Three years ago, Volkswagen was found to have illegally cheated federal emissions tests in the US using devious programming of emission control devices. The subterfuge enabled 11 million passenger cars to meet U.S. emissions standards in the laboratory despite that fact that they actually produced up to 40 times higher emissions than the legal limit in real-world driving.
A recent study by MIT has revealed that Volkswagen is not the only auto maker producing diesel cars that produce far more emissions on the road than in laboratory tests. The study, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, found that in Europe, the cars from 10 major auto manufacturers sold between 2000 and 2015 generate up to 16 times more emissions on the road than in regulatory tests. Those levels exceed European limits but technically don’t violate any EU laws.
The researchers predict that these excess emissions will have a significant health impact, causing approximately 2,700 premature deaths per year across Europe.
The 10 manufacturers’ excess emissions may not be a result of unlawful violations, as was the case with Volkswagen. Instead, permissive testing procedures at the EU level and defective emissions control strategies may be to blame.
There are far more diesel cars in Europe than in the US, partly because the EU urged the use of diesel for environmental reasons, citing the lower carbon dioxide emissions of diesel vs. gasoline cars. However, diesel cars produce significant emissions of nitrogen oxides which react with ammonia in the atmosphere and form fine particles that lodge deep in the lungs and cause respiratory disease, asthma, and other pulmonary and cardiac conditions.
Diesel is dirtier than we thought.
Photo, posted August 2, 2014, courtesy of Paul Sullivan via Flickr.