cars

EPA’s Rigorous Auto Oversight Will Get Even Stronger

By Christopher Grundler, Director, Office of Transportation and Air Quality

Last month, Volkswagen admitted to EPA and the California Air Resources Board that the company employed a sophisticated device to cheat U.S. emissions standards in certain diesel cars, including the Audi A3, Beetle, Golf, Jetta, and Passat. We take this matter very seriously. It’s not only a violation of the Clean Air Act, it threatens public health and the credibility of the industry.

Our goal is to complete a comprehensive investigation and to take the appropriate steps to ensure that this never happens again. We are now testing for defeat devices and other compliance issues for model year 2015 and 2016 light-duty diesel vehicles from all manufacturers. On September 25, we notified all auto manufacturers that our testing will include additional evaluations designed to detect potential defeat devices.

We employ a rigorous, multi-layer process to test and certify new vehicle models before they can be sold, and for testing vehicles that are in production and on the road. But technologies evolve and circumstances change, and we’re constantly looking at ways to improve our compliance and oversight programs. Over the past 45 years, our oversight and testing program has developed new tools and new techniques to adapt to technology advances so we can deliver on the agency’s mission.

In the late 1990’s, the heavy-duty industry deployed defeat devices in a large number of trucks, resulting in a settlement valued at over $1 billion. We’ve done extensive on-road testing audits for compliance with the newly implemented greenhouse gas emissions standards. This effort resulted in an enforcement action and ultimately a record-setting settlement with Hyundai/Kia, and significant fuel economy adjustments by Ford and other vehicle manufacturers.

Our testing and oversight includes both in-lab testing using dynamometers and on-road testing in real-world conditions. Both are necessary as part of an active robust program. This provides a multi-layered oversight approach focused on:

  • Testing both pre-production prototypes and production vehicles on the dynamometer, which provides accurate, reliable and repeatable measurements that can be used to compare against the standard, and across vehicle types;
  • On-road testing using portable emissions monitors (PEMs) that measure emissions during real world driving situations. In recent years, on-road PEMs testing has been focused on heavy duty diesel vehicles, which account for roughly 40 percent of the NOx pollution from on-road sources.  (By comparison light duty diesel cars account for about 0.1 percent of NOx pollution from on-road sources.)
  • Laboratory audits ensuring that manufacturer, contract, and other agency test labs conform to testing protocols and data quality standards, so that the data EPA gets from these sources (including the data manufacturers provide to EPA) meet standards and that results can be compared among labs; and
  • Holding manufacturers accountable for their actions through rigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act, which provides a strong deterrence against cheating and helps maintain a level playing field for the vast majority of automakers that play by the rules.

Air quality monitors across the country tell a clear and compelling story: U.S. air quality has dramatically improved as a result of implementing our programs as vehicle miles and the economy have grown significantly. Since EPA’s founding, we’ve cut our nation’s air pollution 70% all while the economy has tripled. A strong oversight and compliance program is critical to ensure that the clean air standards that EPA sets for vehicles to protect public health actually deliver the emissions promised to the American people.  We will learn from this Volkswagen case, and will adapt and improve — as we have before — to ensure we deliver on the Agency’s mission.

More information for owners of affected vehicles may be found here: http://www3.epa.gov/otaq/cert/violations.htm

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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I Was a Frustrated Customer at Car Showrooms, but Made the Obvious Decision

By Larry Teller

Being a patriot who wants to do right by our still-struggling economy, I recently started looking for a new car. Well, to be honest, approaching another summer without car air conditioning didn’t delight.

The car I was replacing was 17 years old and, beside no A/C, had gradually lost other non-essential but nice-to-have features: FM and eventually AM radio, keyless door locks, two door locks (but, shucks, no one would steal the car), speed control and intermittent wipers. I’d figured in recent years, what’s the difference? I’m only driving six miles roundtrip to a commuter train. And, besides, the huge trunk provided a handy way to take my bike for repairs; the car was paid for; the insurance was cheap; it reminded me of the sweet day we drove our baby daughter home from the hospital; my friend the mechanic was always eager to fix things; I’m not wild about car salesmen……

It’s been, thankfully, years since I walked into a showroom. Do you, too, dread the experience, beginning with the sweet greeting, followed inexorably by the required question “What do I have to do to sell you a car TODAY?” My specs were simple at the three places I visited: compact car, four cylinders with good gas mileage, comfortable seats, several safety gizmos, any color but black or white, and—here’s the feature that, I learned at all three places, was the root cause of conflict—but I just felt I deserved: heated seats.

Here’s what I learned, unhappily: in order to buy heated seats, you must buy a “weather package,” which is available only on higher “trim” versions, which only come with a larger engine (and also requires, in the fancier trim package, a moon roof which I can happily live without), which has lower gas mileage, which was one of my most important criteria.

So, the frustrating choice the car companies shrewdly force us to confront is whether keeping our tushes toasty on those freezing Monday mornings is worth spending an extra $3,000 (the weather package and higher trim line) and losing, at least in the three compact cars I considered, 2-3 miles per gallon (“EPA estimated—your actual gas mileage may vary.”).

I hope it’s obvious from this tale how I resolved this showroom conflict. How would you?

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Question of the Week: What would convince you to change your driving habits?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Driving less, carpooling, and combining errands all mean less pollution. And with fuel prices rising, people are driving less, or driving smarter when they can. But many find it very difficult to drive less because of where they live or what they do.

What would convince you to change your driving habits?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Actividades como el guiar menos, hacer carpool y combinar mandados todas contribuyen a reducir la contaminación. Mientras los precios del combustible están en alza, las personas están conduciendo menos y lo están haciendo de manera más inteligente siempre que pueden. Sin embargo, a veces se les dificulta guiar menos debido al lugar donde viven o por lo que hacen.

¿Qué le convencería para cambiar sus hábitos de guiar?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: What do you drive, and why?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Got wheels? There are as many reasons you have a car, truck, or whatever you drive, as there are types of vehicles from which to choose. But there are also trade-offs in your vehicle choice that affect the environment and your wallet.

What do you drive, and why?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

¿Tienes ruedas? Hay muchas razones para escoger su medio de transporte, sea un automóvil, un camión, o lo que usted decida conducir, así como hay una gran variedad de vehículos que puede escoger. Asimismo, se hacen trueques al seleccionar su vehículo que afectan el medio ambiente y su bolsillo.

¿Qué tipo de vehículo conduce y por qué?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.