By on June 13, 2017

2016 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

The university that sparked the emissions wildfire under Volkswagen has turned its testing equipment on Fiat Chrysler’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel vehicles. The results aren’t pretty, especially for those with diminished lung capacity.

West Virginia University researchers who tested tailpipe emissions in real-world driving conditions claim the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesels, singled out by the Environmental Protection Agency in January for excess pollution and unauthorized emission control devices, are indeed quite harmful to air quality. The university plans to detail its findings in a report to be published within weeks.

FCA, which proved unable to sidestep the EPA’s wrath or a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice, has spoken out against the university’s methods.

The Wall Street Journal, which received a copy of the study, reports that researchers tested 2014 and 2015 model year vehicles. The EcoDiesel was made available on 2014 to 2016 models. Due to the emissions flap, FCA has not been able to certify its 2017 EcoDiesel models for sale. The university chose to put five vehicles from two model years under the microscope because a previous emissions controversy forced FCA to recall 2014 models for select catalytic converter replacement.

What did the university discover? When tested in real-world conditions, the 2015 Rams reportedly emitted up to 25 times the allowable amount of smog-causing nitrogen oxide. The diesel 2015 Jeeps were eight times above the legal limit. As for the 2014 models, both the Jeep and Ram returned “significantly increased” emissions levels compared to tests performed in a lab.

The earlier recall “definitely didn’t fix the problem,” Dan Carder, director of West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions, told WSJ. He added, “when you see differences [between field and lab results], it’s suggesting there are control strategies that are making emissions controls perform differently in the test than in the field.”

If found guilty of violating the Clean Air Act, FCA could find itself on the hook for billions of dollars in penalties. The automaker has denied any wrongdoing, offering up a fix for the roughly 104,000 EcoDiesels already on the road and making software changes for the yet-to-be-certified 2017 model year. Its certification application landed on the EPA’s desk just days before the DOJ’s lawsuit.

FCA has also called the university’s findings into question. After trying in vain to discuss the findings with the researchers, the automaker issued a statement. The study “appears to have been commissioned by a plaintiffs’ law firm for the purposes of litigation,” FCA stated, referring to the lab’s funding by an outside firm headed by ex-Wall Street investment types.

FCA claims the university tested the vehicles in a far different manner than federal government lab procedures. The real-world tests saw the vehicles attain a speed 50 percent higher than in a simulated fashion in the lab. Payload was also 600 to 700 pounds greater.

The university claims it stands behind its findings and the method used to gather the information.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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56 Comments on “Jeep and Ram EcoDiesels Are Plenty Dirty, West Virginia University Tests Show, But FCA’s Having None of It...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Test Ecoboosts and other DI turbo engines next.

  • avatar
    No Nickname Required

    Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they find that the Ecodiesel uses “cheat software” similar to what was found in VW TDIs.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Clean coal!

    Clean diesel!

    #MCCBFFSGTE! (Make Combustion of Carbon-Based Fossil Fuels Surge Greater Than Ever Again!)

    Re-Open ALL West Virginian Coal Mines!!!!!!

    MAGA!!!!!!!

    Rollin’ Coal with yerrr hosts, THE BARUTH BROTHERS!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      And don’t forget to dump your used motor oil down your well.

      Remember, it’s ridiculous to believe that man could have an effect over the environment.

  • avatar
    OzCop

    Indeed…test all diesels using the same “real world” methods, and have engineers for all makes standing by to watch the methodology used and “real world” results…

    • 0 avatar
      nvinen

      That pretty much all diesel engines are dirty, and always have been, is only news to those born without noses (or, in many cases, eyes).

      That may seem like a snarky thing to say but both my parents have diesel vehicles (Volvo and Audi), my wife’s friend has a diesel Audi Q5 which I’ve driven and I’ve been exposed to diesel exhaust many times as a pedestrian and a drive. And every time I’m near a diesel vehicle there’s absolutely no doubt what type of fuel it burns.

      Firstly there’s that acrid, overpowering stench of nitrous oxide if it’s been idling for more than a few seconds in the same spot (even when warm). I often get a whiff of the same smell (usually mixed with that awful sooty smell) from vehicles I’m following in traffic – which is why I almost never roll my window down. Then there are the black clouds I have to drive through when the driver of the diesel vehicle in front of me accelerates hard.

      When my wife was shopping for SUVs, we eliminated about 2/3rds of the options simply because they were only available with AWD if you got the diesel engine. There wasn’t much good left. I’m glad we got a her petrol vehicle in the end, though.

      • 0 avatar
        TDIGuy

        “…we eliminated about 2/3rds of the options simply because they were only available with AWD if you got the diesel engine…”

        Racking my brain trying to think of where in the world do 2/3 of SUVs offer a diesel engine at all? Europe?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      What’s your definition of ‘real world’?

      Standardized tests exist because you can’t get repeatable results by just driving around town, or on a test track.

      The dispute of testing methodology in this case is material to the outcome. WVU needs to explain why their test was performed in non-standard fashion.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Well said, SCE to AUX.
        WVU needs to fully document what they did and then perform the test according to the actual mandated specification. They can compare and contrast the two and lobby for a tighter standard if they wish.

      • 0 avatar
        Ned Funnell

        The whole point is that there is a discrepancy between test performance and real world performance. A defeat device’s purpose is to circumvent standardized testing, so… you need non-standard tests.

        • 0 avatar
          vtecJustKickedInYo

          Ned there are two issues with this. 1. engineers design the engine, transmissions, and software around the EPA test cycle. 2. Diesels are inherently bad polluters at transient operation due to the combustion being sensitive to rate of changes in Air, In cylinder temp, and EGR (think about coal rollers how, the exhaust is super dirty only when accelerating). Diesels have very low emissions at steady state operation which is why they are used in industrial applications such as generators etc. These notes are important for understanding why non-standardized tests will typically show Diesels performing worse in “real world”. For these reasons is not uncommon for diesels to perform 10x-20x worse in “real world” because the EPA cycle has relatively few transients compared to “real world” scenarios. The issue for VW was that they polluted almost 40x as much, which raised a red flag, and when the car realized it was on a dyno performance drastically changed indicating defeat. In summary, yes the pollution for the Dodge is on the higher side, but its really not far from par for the course for diesel pollution. All the variables of the test methodology need to be critically compared with the EPA cycle, which will most likely explain the extra pollution.

          • 0 avatar
            BigOldChryslers

            +1 SCE to Aux and vtecJustKickedInYo

            Unless their on-road tests are as close as possible to the lab test conditions, then they are not comparable.

            Since the lab test methodology is the only valid test that manufacturers must pass, all vehicles (not just diesel powered) will be optimized to perform well in the lab tests, and will perform less well in the real world.

            The important distinction is whether these performance optimizations are always programmed-in so the vehicle always behaves the same, or whether they are switched on or off based on the vehicle deducing that it is being tested. Simplified example:

            if (nox_too_high):
            upshift_to_reduce_engine_load()

            versus

            if (nox_too_high AND test_mode_detected):
            upshift_to_reduce_engine_load()

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            The EPA test is full of transients. Look up IM240 drive cycle and you’ll see that the vehicle does very little steady state driving. There is about 25 seconds where it is more or less at 30mph but otherwise is is constant speed changes.

            Now it is true that the standard test is done with an unloaded vehicle and at moderate acceleration rates. So yes it is expected that the emissions will be higher if the vehicle is run harder. That is not the issue, the issue is if they have written the software such that it only properly controls emissions if it is being operated per the IM240 drive cycle.

            That was the problem with VW, on the US spec vehicles everything looked perfect on the IM240 test. CARB repeated the test per the procedures and every time it was within spec. Finally instead of coming to a stop at 240 seconds they accelerated again and kept “driving”, then all of a sudden when the vehicle’s internal clock noticed that 241 seconds had passed since the test was started the emissions control strategy was significantly changed, including a dramatic decrease and/or stopping the DEF dosing.

          • 0 avatar
            vtecJustKickedInYo

            Scoutdude, I took a look at the IM240 and it is very friendly toward’s transients, I think I should have used that phrase instead. Example: 10 plus seconds to reach 20mph.

            I am curious to see WVU’s test cycle, I think they are in the wrong on this, but a published paper, instead of a WSJ report, on this would help alleviate some of my criticism .

            Thanks, for the timeout on the VWs, I forgot about that.

            https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-10/im240dds.gif

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          Every car on the planet will fail when tested similar to what it appears WVU did here.

          That is why they have standardized tests. Maybe the tests should be more rigorous though.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        “Real world” should be taken to mean: Driven in the most polluting manner reasonably possible (no simply lighting the car on fire and complain about black smoke being emitted….). I.E. Cold start, max tow, drag race uphill. At 40 below, on winter diesel (or not). Or perhaps the opposite. Death Valley matxtow, On winterdiesel…. Whatever it takes.

        Just open it up to enterprising outsiders to try to beat the controls the manufacturer puts in in a repeatable to the EPA fashion, with a reward for those who manage to. Make the rewards enticing enough, and you’ll have a protocol that is hard to game.

        This will still remain “standardized.” Just much harder to game, and rendering it much less likely that some drunk brotrucker inadvertently ends up operating the engine far enough removed from how the ultra-narrow current EPA tests do, to make much of a difference as far as emissions are concerned.

        More specifically too this case: If the truck starts spewing out soot (or NOx) as soon as it goes faster than in the EPA tests, why does the truck’s electronics allow it to go that fast? “Everyone” half sane with a truck in Northern Nevada, will put cruise control at max allowable. Not what the EPA may have happened to test the vehicle at.

        Trying to distinguish between bad-hobgoblin “cheat devices” and simple optimization for driveability/economy/emissions across a broad operating band, is nothing but a childish witch hunt. If a vehicle can be coaxed into emitting an Auschwitz dollop of poisonous gas if operated in a certain way, then it will emit that dollop. Pretending everything is somehow a-ok, just because it is also possible to operate the vehicle at walking speed downhill with the engine off, without emitting as much, is poor consolation for some sap with asthma.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    When will they test real world fuel economy?

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Fuel economy is another matter. I don’t think anyone is asserting that automakers are including devices that detect the EPA is conducting a fuel economy test and run a different tune to cheat the test.

      The problem with respect to fuel economy is that the test is pretty far from the real world. I drive one of the offender Ecoboost trucks and frankly if I drive it like a hyper mailing Prius driver I can beat EPA, but most don’t, self included most of the time.

      Perhaps the EPA should do more spot checking. If there are a rash of complaints they could actually do the test themselves rather than the self certification they do now for fuel economy.

      Unlike with emissions data though there is a wealth of information on real world fuel economy for most models out there so drivers can make informed decisions on that front.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        We rarely get the EPA rating except on our V6 Avenger. It is listed as 22 combined/28 highway and I get 26.x combined commuting to work and just over 31 steady state interstate cruising in the 70mph range. Could be the odometer is off, but I don’t think so. This is the manual calculation, not the on board computer. I don’t trust those.

  • avatar
    Manta9527

    I wonder if FCA could do research on biodiesel. It might be an alternative to using regular diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Which the mass market could obtain conveniently where? Don’t get me wrong, theoretically it’s a great fuel, like CNG and hydrogen. But if it’s not widely available it’s useless as an option.

      • 0 avatar
        Manta9527

        The National Biodiesel Board may have some ideas about that, since they have a website with a map of retail locations where biodiesel can be obtained. Be that as it may, however, it would indeed be nice if there are more of them around the country.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Until now, I’ve been doubtful of the “everybody’s guilty” meme when it comes to diesels.

    As I said above, these results don’t mean anything until WVU can demonstrate that they ran standardized tests.

    Over at Edmunds, they constantly complain that their long-term test vehicles don’t get EPA fuel economy, yet they run them at 75-80 mph on the highway. The EPA highway test has an average speed of 48 mph.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      It’s not just Edmunds who drive faster than 48mph on the freeway…… Rendering the whole EPA test about as relevant as if it was conducted by turning off the engine and having a buddy push your car around as you “drive.”

      It’s not enough for a test to be useful, that it is “standardized.” It also needs to reflect some semblance of the real world. And if the test is anointed and mandated by a government, the tests needs to be encompassing enough to reflect the “real world” as experienced by pretty much everyone under it’s governance.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I agree with you. I believe this is why the EPA mpg test protocol was revised around 2008, and probably should be again to accommodate the trend toward higher speed limits in the US.

        Lately, I’ve noticed that my hybrid’s fuel economy has dropped on the highway, but then I realized that PA’s speed limit has correspondingly increased. 42-44 mpg at 60 mph won’t happen at 70 mph.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          At a minimum, in addition to measuring MPGs at what it considers “typical” speeds, accelerations and payloads, the EPA should also measure same at, say, 90% of max of all three. Perhaps 100. Noone buys a Corvette or AMG to hyper mile away from stop lights, and the more tightly a manufacturer optimizes for the EPA test, the more out of whack things tend to get once you get further away from it. To balance things out, perhaps perform another test of how efficient the vehicle can perform, if genuinely hypermiled. So you have a “best case”, “expected average case”, and “worst case” metrics. Which is about the minimum of what is expected in any other venue.

          Just the knowledge that the test they’ll be judged on, is more broad based, will induce manufacturers to take a more “real world” approach to tuning, and to speccing their vehicles.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The picture on why Mazda is having such a hard time getting their diesel engine here, and why GM and Ford charge such steep premiums for diesel power compared to their competition, is becoming clearer and clearer.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      Mazda struggled because they tried to launch their SkyActiv D without a costly ECR system, and ultimately they learned they can’t keep it clean enough while attaining target performance levels. The CX-5 diesel coming here later this year will in fact have an SCR system. I cannot believe Mazda engineers would be dumb enough to try to launch a new diesel with a software cheat.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Well, yes, but the CX-5 diesel is officially coming in Late 2017, so evidently they sorted it out.

      https://www.mazdausa.com/vehicles/2017-cx-5-diesel

  • avatar
    George B

    “FCA claims the university tested the vehicles in a far different manner than federal government lab procedures. The real-world tests saw the vehicles attain a speed 50 percent higher than in a simulated fashion in the lab. Payload was also 600 to 700 pounds greater.”

    FCA may have a point. I’d be more impressed if West Virginia University researchers had worked harder to replicate the EPA test cycle out on a road instead of on a dynamometer. I’d be really impressed if they had modified the dynamometer test setup to spin the front wheels and allow steering wheel movement and clearly demonstrated different pollution results.

  • avatar

    This is what happens when Cheat Codes become ubiquitous tools. They did work well for Contra, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-out though.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      They weren’t really cheat codes in Punch Out…just a crude way to save progress. Yes you could skip fights if you knew the codes (this wasn’t a given in the pre-internet NES world unless you subscribed to Nintendo Power Magazine), but there were no codes that gave Little Mac any special powers other than maybe holding select between rounds to heal him.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      The Konami Code certainly made getting beating Red Falcon easier…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “he study “appears to have been commissioned by a plaintiffs’ law firm for the purposes of litigation,” FCA stated, referring to the lab’s funding by an outside firm headed by ex-Wall Street investment types.”

    So, its a shakedown? Big surprise. No law firm would ever act in nebulous if not criminal interest, not one, never.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Perhaps so, but FCA hadn’t been playing dirty, the ambulance chasers wouldn’t have had anything to go on in the first place. Unfortunately, corporate wrongdoing in the U.S. is punished by litigation. That’s the way it works, for better or worse.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Two questions:

    Did FCA incorporate “cheater” software to fake out the EPA’s test protocol? If they did, it’s on them.

    Does the EPA test protocol match what drivers do on the road? If not, it’s on the EPA.

    It’s FCA’s obligation to pass the test without regard to the test’s validity. If they were to miss by a bit but claimed, “We’re better at 80 mph than the other guys”, the EPA’s response would be, “We don’t care what you do at 80 mph. We don’t test at that speed. You still failed.”

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Does the EPA test protocol match what drivers do on the road? If not, it’s on the EPA.”

      Sorry, but you have it completely backwards. You can’t blame the teacher for every test you fail in school.

      Everybody’s definition of ‘what drivers do on the road’ will differ, which is why there are *standardized* tests.

      If WVU’s test doesn’t match the appropriate protocol, the discussion is over. If they re-test with the right protocol and the trucks fail, then there’s a problem with FCA, not the EPA.

      Perhaps the test protocol can improve, but that’s not what’s being debated.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOldChryslers

        > Sorry, but you have it completely backwards. You can’t blame the teacher for every test you fail in school.

        I think his point was that the EPA lab test should be close enough to expected real-world operation to catch vehicles which emit an abnormally high level of pollution in the real world.

        To put it in terms of your analogy, if the students are expected to know their multiplication tables up to 12x, the test shouldn’t only include questions up to 6x.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          Agreed. If the WVU testing was designed to mimic the EPA test but in the real world then there is some validity to that test. Just as real world flying can mimic the wind tunnel but not reproduce it.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    I don’t see an eco-diesel problem, I see a testing problem.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    I will admit upfront that I am WAY out of my lane on this, with no idea of what the EPA test is, and why it was designed that way.

    But based on what I am reading the EPA has a standardized test and all vehicles tested do the same test and have to pass it because a test drive for every vehicle would never be exactly the same. The test is the control or baseline to ensure the same testing conditions for all vehicles.

    If WVU’s methodology was not EXACTLY the same as the EPA’s, then they need to speak to why they used a different test (or even if they believe its abetter, more accurate test) and why it supports their conclusion. Otherwise, my response is “DUH….different testing conditions give you different testing results….”

    But if WVU DID use the same methodology, the FCA needs to explain that.

    Also: is this the exact same test that WVU ran that initially got VW in trouble with the EPA? Because THAT test seem to carry weight with the EPA?

    I think the question of how the test was run needs to be answered before I make my own judgement.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Well if they followed the same methodology as the EPA test you wouldn’t catch a defeat device such as with VW that runs the engine differently when it senses the vehicle is being tested.

      The WVU test alone isn’t enough to prove wrongdoing, but given the issues already uncovered with this engine it would sure make me want to scrutinize it were I the EPA.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I hate to be stereotypical, but when it comes to West Virginians, I confess I’ve found them to be the least full of schitt people I’ve ever met yet. I have learned the hard way to listen to what people say, not how they say it, then check if their actions are in congruence.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I only want to know one thing from these reports: Did they test for practical use under normal operating conditions or did they take overall readings over the course of a specific period of time that would have ignored any fluctuations in tailpipe emissions under “ideal” conditions?
    FCA has said that their software design was intended to limit emissions under normal driving but to permit emissions under very specific conditions where the engine might be damaged by those controls. As yet, we’ve only heard that there were emissions but they don’t seem to relate to any specific, controlled, circumstances. Knowing the details as compared to FCA’s supposed intent (outside of bypassing laws) could clarify if this is an intentional effort to bypass laws or an honest attempt to stay within legal limits while protecting the engine.
    It may mean the difference between the letter of the law and the intent of the law.

  • avatar
    Pricha33

    An institution that is pushing for alternative fuels finds an issue with diesel fuelled vehicles , what a joke. If the vehicles pass the EPA test without any software that only operates only during said testing, those vehicles meet the mandated standard. Tell the ambulance chasers to go pound salt !!!

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Maybe, just maybe, it is the test that is flawed – not the software.

    The test requires that vehicles PASS THE LAB TEST. Those that are cleaner in real-world use but do not conform to the TEST, are failed.

    The obvious conclusion here is that the test is flawed.

    The second obvious conclusion here is that the university is anything but dispassionate – they are waging a jihad on petroleum-powered automobiles.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      IIRC the rules state that systems shouldn’t behave differently off-test than on, and furthermore that all defeat devices (hardware, software or firmware) and their operating parameters must be disclosed. So programming for good emissions performance only during test conditions violates both the spirit *and* the letter.

      Consider:
      1. FCA hid the existence of not one, not two, but eight emission control shutoff subroutines from the EPA.
      2. The WVA test results imply these routines may activate when the car’s off-test.
      3. The cat recall didn’t fix the excess-emissions problem detected earlier. That suggests it may be about software, not hardware, and that FCA may have pretended otherwise to distract EPA.
      4. Check out FCA’s letter to EPA. It basically says “we’ll fully cooperate in the investigation only if you promise not to get us in trouble.” Maybe that’s standard lawyering, but it smells fishy.

      There may indeed be no fire here, but there’s an awful lot of smoke. Further testing will tell the tale.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @HotPotato: Can I assume you have access to the WVA test report? Because up to now I’ve not heard of any official release of the report and you’re announcing a number of details that are not public knowledge.

        Secondly, if FCA is attempting to work with the EPA and not just blatantly saying, “we didn’t do it,” the suggestion is there that someone dropped the ball in reporting those subroutines rather than any intentional attempt to hide them.

        We simply don’t have enough data to make a comprehensive conclusion at the moment and doing so now, without that data, may be a mistake. To the best of my knowledge, and I admit it’s a bit sketchy on details, VW’s issue was intentional pretty much top to bottom and may even have been a bit of a conspiracy since Bosch itself is now coming into play as a software/electronics supplier to VW. This association may account for some of FCA’s issues since supposedly Bosch supplies components and software to the Italian company as well as to multiple German and possibly global customers.

        It also seems strange to me how diesels, which were always known for great torque but relatively low horsepower, suddenly became almost as good in acceleration and high-horsepower operations as gasoline engines despite diesel being a slower-burning fuel. I’ll grant turbocharging was a big part of that boost but that doesn’t mean the fuel itself is any cleaner burning than it was.

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