrees with me.

    Does anybody here know how – or whether – emission testing incorporates time- or mileage-weighting?

    • 0 avatar

      This. Also, how hard would it be to put some numbers on the various tier restrictions – no pollution gear and then %age reductions thru the years?

      • 0 avatar

        Engines have been ridiculously clean for a long time. Saab did a demo nearly 20 years ago where they piped the exhaust of one of their old 2-stroke smokers into the intake of a then current Trionic Saab 4cyl, and the output from the tailpipe was cleaner than the ambient air in the industrial area that they were doing the test.

        Supposedly the single biggest reduction was just from going to closed PCV systems in the mid 60s.

        • 0 avatar

          >> Engines have been ridiculously clean for a long time.

          Maybe not. There is some early stage research that is showing that catalytic converters may be dumping out “potential” carcinogens that we didn’t know were there. The “potential carcinogen” is carbon nano-tube particulate. As far as I know, it’s just one study at Rice University and Paris-Saclay University, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. They still haven’t definitively proven that they are carcinogens yet as far as I know.

          Still, there could be something there and if there is, the EPA might require alterations to current catalytic converter designs – which might not be too difficult.

  • avatar

    This is basically the same issue that caused the stop sale on the 3.0 V6 TDIs for VW/Audi/Porsche. It’s abusing the cold weather start program to basically operate full time below X temperature.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    The EPA calls nitrous oxide a greenhouse gas. It is included in the list of GHG’s under the Kyoto Protocol.

    NOAA measures the amount in the atmosphere and publishes it here:

  • avatar

    “The EPA’s request for information targets the nitrous oxide emissions of the company’s Bluetec diesel …” says the article.

    No, it does not. Nitrous oxide is laughing gas, N20. The EPA is after NOx, the x standing for 2, 3, 4 etc. NO2 is nitrogen dioxide a rather unpleasant chemical, and nitrogen trioxide and nitrogen tetroxide are also nasty.

    Just wanted to put the truth on record, new newsbot.

  • avatar

    “A spokesperson for parent company Daimler has refuted the allegations, stating Mercedes-Benz has done nothing illegal”

    Wording nitpick: Daimler has *denied* the allegations.

    To refute them is to *prove* them false; Daimler might be able to do that later, but they haven’t done so yet.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    Well I think after looking at it that everyone is right . The article does say nitrous oxide but it should probably read nitrogen oxides or oxides of nitrogen, of which there are many species. Air being around 78% Nitrogen N2 and 21% Oxygen 02 (and going down) – when it goes into the 2500 degree crucible of the combustion chamber, they are I think, literally atomized in hot plasma which recombines in every way possible.

    So N20 nitrous oxide is just one small component of all the combinations which are NOx i.e. NO, NO2, NO3 etc., and also NxOy i.e. N2O, N2O3, N3O2 etc…. some more stable when released than others.

    As stated above, NOx causes Smog that inflames lung linings, induces asthma, is acidic, and interacts with O3 when it drifts high, depleting ozone. Spiky hot sun anyone? While N2O which ironically is the nicest of nitrogen oxides to breath, like at the dentist or Phish concerts – just happens to reflect long wave radiation back down to the ground instead of letting it through to vent into space.

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