Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’ saga is undoubtedly the biggest scandal of its kind in the current motoring era. It prompted Volkswagen to ‘turn over a new leaf’ and push towards electrification earlier than most other legacy car makers, and the brand seems to have put the historic case in its rear-view mirror.
Or, maybe so it would seem. Volkswagen is once again in hot water over the use of a so-called defeat device. European Union advisor Athanasios Rantos has fired allegations at the German marque, stating that exhaust-based defeat devices are still in play.
He cited three current cases in Austria. Reuters reports that these cases revolve around software that controls a valve that “recirculates exhaust gases from the engine outlet”, thus reducing nitrogen oxide NOx emissions.
The defeat, it’s contended, lies in the software tune. It’s been found that the software shuts off the valve at temperatures between 15 degrees and 33 degrees celsius (or at altitudes above 1000 metres), thus disabling the action and causing an increase in the amount of NOx created.
The cars at the center of the debate have not been named, and as such it’s unclear whether they’re current models or not.
Volkswagen does not deny the existence of the valve or the way the software works. But, the brand denies that it’s a defeat device; instead insisting that it’s a feature designed to protect the engine. This hasn’t washed with Rantos, though, who still adamantly labels it a defeat device.
It’s said that software designed to “improve the performance of the emission control system” is classified as an illegal defeat device, but there are exemptions for software which protects “the engine against damage or accident and for safe operation of the vehicle”.
In further comments to Autocar UK, Volkswagen noted that “thermal windows used in Volkswagen Group vehicles remain permissible”, adding that the software tune in question exists “to prevent sudden and immediate risks of damage to the engine”.
It’s worth considering that in Austria, where the cases are based, temperatures are often under 15 degrees, meaning that if the software is designed to protect the engine then powertrains in those cars sold locally spend a large portion of the year vulnerable to those so-called “sudden and immediate risks”.
We’ll be keeping tabs on this one.