Diesel Emissions Cheating Scandal May Hit BMW Next

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This story about diesel emissions was first published by Gas2.

Remember Dieselgate? Independent researchers in West Virginia strapped a portable exhaust gas analyzer to a Volkswagen turbodiesel and found its tailpipe emissions were way out of whack with the results obtained in laboratory testing. That one finding has now cost Volkswagen more than $20 billion in fines and penalties and that total is still rising. Now, BMW may be the next company to find itself in the fake diesel emissions soup.

German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (known as DUH, unfortunately) says it has detected an anomaly in a BMW diesel-powered sedan and suspects its findings may apply to all BMW diesels. The group is “a non-profit environmental and consumer protection association that has the legal right to represent group claims in court against projects that it considers a threat to the environment,” according to Wikipedia.

The test involved a BMW 320d manufactured in 2016. DUH tested the car in the lab and on the road and found that at engine speeds of 2000 rpm or less, emissions were at or below official levels. But once engine speed exceeded 3000 rpm, emission — particularly nitrogen oxide levels — spiked to more than 7 times permitted levels.

At a press conference in Berlin this week, the group announced it believes the exhaust gas recirculation system is switched off by the engine control software at higher engine speeds. “There is clear evidence that in this car, an unauthorized defeat device is installed,” said DUH CEO Jürgen Resch.

The allegation brought a furious denial from BMW. For starters, it claims that 3000 rpm is a “very high engine speed” induced by operating the car in lower than normal gears and for short periods of times. The company claims that longer test segments using proper gearing would produce emissions results consistent with published specifications. 3000 rpm may not seem like much to most drivers (who know what that means), but diesels are known for low-end torque, not high-speed performance.

Earlier this year, BMW CEO Harald Krüger told a meeting of diesel car manufacturers, “We have not manipulated the vehicles. We have diesels, they are clean, and they are the best in the world.” According to German news source Süddeutsche Zeitung, BMW commissioned TÜV Süd, an independent testing service that provides inspection and product certification services to businesses, to test a car identical to the one driven by DUH right after the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal broke.

The testing showed “no emission-relevant interferences took place. All values ​​measured at that time were technically explainable,” says BMW. Nonetheless, the findings from DUH have been submitted to German authorities for further investigation.

German and European Union laws permit the deactivation of emissions systems to protect the engine from damage, a loophole that some manufacturers have used to great advantage by programming their system to stop working at ambient temperatures that most people would consider normal — as low as 65°F (18°C) in some cases.

The point is not that BMW may have done something similar — it is common knowledge that all car companies cheat when it comes to fuel economy and emissions testing. The point is that diesels have been touted by most European governments for generations because they were believed to get better fuel economy or have lower carbon emissions than gasoline engines.

The whole diesel passenger car industry is built on a lie the European governments have been telling their citizens for years. It is hypocritical for those same governments to now claim the moral high ground. Diesels are inherently unfit for human consumption whether they are used in automobiles, trucks, or ships. They need to go away. This latest news about diesels and BMW may just hasten the day when that actually happens.

Hat tip to Benjamin Shultz

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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