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Emissions Test Cheating Has Reached New Low With European Automakers

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Emission test cheating

It feels like it has been a long time since Volkswagen’s blatant cheating of worldwide emissions tests was found out, and following that, some of us probably thought that automakers would give up on cheating on the tests. It turns out that nope, emissions test cheating is happening again, just in a low-rent kind of way. They didn’t even do it that sneakily, because the regulators were paying attention and caught on to what they were doing.

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Basically, carmakers in Europe are intentionally making their cars do way worse on their tests. That’s because the European Union is trying to get a baseline of how much dirty emissions cars make right now so it can get to making new rules for 2020. So, if the cars pollute more for the tests, then the new rules will be way easier for them to comply with.

It’s a bit like hustling while gambling. You go in and play terribly so everyone thinks you are really bad at whatever game you’re playing. Then, when they think they have you figured out and put all of their money in the pot, you get good again and take everyone’s money. Imagine that, but instead of a couple of bucks and some card sharks, you are dealing with millions of dollars and cheating the vast majority of Europe.

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The Financial Times couldn’t figure out which automakers were gaming the system in the current bout of emissions test cheating, but did find that there was more than one and that some of the methods were very low-budget. One car went in with a dead battery, so the engine had to work harder to charge it. Others with Start/Stop systems for stoplights would have those systems mysteriously not working, and still more had their transmissions shift to stay in lower gears longer. All of that adds up to artificially higher emissions.

So, what do you do about that? Well, one suggestion from Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete and Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska is for the European Commission (the EU’s policing body) to just do the testing itself rather than having the automakers do the tests themselves and send in their results.

News Sources: Jalopnik, Financial Times (subscription required), Bloomberg