Volkswagen has been ordered to recall almost half a million diesel cars by the United States government after it emerged that it had used computer software to cheat clean-air laws. The vehicles all contain a device programmed to detect when they are undergoing official emissions testing, the EPA said. The cars only turn on full emissions control systems during that testing. The controls are turned off during normal driving, allowing the cars to emit more than the legal limit of pollutants.
The car-maker intentionally used the sophisticated computer program to circumvent nitrogen oxide emissions rules for its diesel cars – making them appear up to 40 times cleaner in tests. The US Environmental Protection Agency slammed the use of the so-called "defeat device" as "illegal and a threat to public health". It has told the company to fix the cars at its own expense and could impose at least $18 billion in fines, with exact amounts to be determined. Despite the seriousness of the violation, the EPA said VW will be given "a reasonable amount of time to develop a plan to complete the repairs," including both the repair procedure and manufacture of any needed parts, which could take up to a year.
Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental campaign group, accused VW of "cheating not just car buyers but the breathing public." He said the charges undercut industry rhetoric about "clean diesel" cars.
Of course this makes SOYMB wonder about all those promises of self-monitoring that the fossil-fuel industry promises governments and the people in their voluntary attempts to reduce carbon emissions