The EPA sent out a second notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen to now include VW-owned Audi and Porsche in their investigation. According to the notice, VW installed cheating software on their Porsche and Audi diesel vehicles released between 2014 and 2016 that ended up increasing the car’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to levels up to nine times the EPA’s standard.
This “defeat device” software is able to sense when cars are being put through federal emissions testing and will automatically put the car into a lower-emissions mode. In that mode, according to the EPA, “the vehicle meets emission standards.” However, one second after the test is completed, the car switches back into normal mode and emits a very high amount of pollutants. VW’s “clean diesel” engines are anything but clean.
This second notice of violation includes 10,000 vehicles sold since 2014, and an “unknown volume of 2016 vehicles.”
“Today we are requiring VW Group to address these issues,” Richard Corey, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, said in a statement. “This is a very serious public health matter. ARB and EPA will continue to conduct a rigorous investigation that includes testing more vehicles until all of the facts are out in the open.”
NOx can react with other compounds in the air to form tiny particles that can go deep into a person’s lungs and cause or aggravate respiratory diseases such as emphysema. It can also exacerbate heart diseases and cause increased hospital visits and even death. When NOx reacts with heat and sunlight, it forms ozone, which can also be dangerous to human health.
In September, Michael Horn, VW’s U.S. chief stated, “let’s be clear about this: Our company was dishonest with the EPA, and the California Air Resources Board and with all of you. And in my German words: We have totally screwed up. We must fix the cars to prevent this from ever happening again and we have to make this right. This kind of behavior is totally inconsistent with our qualities.”
There are many questions, including the reason why VW chose to install this software in the first place. A criminal investigation into the scandal is being done by the U.S. Justice Department, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“All companies should be playing by the same rules,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator at the EPA, said in a statement. “EPA, with our state, and federal partners, will continue to investigate these serious matters, to secure the benefits of the Clean Air Act, ensure a level playing field for responsible businesses, and to ensure consumers get the environmental performance they expect.”