What You Should Know About The Volkswagen Scandal

German automaker giant Volkswagen is under pressure to refit its newer cars after the discovery of an intricately designed software device intended to defeat emissions tests. The controversy has caused the car company to lose $28 billion worth of market value in just one week. Apart from this decline, the refitting itself would cost the company more than $6.5 billion. The international scandal impacted the car market so hard that Martin Winterkorn decided to step down just days after the revelation.

According to the website of The Driscoll Firm, the “defeat device” enables the car to sense that it is under an emissions test, allowing it to make certain adjustments to meet emissions standards. But how is it possible? The software analyzes factors that would tell whether the car is driving in road condition or it is being tested. These factors include the position of the steering wheel, the duration of the engine operation, the barometric pressure, and the speed.

The trick begins once the car senses that it is being tested. During an emissions test, the car will switch to “dyno calibration,” where it will use a rich mixture for combustion. You might think that a rich mixture produces more unburned fuel and pollutants, which will definitely fail any emissions test. But because Volkswagen cars are equipped with NOx adsorbers (also called NOx trap or LNT), whose trapping capacity is enhanced with unburned fuel, a rich mixture fuel is what they need to pass the test.

On the other hand, during normal conditions, the affected Volkswagen cars will drive using a leaner mixture. Now, a study proposed by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that during regular operations, the car emits up to 40 times above the emissions standards. This is because leaner mixtures now only pass through the exhaust’s NOx adsorber (i.e. not trap it), allowing high levels of NOx gases to be released freely in the air.

If you’re a Volkswagen owner, this software trickery could significantly affect you. Apart from being deceived that you had bought a clean diesel car, future recalls to reprogram the software might require a visit to your local dealership, which could mean precious time wasted.

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