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Government Transportation

Could the Volkswagen Cheating Scandal Improve Emissions Standards? (citiesofthefuture.eu) 144

dkatana writes: An article in Cities of the Future suggests that the "automaker's emissions scandal could end up being a boon if it pushes governments and the industry to reassess diesel's impact more honestly and move away from it altogether." The article also asks the European Union to accelerate the introduction of new emissions standards, currently slated to take effect in September 2018, and to order mandatory recalls for all the vehicles affected, as Germany has. It points out that some drivers could refuse to have their cars "fixed" out of fear that the diesel engine will lose gas efficiency and power output.
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Could the Volkswagen Cheating Scandal Improve Emissions Standards?

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  • Predestiny? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:11PM (#50820729)

    "automaker's emissions scandal could end up being a boon if it pushes governments and the industry to reassess diesel's impact more honestly and move away from it altogether."

    So, the author has already decided on what the result should be, without the benefit of the reassessment they've said should happen. That doesn't seem "honest" to me.

    • Re:Predestiny? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:32PM (#50820845)

      To be honest, diesel is dirtier than gasoline no matter how you slice it. It's just really hard to keep diesel emissions down and we've not been pushing the technology to do so as hard as gasoline engines. European governments have pushed diesel use in the past though favorable treatment in tax codes, not necessarily trying to get more diesel cars, but more to permute diesel's use as a transportation fuel.

      I think the article writer is engaged in some wishful thinking though and you are correct that the author is certainly biased. But I also see where it could be read as advocating for regulatory changes which seem long over due in Europe. It's an opinion piece, not a news report....

      • Re:Predestiny? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dbc ( 135354 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:55PM (#50820933)

        But diesels can meet emission standards honestly if auto makers include a urea tank. They just fear consumer reaction to having another consumable fluid (that needs to be refilled every 9 thousand miles, or so) and don't want to do the heavy lifting of consumer education. Considering we are a lot closer to a renewable biodiesel fuel than other fuels, it seems like it makes a lot of sense. Of course, that begs the secondary question of whether farm land should be used to grow food or to grow fuel for cars, but that is a secondary debate.

        • But diesels can meet emission standards honestly if auto makers include a urea tank. They just fear consumer reaction to having another consumable fluid (that needs to be refilled every 9 thousand miles, or so) and don't want to do the heavy lifting of consumer education.

          Or the consumer could provide 'incremental' top-ups. Just market it as a new feature: "No more 'Mom, I gotta go!' during long road trips!" ;-)

        • Actually it's the primary debate for me. It makes zero sense (and cents) to go out and actively *grow* motor fuels by farming plants to me. All this ethanol we are making and burning in our gasoline powered cars is pretty stupid environmentally, as is growing oily crops just to burn as fuel. It's also very expensive.

          Personally, and I know this isn't popular with the huge farming voting block, I don't think we should do this, any more than we should pay farmers not to grow specific crops like we have in t

          • Actually it's the primary debate for me. It makes zero sense (and cents) to go out and actively *grow* motor fuels by farming plants to me.

            Why not? It's not like we don't grow a lot of other things - food, lumber, medicine, etc...

            Now, where you have a point is on the 'cents'. Current technologies are just not economical, but figuring out this stuff is still 'good' because it puts a hard limit on the price for fossil fuels - at some point biofuels are cheaper than fossil.

            Matter of fact, the last peak in oil prices was flirting with that price range.

            I'll note that 'biofuels cheaper than fossil' is very much not using corn based ethanol. You n

            • Actually it's the primary debate for me. It makes zero sense (and cents) to go out and actively *grow* motor fuels by farming plants to me.

              Why not? It's not like we don't grow a lot of other things - food, lumber, medicine, etc...

              Food, building materials and drugs from growing things is just a little bit different than growing fuel. Lumber grows on trees and we eat plants, these uses for growing plants is cost effective and necessary. But fuel? We have other sources of fuel yet you want to grow it?

              Well ask yourself WHY? Why do you think we should grow fuel?

              If your answer is that you want to protect the environment or reduce CO2 emissions, then it's not helping your cause, at all. It doesn't help and it costs a LOT of money.

              • We have other sources of fuel yet you want to grow it?

                You're coming dangerously close to setting up a straw man here. Up here in Alaska, and even down south in the upper parts of the lower 48, a lot of people heat their homes with wood. That's using a biofuel. It's substantially cheaper than heating by oil, if you have the equipment for it, though it does require more user effort.

                Sure, we have other sources of fuel. But said fuel causes environmental damage and isn't free to extract either.

                Well ask yourself WHY? Why do you think we should grow fuel?

                You didn't actually read my post, did you? Hint: "because it puts a

                • No, I'm not surprised. However, opinions differ on this end.

                  Directly burning wood for heat aside....

                  Long term you may be correct. As Oil becomes more and more scarce and the "easy" stuff to recover is used up, oil will become more expensive. Eventually, this will make biofuels more attractive, all other things being equal. But there are things that may drive the "long" part of the "long term" out to be much longer than you expect.

                  First, history shows that as the price of oil increases, the amount of

                  • But there are things that may drive the "long" part of the "long term" out to be much longer than you expect.

                    Note that I didn't put any real time-lines in, other than 'long term'. And yes, I'm very well aware that any quotation of 'estimated reserves' has hidden in it a '@$X per barrel' disclaimer, and if you raise X, the 'economically recoverable' amount goes up.

                    Long term, to me, I'm thinking that once oil prices exceed the theoretical minimum biofuel production cost, it'll still be 20-25 years before fossil oil becomes a 'niche' product. We've been building fossil fuel infrastructure for a long, long time.

                    At $100/bbl. it made sense to spend the money to frack and use expensive extraction technologies where this wasn't true at $50/bbl.

                    You

          • Honestly what seems stupid is that our government currently pays farmers to NOT farm almost 4 million acres each year (that doesn't include the almost 600,000 acres that get denied). Removing this subsidy (which at least in iowa, is mostly abused by non-farmers anyway especially since the top 2 recipients of this subsidy are also some of the richest people in the state), would add plenty of usable acres to produce viable biofuel crops. Also, realize that the VAST majority of crops in the US aren't grown f
        • by Anonymous Coward
          nah.. an SCR system costs $100.00 every 9k miles and has been proven not to work. The 2.0L TDI with an SCR also exceeds NOx. believe it or not a TDI running biodiesel emits higher NOx.. google it. I own a TDI. I know. My TDI has the LNT system. No SCR. There are 2 Catalytic Converters. The problem with both designs the Catalytic Converters run outside the temperature window. I checked the chemistry of my LNT system. The NOx Cat also has the DPF filter. They used platinum and ceramic with an alum
          • That's all just VW screwing up. The researchers who found this did so because they were running a BMW and VW side-by-side and saw weird fluctuations in emissions in the VW. The BMW was consistently good.

            So an SCR system has been "proven not to work" - VW's in their 2.0L TDI. Other SCR systems work fine.

          • by tempmpi ( 233132 )

            The SCR System works. The issue is that they did not want to include either a much bigger tank or make it user refillable. The refill is $100 not because of the urea ($10-20), but because some serious disassembly is required to refill the small tank. They cheated to make the tank filling last longer by not using enough urea unless running on a testbench. Consumers would not accept a $100 refill and a visit to the shop every 3k miles. SCR is fine, you just need to use enough urea and make it easy to refill i

            • What about the urea condensation deposits (biuret/ammeline/ammelide/cyanuric acid) deposits? Is the inherent problem of the catalyst monolith clogging up fixed?

        • Don't use farm land to farm stuff. Farming is highly inefficient, photovoltaics is much better.
          If you farm crops for fuel, you are doing it wrong.

        • Not really. It takes the engine at least 5 minutes and usually 10-15 to get up to temperature where the SCRs work effectively. The SCRs also do not react quickly to changing load. Average trip lengths are likely in the 10-20 minute range.

          To make a diesel efficient, your best bet would be as a range-extender engine in a plug-in hybrid, where the engine can run at peak efficiency for a longer period of time... But this is still less effective than using cng/lng for the same purpose.

          • by tempmpi ( 233132 )

            cng/lng still has the issue with big tanks required. Hybrid+Diesel sounds like a good idea. If you use a small diesel engine and run it mostly at peak power and get additional power for acceleration from the electric motor it will also reach high enough temperatures much quicker.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          But diesels can meet emission standards honestly if auto makers include a urea tank. They just fear consumer reaction to having another consumable fluid (that needs to be refilled every 9 thousand miles, or so) and don't want to do the heavy lifting of consumer education

          Since the urea consumption is proportionate to fuel consumption (about 1:100), the easy solution is to fill both at the pump. I mean, either use a nozzle that will dispense both together or a special filler nozzle. That way the consumer simp

        • They just fear consumer reaction to having another consumable fluid (that needs to be refilled every 9 thousand miles, or so) and don't want to do the heavy lifting of consumer education.

          Typically, a DEF tank needs to be refilled every time the fuel tank is filled. Volkswagen cheated to get to that 9k mile interval.

          When DEF was first introduced, there was a concern that the infrastructure wasn't available to refill the tanks. Manufacturers were trying to avoid using DEF, or extending fill intervals as long as possible to prevent issues if DEF wasn't available.

        • by marciot ( 598356 )

          But diesels can meet emission standards honestly if auto makers include a urea tank. They just fear consumer reaction to having another consumable fluid (that needs to be refilled every 9 thousand miles, or so) .

          If auto makers were more like NASA, they would realize that the car already has a totally free and renewable supply of urea that could be tapped to solve this problem, as well as having the fortunate side of effect of ensuring a much longer uninterrupted driving range for the vehicle's operator.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Hmm .. No. There's 17% more energy in a gallon of diesel than a gallon of gasoline. My 2014 TDI achieves 56mpg while cruising at 80mph in 6th gear. A diesel engine produces more torque. Once the vehicle is rolling is uses less energy. I average 680 miles per 12 gallons of diesel. NOx is a byproduct of a lean burning engine. CO emissions of a new TDI is very low. NOx is actually higher when running biodiesel.
        • by calque ( 4296327 )

          Hmm .. No. There's 17% more energy in a gallon of diesel than a gallon of gasoline. My 2014 TDI achieves 56mpg while cruising at 80mph in 6th gear.

          This is exactly why I haven't bought a diesel. Even though diesel is cheaper relative to gas than in a long time, it's still 13.7% more expensive where I live, which means assuming your number is right, I'd only save less than 3% on gas. Roughly $500 over 15 years. A Chevy Cruze diesel averages $5000 (!!) more expensive than a top of the line LTZ gasoline version of the same car. So there is just no payback at all.

          • That's quite a difference to where I live (Scotland). Here, car dealerships often have no, or very few petrol (gas) engined versions of the new family sized cars for sale and pretty much all are diesel.

            Price per litre of petrol (95RON) is within 3% of a gallon of diesel. Most diesel for sale here includes 5-10% biodiesel.

            My own Subaru XV with a 2.0l turbo boxer diesel engine averages 42mpg and can get towards 60mpg on a motorway (highway) drive. It has the same torque as the famous STi 2.0ltr boxer petrol

            • by calque ( 4296327 )

              That's quite a difference to where I live (Scotland). Here, car dealerships often have no, or very few petrol (gas) engined versions of the new family sized cars for sale and pretty much all are diesel.

              Price per litre of petrol (95RON) is within 3% of a gallon of diesel.

              You might think that the difference between gas and diesel in the US is because the US taxes diesel more than gas. However, I just looked it up, and diesel is only taxed about 2% more than gas in my state. So that doesn't explain why diesel is expensive.

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        You think diesel is dirtier than petroleum spirit because you are focusing on the NOx and nothing else. You are for example ignoring all the un-burnt carcinogenic hydrocarbons in the exhaust of the petroleum spirit engine that are absent from the diesel engine. You are also not considering the reduced CO2 emissions from the diesel compared to the petroleum spirit engine. You are also not considering the half life of the NOx in the equation; that is NOx does not stick around while CO2 and the un-burnt carci

        • Nothing is simple, especially where one is discussing environmental impact caused by transportation.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Try reading the article. The entire opinion piece is that diesel and gasoline powered vehicles should be banned.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Pretty much ban the infernal combustion engine, logical and sound decision. Should have happened decades ago. Think that shit is safe, park in your garage with the engine running and see how long you last. Does any ever have the right to pollute the air someone else breathes.

        • by calque ( 4296327 )
          I have heard that a modern engine would only smother you with carbon dioxide, long before killing you with carbon monoxide. I haven't noticed that a new gasoline car these days smells bad at all so I don't think they are producing much besides CO2 and water.
    • Read the sentence again without being so critical. He's not predetermining the result, he's just saying X = Y && Z .

      If both Y and Z become true, then X (the scandal will be a boon) will become true.

      In this case Y and Z aren't independent variables. Z likely won't happen unless Y does, but Y could happen without causing Z.

    • lets all be honest. as far as the customer goes, all any of this means is higher costs on your next new car
  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:12PM (#50820737)

    Of course, emission TESTING standards might get improved in ways that can catch cheaters faster...

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:14PM (#50820743)

    It will probably tighten up standards so tight that bicyclists will have to have an emissions probe stuck up their backside annually to see if they are contributing to global warming.

    May want to skip the beans for dinner for a while...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It will probably tighten up standards so tight that bicyclists will have to have an emissions probe stuck up their backside annually to see if they are contributing to global warming.

      May want to skip the beans for dinner for a while...

      You joke now...

    • Quit handing out advise... Someone will take it
    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      Actually, that's a good idea... but it should be for the cows. They produce a lot of methane and contribute as much to global warming as all transportation fuels.
      Now that WHO has determined that meat is bad for you it might be a good time to ban cows.
      www.cowspiracy.com

    • You could make a solid and scientific case that emissions from humans (and indeed, all animals) are carbon neutral (ditto every other gas).
      You can't produce more of any of these gasses than you consume the materials for in the food you eat. Your CO2 output in mass can never be more than 3 times the mass of the food you ate (the other 2X is the oxygen part).
      In reality it's far less than that - a big chunk of that carbon is not emitted at all, but instead used to build the proteins for new cells in your body

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They will go for relaxing NOx requirements. A lower gas efficiency is something consumers could sue for.

  • That they'll do some random tests of all makes and manufacturers, and discover a few other cheaters.

    To be honest, VW stock could be a fortune maker if you buy it when it's on a drop due to threats of fines, and then one or two other makers are caught cheating on emissions. VW stock will bounce back up.

  • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:29PM (#50820829) Journal
    Once you ban a technology, you are also banning any development on it. It may have some undesirable effects now. Ban those effects. If the technology is worthwhile, someone will figure out a way to solve the problems.

    Also, just because there is one bad egg doesn't mean an entire technology is bad.
    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      That's not really true for automakers. Self-driving cars are not permitted but automakers are developing them. Car companies are able to get exceptions for manufacturing and testing purposes all of the time when they want to drive on public roads, and they have miles and miles and miles of test track on which to run unlicensed vehicles. Plus they test components and systems outside of vehicle chassis too.

      If your argument was true then there would be no auto racing as basically none of those cars are s
      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        Self-driving cars are not permitted

        Actually, they are. They just aren't permitted to drive on public roads except in certain controlled circumstances. If you want to build some private roads and run your self-driving car, you can.

      • Self-driving cars are not permitted but automakers are developing them.

        This isn't a ban though. As you say, car companies, even non-car companies like google, are able to get exceptions for testing on public roads.

        It's better to say that self-driving cars aren't banned, it's just that the current regulatory system for cars is such that a self-driving car isn't useful right now, because the rules don't account for a computer controlling the vehicle, thus the vehicle still requires an operator capable of taking over again at a moment's notice.

        They can make and operate said cars

    • Once you ban a technology, you are also banning any development on it.

      Even if diesel cars are banned, diesel engines will certainly remain extensively in-use. Semi trucks, stationary electrical generators, train locomotives, massive container ships, etc.

      • Which are all very different from those found in tiny passenger cars. It's trivial to make a very large diesel engine meet emission standards.

        • Which are all very different from those found in tiny passenger cars. It's trivial to make a very large diesel engine meet emission standards.

          As a diesel emissions engineer, I cannot emphasize enough how incorrect this statement is. All diesel engines function on the same principles. Diesel emissions regulations are the most strict for small engines. The EPA assumes that smaller engines (car and truck) are less expensive to develop than large engines. Medium and large engine (locomotive and ship) regulations lag behind the small engines by a few years so they can benefit from the work already done by the small engine manufacturers.

          Right now

          • May I ask you how it scales? Do emissions scale linearly with engine size, consumption, power, torque?

            There's a sweet spot in every such process, but what is it? Is the relationship truly linear, or does it have a peak at a certain point of one of the above specifications? Because while I agree that trucks are a dirty dirty thing I was also under the impression that they generate less emissions per (insert one of the units above that make them so valuable for road haulage).

  • by flightmaker ( 1844046 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:36PM (#50820865)

    Over here in the UK for example, every vehicle has to have an MOT certificate to be used on the road. No certificate, no go. ANPRS cameras check that passing vehicles have certificates and insurance.

    Part of the MOT certificate is the emissions test. There will most likely be a requirement that VW diesels have to have their ECU firmware updated before they can pass the emissions test.

    That's what I reckon will happen.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Yep. A lot of blustering VW owners will suddenly change their tune when they go in to renew their tags or else receive mail that tells them that the car will not be registerable past a certain date...
    • Fortunately I live in Texas where we don't care about the environment. Still not sure what I'm going to do about my 2014 Passat.
  • Not sure whether the timing of this article is a coincidence, but it seems that European has voted today that emissions standards should get more lax: http://www.theguardian.com/env... [theguardian.com]
  • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @06:49PM (#50820909)

    We're now over 30 minutes into an automotive related story and so far not one TDI neckbeard has chimed in about getting 69 mpg while towing a boat uphill.

    Wonderful. I don't know if the scandal will ever improve anything with regard to emission standards, but I am certain the Internet has already been improved.

  • If owners refuse to fix their cars governments can easily refuse to license them for the road.
    • Owners should not be fixing their cars rather it should be VW and not just some firmware flash but a hardware upgrade to keep its performance and mileage the same or pay for the mileage difference. That sounds like replacing the CAT and adding urea (and paying for that in perpetuity) to the system but regardless of how they do it they need to do it and maintain it.

      • by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @07:52PM (#50821275)

        actually its a claim for fraud and owners should return the cars and get their money back.

        • or VW could offer an alternative. A new firmware and X dollars refunded to compensate for lost milage / reduced resale value. If they offered enough then people would accept the deal and problem solved. It will cost VW a significant amount of money but would save them in the long run.

          Many VW owners would likely see it as a net-gain. Especially those who, after getting the new firmware and compensation check, revert back to the more efficient firmware.

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )

        The original topic was about owners refusing to take VW's fix.

        Obviously if it affects performance they could sue VW, that will happen anyway as either way this will affect resale values.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2015 @07:31PM (#50821155)
    and that's why everyone in the Auto industry is shitting themselves right now. They're going to actually be regulated for real for the first time in ages (maybe forever). Seems like every other week another batch of cars are discovered cheating.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      They're going to actually be regulated for real for the first time in ages

      You can't cheat, if there's no regulation. And if the regulation weren't pretty damn harsh, it wouldn't be worth their while to cheat. It's sad how often a slight change in regulation or the enforcement of regulation is heralded as the magical transition from no regulation to regulation. Needless to say, I take such exaggerated rhetoric as a sure sign that the writer is completely ignorant of the topic and has nothing worthwhile to say about it.

      • by calque ( 4296327 )

        They're going to actually be regulated for real for the first time in ages

        You can't cheat, if there's no regulation. And if the regulation weren't pretty damn harsh, it wouldn't be worth their while to cheat. It's sad how often a slight change in regulation or the enforcement of regulation is heralded as the magical transition from no regulation to regulation. Needless to say, I take such exaggerated rhetoric as a sure sign that the writer is completely ignorant of the topic and has nothing worthwhile to say about it.

        I don't think that it is reasonable to divorce your definition of regulation from enforcement. Zero enforcement can't be seen as other than zero regulation. Going from zero enforcement to some enforcement is exactly what "regulated for real" obviously means. It is entirely reasonable to see that as a transition from no regulation to regulation.

  • Diesel is EOL thanks to VW executive decision that it was too costly to make diesel ' Clean'.

    Hydrogen== emergent technology. Hydrogen for the foreseeable future plays increasingly in powering the planet, space and our climate sustainability programs.

  • It's easy to improve emissions standards. Improving actual performance is the hard part. Hence the VW work-around. The regulators can specify any standard they like, someone with develop a software hack that shows them what they want to see.
  • The European commision voted for new tests this week, and they are just marginally better than the current ones.

    Heavy lobbies from Germany, France and the UK are holding us back.

  • Only in today's issue there's talk of Europe pushing back and relaxing the new Emissions guidelines [hydrocarbo...essing.com].

    So really wishful thinking on part of the author. But the world does not work like that.

  • These fools in government really should read up on the origins of the Order of the Engineer and engineers should really grow the balls needed to tell bureaucrats to go pound sand.

  • Expect smog check stations to be checking the version number of the software on the car via the OBD-II port and fail it if it's not been patched...

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