Let's Talk About - Diesel Engines and Volkswagen

If you've read a few of the posts on this blog, you'll know that I'm a fan of diesel technology. I owned a Volvo station wagon years ago that had an in-line six-cylinder diesel engine (sourced from Volkswagen BTW) that was a blast to drive and got amazing fuel economy. Today's newer clean-diesel engines have taken care of the problems that diesel owners had with bad fuel (also new EPA diesel fuel regs)  and other issues. That's why this betrayal by Volkswagen (and its divisions) hits owners and fans sooooo hard. If you've talked up diesel tech, you know that today's clean diesels meet current emissions standards (well most do) and they emit fewer carbon dioxide particles due to their (clean diesels) great fuel efficiency. For the most part, that hasn't changed. (Read the Diesel Technology Forum statement after the jump.) What has changed is the trust many gave VW who was (sorta) leading the "clean-diesel charge." I have a couple of questions to ponder that hopefully will be answered in the coming days. Firstly, if the engines (at least briefly) met the standards, why change the settings? Did the performance and fuel efficiency suffer at the "clean" test setting? Secondly, did you really think you'd get away with this Volkswagen (and heads are rolling)? Thirdly VW, how are you going to fix this? Buy back cars? Reset emissions equipment? And Fourthly, will this be the "death knell" for diesel engines in the US? GM tried to kill diesels (and almost did) with their "light-duty" V8 diesels (for cars) decades ago, but diesels soldiered on, especially in Europe where fuel prices are 2 to 3X higher than in the US. Many see hybrid vehicles picking up the slack, but diesels generally return fuel numbers at (or better than) the numbers from the EPA, where hybrids usually can't attain the EPA numbers without ridiculous hyper-miling driving techniques (you've been stuck behind them in traffic, right?). When friends buy hybrid vehicles, I tell them to expect real-world fuel economy numbers that are about 25% off of the EPA figures (which is still better than non-hybrid vehicles and is dependent on driving style). The proverbial ball is in VW's court and the fate of future diesel technology and acceptance is in their hands. Diesel engines have a reputation for fuel efficiency and durability (usually) with driving dynamics that are well suited to the needs of many. We shall see... It is unfortunate that as a result of this scandal, we won't see the Golf GTD Sportwagen (top photo aka a GTI wagon with a performance diesel engine) in the US. For more info, check out the three statements from the Diesel Tech Forum and VW after the jump.

Oh yeah, and a few more questions. Have automakers fiddled with the emissions equipment on other (non-diesel) engines and is this going to get really ugly? Congress cut the EPA's budget and now you know what happens when the EPA isn't verifying test results from automakers due to a lack of funds. Also, is the VW diesel problem only related to the four-cylinder versions? Are the VW six-cylinder diesels still okay?

Source: Diesel Technology Forum/News Press, Volkswagen - Press releases after the "read more" jump.

Press Release:

The Diesel Technology Forum issued the following statement regarding clean diesel vehicles in the U.S.

The Diesel Technology Forum does not comment on specific cases or circumstances involving individual companies and enforcement actions by the government. However, to the extent that these circumstances have raised questions about diesel technology in general, we offer the following:

The circumstances involving a single manufacturer do not define an entire technology, or an industry. Vehicle manufacturers and engine makers have invested billions of dollars in research and development to successfully meet the most aggressive emissions standards in the world. They continue to work closely and cooperatively with the Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, international regulatory bodies, as well as environmental and other interest groups toward common goals.

Nothing has changed the fact that the diesel engine is the most energy efficient internal combustion engine. It is a proven technology and its unique combination of efficiency, power, reliability, performance, low-emissions and suitability for using renewable fuels ensures a place for diesel technology to help meet the demands of a global economy.

We are also confident that consumers will continue to find the new generation of clean diesel cars, trucks and SUVs as a competitive choice to meet their personal transportation needs.

Finally, it is important to focus forward on the significant accomplishments of an entire industry that developed and refined clean diesel technology to what it is today - a key strategy in achieving current and future energy and climate goals.

Connect with DTF
For the latest insights and information from the leaders in clean diesel technology, join us on Facebook, follow us onTwitter @DieselTechForum, or YouTube @DieselTechForum and connect with us on LinkedIn.

The Diesel Technology Forum is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel and technology. Forum members are leaders in clean diesel technology and represent the three key elements of the modern clean-diesel system: advanced engines, vehicles and equipment, cleaner diesel fuel and emissions-control systems. For more information visit www.dieselforum.org.

Press Release:
Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand, explains: "We are working at full speed on a solution."

In the press release dated September 22, 2015, the Volkswagen Group announced that Volkswagen Group vehicles worldwide are affected by the current issues regarding emissions.

The internal evaluation revealed that approximately five million Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand vehicles are affected worldwide. Certain models and model years of these vehicles (such as the sixth generation Volkswagen Golf, the seventh generation Volkswagen Passat and the first generation Volkswagen Tiguan) are equipped exclusively with type EA 189 diesel engines.

As previously announced, all new Volkswagen Passenger Car brand vehicles that fulfill the EU6 norm valid throughout Europe are not affected. This therefore also includes the current Golf, Passat and Touran models.

Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand stressed: "We are working at full speed on a technical solution that we will present to partners, to our customers and to the public as swiftly as possible. Our aim is to inform our customers as quickly as possible, so that their vehicles comply fully with regulations. I assure you that Volkswagen will do everything humanly possible to win back the trust of our customers, the dealerships and the public."

The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand will inform all markets worldwide how many of vehicles are affected locally. We are working intensively on remedial measures in close coordination with the certification authorities. The vehicles are and remain technically safe and roadworthy.

Press Release: (9/22)
Volkswagen AG has issued the following information:

Volkswagen is working at full speed to clarify irregularities concerning a particular software used in diesel engines. New vehicles from the Volkswagen Group with EU 6 diesel engines currently available in the European Union comply with legal requirements and environmental standards. The software in question does not affect handling, consumption or emissions. This gives clarity to customers and dealers.

Further internal investigations conducted to date have established that the relevant engine management software is also installed in other Volkswagen Group vehicles with diesel engines. For the majority of these engines the software does not have any effect.

Discrepancies relate to vehicles with Type EA 189 engines, involving some eleven million vehicles worldwide. A noticeable deviation between bench test results and actual road use was established solely for this type of engine. Volkswagen is working intensely to eliminate these deviations through technical measures. The company is therefore in contact with the relevant authorities and the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA – Kraftfahrtbundesamt).

To cover the necessary service measures and other efforts to win back the trust of our customers, Volkswagen plans to set aside a provision of some 6.5 billion EUR recognized in the profit and loss statement in the third quarter of the current fiscal year. Due to the ongoing investigations the amounts estimated may be subject to revaluation.
Earnings targets for the Group for 2015 will be adjusted accordingly.

Volkswagen does not tolerate any kind of violation of laws whatsoever. It is and remains the top priority of the Board of Management to win back lost trust and to avert damage to our customers. The Group will inform the public on the further progress of the investigations constantly and transparently.