By on November 6, 2016

exhaust

A U.S. regulator has come across another emissions-cheating device on a Volkswagen Group product. This isn’t more of the same — rather, it’s an entirely different apparatus used on vehicles until well after the company’s diesel emissions scandal became public knowledge.

This isn’t a great time for Volkswagen to be caught with its pants down for not disclosing something they were already in big trouble for. With the company trying to wrap things up with the Department of Justice, the new report from German outlet Bild am Sonntag could sour things.

According to the paper, the California Air Resources Board discovered the new emissions-cheating software four months ago. Sonntag claims the software was installed in vehicles with certain automatic transmissions, and sensed whether a car’s steering wheel was being turned. A stationary wheel is indicative of a stationary platform, like those used for testing purposes.

During these conditions the vehicle ran a different shifting program, one that reduced carbon dioxide emissions and overall fuel consumption. Turning the wheel 15 degrees in any direction canceled the program entirely, returning the car to its normal mode for road use.

The paper states that the device had been implemented in several hundred thousand Audi vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions, including the Q5, A6, and A8. The usage of the device was discontinued in May of 2016, which is a full eight months after Volkswagen’s emissions scandal became public knowledge.

Nether CARB or Audi have been available for comment on this morning’s report.

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94 Comments on “Uh Oh, the U.S. Found Another Emissions-cheating Device in Audi Vehicles...”


  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    I would wonder how many deceitful things VAG can do (yeah, let’s roll with that line) before they get banned from selling cars in the United States, but that’s an impossibility with Chattanooga on the line and thousands of people employed by VW-associated companies (dealers, etc.) here.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    Hopefully this isn’t a case of “we caught VW, but really, everyone’s doing it”.. In that case, we may actually be polluting much worse than we think we are.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    EVs eliminate this issue entirely. Hopefully EVs will kill carb and the epa motor vehicle pollution divisions.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Yea. they do that but they produce nuclear waste, coal emissions, polluted water and poisoned people as result of fracking. yea, electricity comes from nowhere.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        Well, to be fair, some EV owners bother to put up solar and/or wind systems to make electricity from the energy that doesn’t have to come out of the ground and released via burning or poisoning the ground.

        • 0 avatar
          JiggyDancer

          If you really dig into the facts about solar electricity, you’ll find that they’re cost prohibitive to use outside of the tropics and for very specialized applications like remote locations outside of the network. Otherwise, the energy produced by the panels over the course of 20 YEARS barely outweighs the resource footprint of manufacturing and distributing them.

          Wind power is legitimately clean, but they are impossible to scale up since they take up too much land, and reliability is also an issue, since the wind isn’t blowing all the time.

          I personally think nuclear energy is the only real solution. It has a very bad reputation, but if you really look into it, the dangers of radiation and nuclear wastes are overexaggerated. There are some security concerns, however, when dealing with fissile materials.

          I also have high hopes for geothermal energy (where it is available) as it is basically a natural source of nuclear energy. And also on the future development of tidal power.

          As it is, solar & wind are a completely ineffective waste of tax dollars that could be better used on nuclear power plants and research on more effective technologies that can really make a difference.

          • 0 avatar
            Ol Shel

            Now, calculate the actual costs of the damage caused by fossil fuels in vehicles.

            Not so cheap, eh?

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            “but they are impossible to scale up since they take up too much land[…]”

            What? A single windmill has a footprint of about 150 square feet, assuming a 14-foot diameter.

            “…since the wind isn’t blowing all the time.”

            In certain areas (mine, for instance), it most definitely is.

            I agree with you on nuclear energy. If we could only solve the waste problem…but to call solar & wind “a completely ineffective waste of tax dollars” is just being willfully ignorant.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @slavuta: Economies of scale mean that power generation at a utility is a much cleaner operation than having portable power plants everywhere. Please stop with the ‘pollution equivalence’ meme.

      • 0 avatar
        orenwolf

        Depends on where you live. I get to choose the source of my power generation.

        I use a company called Bullfrog Power (bullfrogpower.com) who use only wind, solar, and low-impact hydro-electric sources for electricity.

        As others have pointed out though, even if you can’t choose your power sources, you gain significant efficiencies centralizing the polluting activity, which reduces pollution overall.

        • 0 avatar
          WalterRohrl

          It’s extremely unlikely that you ACTUALLY use the ACTUAL power generated by whatever method you choose from Bullfrog.

          More likely you pay them more than the going local rate of your local utility and Bullfrog then pumps a given amount of power into the grid wherever they are (or the production mechanism is) and then you use the same amount of power available locally but derived from whatever method there is at that point and they pay your provider the rate. The balance is profit for Bullfrog.

          Bullfrog says they power about 10,000 private homes, it’s not like have set up a parallel distribution network to whatever is already in existence for those homes.

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            True, though my power is generated in the province I live in.

            What’s the difference though? If we use x Mwh of electricity in the province, it’s not like the power generated is in “addition” to that use. I pay for enough power to be generated into my grid to cover my use (and my businesses use, for that matter. That power would have come from other sources otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            The grid is best described as a huge pool. Multiple supply lines in; many lines out. Since the alternate generator contributes to the “pool”, it is fair to say you are buying/using “green” energy, even if the actual energy you use is from, say, a nuke. That’s just the way it works…

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “What’s the difference though?”

            you’re not actually choosing who you get your power from, you’re just choosing who you pay.

            which can still be a net benefit if it encourages addition of non-fossil generation capacity.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Electricity is fungible.

        Sources that generate electricity are already heavily regulated in a method that’s transparent and hassle free to the general public.

        Overall net energy usage and pollution goes down with an EV, or did you think that your crude magically got sucked out of the ground, turned into gasoline, and delivered to a pump near you with no additional energy input?

        • 0 avatar
          2manycars

          I don’t care about overall energy usage or emissions, or any of the other ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ arguments people get into with this. (In particular I don’t care about CO2 emissions since that gas is not a pollutant.) For me it is 100% about dollars and cents plus utility.

          The only attraction of an electric car to me is the promise of a simpler, long-lived drivetrain requiring much less maintenance than a conventional vehicle. These are tangible benefits. However the cost, battery life, charging time, and range issues for now make electric vehicles uncompetitive. This will change with more development. When they are truly better than the competition, consumers will flock to them. That’s the way the market works. No coercive subsidies needed.

          Until the electrics are fully competitive with ICE, for me it is NO SALE. However once they reach parity I might well consider one (assuming that happens in my lifetime), and at that point I really would not give a rat’s ass where the electricity for them comes from as long as it is available. Coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, atomic, whatever.

      • 0 avatar
        Click REPLY to reload page

        Except when charged from solar power.

    • 0 avatar
      DaPlugg

      Except manufacturing the batteries creates way more pollution than this audi ever could

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        Source?

        er, *credible* source?

        The old “batteries cause more pollution than the gasoline they replace!” argument has been around since the dawn of the Prius. It’s generally used by ignorant people who don’t like the Prius for personal reasons, to try to shut down the argument by putting forth what they think is an inarguable argument.

        But for some reason, the only source they ever come up with is some long-discredited piece–always the same one, every time.

        So: source? *Credible” source?

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        DaPlugg, that’s a myth. Lithium Ion battery manufacturing has a negligible impact on the environment and is an insignificant source of pollution, especially when compared to crude oil extraction and refinement or natural gas fracking.

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      Unfortunately, EVs cost too much, have ridiculously short ranges and ridiculously long charge times, making them unsuitable as replacement for ICE-powered cars (even though there are some ardent EV fanbois here on this very site, ostensibly a place for car enthusiasts, who diligently downplay the disadvantages, which nevertheless exist).

      • 0 avatar
        orenwolf

        Not being able to fuel my ICE car at home is a disadvantage to me, since all but a few trips a year in my upcoming EV will be fueled at home and well within my range of travel.

        Disadvantages exist. Whether or not the are applicable to a given use case is another matter entirely. I choose “my car will be full every time it leaves the garage and a few times a year I need to find a charging station” as an acceptable use case for me.

      • 0 avatar
        thattruthguy

        A Tesla Model S is expensive, but 200+ mile range on an overnight charge is completely practical for me as a daily driver. Supercharger recharge times for point-to-point travel aren’t horrible, and that nuisance is balanced against never, ever having to stop at a gas station on any day that I drive less than 200 miles. Availability of Superchargers is a nuisance for long distance travel, but that isn’t a technical problem; it’s easier and cheaper to install Superchargers than to build a gas station.

        And a Model S goes like a scalded dog. Sight unseen, I would lay cash on a Model S in a drag race against whatever you’re driving.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          Yeah, if only I had 6 figures to drop on my commuter I could swing an ev that is actually a practical daily driver. I do hope they will come down as economies of scale kick in and standards involving charging and what not kick in but until such time us plebes are stuck with gas.

          • 0 avatar
            nickoo

            Bolt goes for 27,500 where I live after rebates. If 240 miles of range isn’t enough for your commute then you have lifestyle issues you may want to consider.

          • 0 avatar
            Lack Thereof

            6 figures?
            If you’re willing to wait until next year:
            Bolt – $36,620 before rebates
            Model 3 – $35,000 before rebates

            Need it now?
            Model S – $66,000 before rebates.

            But I’ll probably keep driving my J-body because new car prices are ludicrous in general.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Frankly if we are talking back and forth to work, the cheapest degraded battery pack would work. My lifestyle however includes the need to carry a bunch of Boy Scouts camping and pull the troops trailer full of stuff, pull my 5000 pound travel trailer to various destinations that aren’t triple digits in the summer as well. As close as I am to work though the second vehicle doesn’t make much sense.

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            Then, unless you’re willing to stop at a supercharger for 20 minutes on these routes, EVs won’t fit your use case.

            I, too, camp and do a few long drives a year, but not places where I couldn’t use a charger if I needed to, and I’m ok with that. Not everyone will be. Perhaps someday battery technology, charging technology, or charging locations will be better for these use cases.

            Of course, go back even three to four years, and there weren’t really EVs that would work for me, either, else I’d own a Leaf now. :)

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          “I would lay cash on a Model S in a drag race against whatever you’re driving.”

          Watch it…many of us live in climates where year round 2 wheel commuting is a thing. My R1 and I will happily take your bet and your money.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @asdf: I guess you need the long range to reach your nearest fotomat and blockbuster video.

        Some of us are fans of EVs because we see ICEs as having reached their performance limits. Hypercar manufacturers agree with us since having wheels driven by electric motors pretty much defines the genre. We now have a soccermom minivan/cuv (the Mode X) that can destroy most ICE sports cars. Because of electric technology we now have all wheel torque vectoring technology starting to make its appearance. Some of us want the ultimate in performance and you’re not going to get that from an ICE powered car.

        Look, I understand EVs aren’t for some people. I get it. For some of us, to get that bleeding edge performance and/or technology, we’re willing to work around whatever limitations we have to deal with. The technology is changing fast. SAE 1000vdc and 800vdc charging will reduce charging times and battery factories using new lithium battery manufacturing techniques that reduce costs are ramping up and have already made initial customer deliveries. Today’s biggest problems with EVs will be reduced in the future.

        • 0 avatar
          W126

          “Some of us want the ultimate in performance and you’re not going to get that from an ICE powered car.”

          So for you the ultimate in performance is electric cars that overheat and go into limp home mode after 2 laps on a racetrack?

          Also it would be really cumbersome to take a six figure Tesla on a long road trip for obvious reasons. With any ICE car you can rack up 1000+ miles a day.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @W126
            Impression I am getting strongly is that EV’s will be eventually be a technological dead end.

            Limited Range; very slow recharging; non-existent recharging; battery explosions and fires and dangerous in accidents and add cannot tow anything

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “EV’s will be eventually be a technological dead end.”

            Not as much as during their first go-round. I’m very interested in the Bolt as a light-duty novelty vehicle.

            But as long as we’re still driving we’ll always have some kind of Japanese ICE in the garage, too.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I like how every time EVs are being discussed, the discussion turns to how much they suck because you can’t take one for more than a couple of laps around a racetrack while hauling furniture cross-country.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        For now. The next generation batteries which solve all of those issues are already in testing phases. Wait until bolt gen 2 or gen 3 comes out.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    So I wonder if this cheat applies to just diesel or diesel and gasoline?

    Either way VWs failure to disclose this cheat could land them in deep doo doo. I do wonder if VW could stand another bout of record fines. And if more fines are on the way then could anyone afford to buy VW out whole or would it be broken up?

  • avatar
    zip94513

    If this was any state other than Commiefornia, I’d believe it.

  • avatar
    tnk479

    Isn’t it possible that such software exists for reasons other than emissions cheating, like managing the vehicles traction?

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      Possible, maybe, but two issues with that theory:

      a) Turning the wheel cancels the shift programming for the entire duration of the drive, not just while the wheel is turned

      b) More aggressive shift programming while turning is the exact OPPOSITE of what you would want, if you were using shift timing to manage traction.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    What if you were driving in one of those states, where roads are straight for countless miles and barely any curves?

    • 0 avatar

      Or sitting in traffic for hours at a time.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        You must turn your wheels to get out of your parking space, get onto the road, etc. From my understanding, that would cancel the program for the duration of the time it was running. I don’t know if it returns to “clean mode” after so long, but I’d guess that doing so would be pointless since it theoretically isn’t being tested.

        And c’mon, how often do you drive 100% perfectly straight for long periods? No corrections for wind or road surface, never having to pass a slower car or a disabled one, never have to let someone merge in by getting over, and the highway entrance ramp is perfectly aligned with your gas pump, so you just crank up, put in gear, and never turn, ever, until you’re in Grandma’s driveway.

        yeah, you sound like a kid saying “what if I’m on the moon, does my inhaler work then? What if I’m under water? What if I’m pulled into a black hole?”

        • 0 avatar
          Corollaman

          I just drove straight on US 27 from Miami to Lake Okeechobee for 80 miles, not one single turn.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Whether or not it returns to “clean mode” is key, and we don’t have that information. Matt didn’t provide it, and the linked article appears to be behind a paywall. Unless Matt can read German, meaning could be twisted in the Google translation.

          You say returning to clean mode would be pointless, but that assumes the code is an emissions testing cheat rather than part of the effort to improve fuel economy.

          I’m playing devil’s advocate here. While I can imagine legitimate reasons for a different shifting program when the wheel doesn’t move more than 15 degrees in either direction, it probably is a cheat. Because VW. If so, wow.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    VW and Audi CAN NOT, WILL NOT stop cheating. Hello Skoda!

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    This “cheating” appears to be solely for reporting lower CO2 emissions. The US EPA has not regulated CO2 output from cars yet. That is a Euro thing, and this software would only be useful to confound the EU regulatory bodies.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      The US EPA does regulate CO2 output. Couldn’t this function also be used on the EPA fuel economy tests?

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        US EPA does NOT regulate CO2 output of passenger cars (yet). They have fought court battles for the right to regulate it in general, but have only been exercising that right with regards to power plants.

        However, yes, this would skew CAFE mileage tests.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Lack Thereof
          It would be a nightmare for US Automakers if they did

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          yep. the key here is that the EPA fuel economy test procedure works by capturing the vehicle’s exhaust and assaying the amount of carbon in it. “Low CO2 mode” = “fuel economy cheat.”

          also, even though EPA doesn’t *regulate* CO2 output from cars, they do require it be listed on the Monroney.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          This might be legal under EPA regulations so long as emissions control systems meet the standards independent of the automatic transmission shift points. However, I would expect the EPA to pass new regulations to specifically prohibit this in the future. Sort of like NASCAR teams finding loopholes and rules being later added to eliminate the loopholes.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “The US EPA has not regulated CO2 output from cars yet.”

      That is incorrect. CO2 emissions = fuel economy.

      If fuel economy goes up, CO2 emissions go down.

      The only way to reduce CO2 emissions is to burn less fuel.

      Yes, this is regulated in the US and elsewhere. The US has CAFE, a gas guzzler tax and other restrictions.

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    Hopefully this will help end the farce of overly aggressive shift schedules that improve fuel economy (and reduce CO2 emissions) but are easily switched off by selecting sport mode so not used in the real world. EPA and CARB should be testing in sport mode when measuring emissions and FE. At least then we would have a fair comparison between automatics and manual transmission cars.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Today’s automatics “learn” driver behavior, so their programming starts out MPG-friendly from the factory and then adapts to what the driver actually wants out of the car. These days I mostly see a Sport mode in cars intended for a manual transmission, like a Fiat 500 Abarth; or in cars where the owner might actually want the MPG-friendly programming some of the time, like a Lexus CT200h hybrid. But you might drive more cars than I do.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I don’t think other automakers are engaging in this sort of bold, blatant cheating. It’s a huge gamble to flat out “break” rules. It’s more likely that others will be caught “bending” the rules. Implementing engineering that is not in the spirit or letter of the regulation but at least defensible on technical grounds. Clearly, something different going on at VW/Audi. Once they made the massive gamble to implement indefensible cheats, they simply went all in. I wouldn’t be surprised if most models they sell end up being found to contain some sort of cheat as to emission, fuel economy, etc. It’s a corporate mantra over there apparently.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Yet another non story. Why is the US Government and CARB out to get VW?

    Time to roll some coal as a symbolic middle finger to the Government and CARB.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      Or you could ask why can’t VW just come clean about every cheat they had on sale and on the road. That’s typically what a repentant, remorseful person or organization would do under the circumstances. Instead, more lies and deceit. I’m not the most environmentally conscious guy in the world by any stretch, but I hope there is a special place in hell for people who excessively pollute on purpose just to demonstrate their douchebaggery with something like rolling coal. Just sayin

    • 0 avatar
      orenwolf

      So, regardless of whether or not you care about emissions, you consider it a non-story that a major Car manufacturer used a cheat to pass a vehicle regulation? You figure they can trust them on things like security regulations, or warranty claims, say? Would you trust your families safety to this company?

      I don’t see a point is supporting organizations who willfully hide defects from regulators. Perhaps you don’t feel such acts are issues, but I do, and I’ll be sure anyone *I* know or speak to regarding VW hear that opinion, entirely regardless of *what* was defeated.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @orenwolf
        VW is not the only ” bad guy” There are quite a few. Most are not European

        • 0 avatar
          orenwolf

          Oh, I know. I wasn’t suggesting VW were the only “bad guys”, just that I don’t think they deserve a “Who cares” attitude towards their actions, *even if* emissions don’t matter to you.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @RobertRyan: Names, please.

          I’ve seen lots of allegations and investigations in the headlines, but none seems to result in factual cheating – except for Volkswagen.

          Are their any criminal charges, recalls, vehicle buybacks, software changes, or *any* documented proof of systematic cheating by any mfr other than VW?

          I’ll also add that an irregular test that shows a 10% high reading is not the same as a corporate-wide conspiracy to deceive millions of consumers and several governmental agencies for a decade.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      It’s evident that you guys seldom encounter social casualties as severely wounded as EB in your usual environments. He ain’t after dialogue.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      as someone who has watched family members succumb to particulate diseases like Black Lung, I invite you to “roll coal” with your exhaust piped into your interior.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I doubt that VW needs to cheat to meet CAFE requirements. My guess is that they designed this primarily to deal with European regulations.

  • avatar
    Von

    Crooked and self righteous, SOMEBODY needs to go to jail before these guys learn their lesson. And not some engineer that doesn’t even have their own windowed office, ok?

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I am absolutely sure that a few million dollar donation to the Clinton Foundation and a couple of million for a couple of Bill Clinton speeches to VW executives and dealers will make this all go away. Laws are for little people.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The article calls it a “device”, but it’s really just a calibration setting, right?

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “defeat device” is a blanket term for anything which disables all or part of the emissions control system. can be a physical device or just a PCM software routine.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Am I missing something here?

    The car goes into a different shifting mode when you are cornering. No sh!t. Modern cars do that.

    Automatics hold a gear longer in a corner than when going straight. The reasons why you don’t want to upshift in the middle of a corner are self-evident.

    Modern cars also change their shift maps if you are going up, or down, a hill, or if it’s below freezing, or if the wipers are on.

    Next thing you know, people will tell us that torque vectoring is also the product of a vast global conspiracy. It only works when cornering!

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “The car goes into a different shifting mode when you are cornering. No sh!t. Modern cars do that.

      Am I missing something here?”

      yes. the cars in question never go back to the “low CO2” mode once you’ve turned the steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah, if the steering wheel hasn’t been turned more than 15 degrees since start up it shifts at X rpm, to reduce fuel use. Once the steering wheel has been turned 15 degrees or more it shifts at Y rpm and continues to do so for the rest of that trip for better performance and driveabilty.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “During these conditions the vehicle ran a different shifting program, one that reduced carbon dioxide emissions and overall fuel consumption.”

    Statements like these are confusing because you make it sound as if CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are two separate matters.

    They are the same thing. CO2 emissions are the result of burning fuel. Higher fuel economy = lower CO2 emissions. The only difference is that measuring CO2 grams per mile/km accounts for the differences between the carbon content of different fuels such as gas and diesel, while MPG does not.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Rotten to the core. VW upper management are a bunch of fraudsters, no more, no less. And it’s increasingly clear that they’re unrepentant about it and will continue doing it.

    A shame, as they make some compelling products.

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