Volkswagen’s scandal has grown into a whole new dimension with VW’s admission on late Tuesday (Nov. 3) that it had understated the fuel consumption of 800,000 cars sold in Europe.
The VW scandal broke in September when the company was caught by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency using a so-called “defeat device” designed to cheat on emission tests. The EPA discovered that the affected VW diesel vehicles, during normal use, release up to 40 times the permitted amount of nitrogen oxides.
The new problems, disclosed by Volkswagen on Tuesday, are different. They are associated with CO2 emissions that depend on fuel consumption, not emissions-control systems.
But the end result is even more devastating, for several reasons.
1. Problems with 800,000 more vehicles
In addition to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide that vastly understated their actual emissions of smog-causing pollutant nitrogen oxide, VW now has 800,000 cars tooling around Europe emitting illegal levels of carbon dioxide.
2. Overstated fuel economy
Consumers might find CO2 emissions more important than NOx because they see the direct link between emissions and fuel consumption. VW’s new disclosure means that consumers unwittingly bought the vehicles with overstated fuel economy.
3. A gasoline-powered engine is also involved
Although VW’s findings on “CO2 irregularities” mostly apply to smaller diesel engines, for the first time one gasoline-powered engine is also involved in the scandal. This will likely trigger fresh investigations in the United States. Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, which tested Volkswagen's diesel engines, told Reuters that the CARB will likely investigate the company's gas engines in California in wake of the European revelations.
4. Limited information available
So far, information is barely trickling out of VW. In a statement, the company said, “During the course of internal investigations, unexplained inconsistencies were found when determining Type Approval CO2 levels.” The company added, “Based on present knowledge around 800,000 vehicles from the Volkswagen Group are affected.” The company disclosed no details on where the affected vehicles were sold, the brands affected or whether they had diesel or gasoline-powered engines.
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