Automotive

Volkswagen proposes simple technical fixes for diesel cheat in Europe

Volkswagen proposes simple tec...
Technical updates will start being rolled out to the first recalled vehicles in Europe during January 2016
Technical updates will start being rolled out to the first recalled vehicles in Europe during January 2016
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VW's "simple" fix for the 1.6L diesel involves an easy change to the engine's air intake
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VW's "simple" fix for the 1.6L diesel involves an easy change to the engine's air intake
Technical updates will start being rolled out to the first recalled vehicles in Europe during January 2016
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Technical updates will start being rolled out to the first recalled vehicles in Europe during January 2016

The Volkswagen Group has been in a lot of hot water since the "dieselgate" scandal began. When it came to light that VW had been using a "defeat device" on its diesel vehicles to circumvent official emission testing procedures, the company quickly admitted to its wrongdoing and has been working to comply with regulators and find a fix. In Europe, that fix may be very simple. This week, the German authorities accepted the small technical change and software upgrade proposed by VW.

The software defeat device that the Volkswagen Group (which includes VW, Porsche, Audi, and others) used to cheat regulations was implemented on several of the company's diesel vehicles globally. In Europe, two of the engines under investigation are a 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter diesel labeled EA 189. These utilized engine software that detected when the vehicle was being compliance tested and changed the output metrics in order to win approval. Thus the recorded nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions were compliant despite being much higher than allowed during normal use.

Volkswagen has proposed a simple engine change and a software fix that would force the two EA 189 engines to be compliant with European emissions regulations. The proposal has secured the approval of the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrtbundesamt or KBA). With the KBA's ratification, VW is now working on technical updates that will start being rolled out to the first recalled vehicles in January 2016. Volkswagen's other brands, including Audi, SEAT, SKODA, and their commercial vehicle arm, will be creating corresponding measures for their affected vehicles.

The fix for the 1.6-liter diesel engine is the replacement of a section of clean air intake to add a straight, non-baffled piece of pipe called a "flow transformer" directly ahead of the air mass sensor (also called an air flow meter). This sensor determines the amount of air mass throughput, which in turn affects engine management parameters for optimum combustion. The new pipe, which extends from the air filter to the air mass sensor, will allow a straight flow of air for a much more accurate measurement of air mass passing through to the intake.

VW's "simple" fix for the 1.6L diesel involves an easy change to the engine's air intake
VW's "simple" fix for the 1.6L diesel involves an easy change to the engine's air intake

Volkswagen says that the current flow pipe in that location baffles the air, making measurements inaccurate. Once the new flow straightener is installed, a software update will be performed to accommodate the new addition. VW estimates that the time for these fixes will be less than an hour. The larger 2.0-liter engines will only require changes to the software and, as such, the update should take around half an hour to complete.

Volkswagen says that these fixes will make the two EA 189 engines compliant with emissions requirements. VW is also promising a similar technical solution for affected 1.2-liter diesel engines, which will be delivered to the KBA before the end of November 2015.

The company advises that the changes are not expected to have adverse effects on engine output or fuel economy, but that until all vehicle models affected are tested after the updates, the results cannot be assured.

Due to the large number of vehicles affected, the update program is expected to run for the whole of 2016, and VW is foregoing statute of limitations rights in warranties and guarantees on vehicles with EA 189 engines until December next year.

VW says that complementary mobility options such as loan vehicles and rides to and from the dealerships doing the work will be provided while recalled vehicles are being updated.

In North America, Volkswagen is undergoing a similar process to find compliance fixes for its diesel vehicles. Proposals are before the US Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board for consideration.

Source: Volkswagen

20 comments
DomainRider
Really? A straight pipe? If such a simple and cheap fix can make the cars compliant with the regs without affecting performance and consumption, why go to the trouble and risk of a cheat device in the first place??
nedge2k
That's not what the pipe is about. It's about minimising the performance loss after the software update - because there will be a performance loss and being more accurate on the metering will allow it to be minimised.
moreover
In Germany car owners are forced to get recalled vehicles fixed to renew their license. But in the US less than 65% get their cars fixed. That means there are a lot of unsafe - or in this case: polluting - cars on the road.
Tjoe
Lets look on the exhaust side. If the longevity of the engine and the fuel economy is better at the (illegal) settings, like normal when not being tested, does that mean that unspent fuel, products of combustion will then go into the turbo and catalytic converter, which then sees much heavier demand and shortens their life considerably?
Where is that gallon of every tank going to go??...into moving the car or to a catalytic converter that burns it up (and then has shorter lifespan)?
bobcat4424
This seems incredibly simplistic and counter-intuitive. First they refuse to share the firmware code with the regulatory agencies. Then they say that the maximum refund to customers will be a $500 Visa gift card (which is valued at around $300.) And now they have a "fix" that involves a few dollars worth of plastic.
It makes no sense because it would have been readily apparent at the initial pre-production stage. Something is incredibly fishy.
The resale value of the vehicles has been completely trashed. And that included non-diesel VWs, Audis et alia. There is also the lost mileage that has resulted in increased fuel costs.
If this is the fix, needs to be slapped with the highest possible fines, refunding far more money to cover real damages, refunding is a similar amount x4 as punitive damages, refunding to the states, especially Georgia and California, the money they have and will spend on handling emissions checks for these vehicles. By my reckoning it comes in at $30,000 per vehicle plus fines and punitive damages.
After this no one will ever believe anything that VW/Audi says.
AlvinErnest
I would never trust VW... the could be lying again!
SilverBee
Okay, an easy fix. But what about the criminal charges against everyone involved? Do NOT let them off the hook for this. The victims are all the American people--not just the people who bought the cars under false pretenses. All this talk about deregulation and the dangers of big government ignores just such as these powerful corporations/people thinking whatever they can get away with is good if it makes them money. "Big Government" needs to step in on behalf of "We the People!"
parkerd
Volkswagen made a wonderfully clean and efficient diesel engine. The problem is the EPA and the solution is to dissolve this destructive socialist agency and all the rest of the alphabet soup of agencies posing as part of an American free market "federal government". The whole problem with the Volkswagen diesel is a bunch of hidebound government bureaucrats who pretend they can legislate reality and don't have two functioning brain cells to share among themselves. Sincerely, David Parker
toolman65
It will take much more than a "simple technical fix" to salvage this company's reputation.
Don Duncan
David Parker: "The problem...is bureaucrats..." That is the immediate problem. The bigger problem is govt. won't allow a free market. But the fundamental problem is the "we the people" mentality that has faith in force, e.g., the brute force of an elite given a moral blank check to use brute force to rule everybody/everything. This faith is incompatible with our existence because it is anti-freedom, anti-life, anti-rights, anti-creativity, anti-progress.
Until this myth is acknowledged as a destructive superstitious cancer, our species will suffer war and poverty, while we struggle to produce in spite of our self-enslavement.