Dieselgate summons health concerns one year on

The resignation of a CEO, the suspension of top Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen executives: Dieselgate had serious repercussions for many.  And with good reason, Volkswagen betrayed the public by using underhand techniques to cheat emissions testing. To date there are 11 million cars containing software that lowers their emissions during test conditions.  Live road tests have now revealed that compounds like NOx  (Nitrogen Oxide compounds) can be up to 40 times higher on the daily commute.  The compound is connected with causing the premature deaths of up to 23,500 people per year in the UK alone making  Dieselgate not just about betraying consumer trust,  but about a corporate entity knowingly endangering lives.

The Scandal

It started with a study launched by the International Council on Clean Transport looking into emissions discrepancies between EU and US models.  What followed was a full year of back and forth between the Environmental Protection Agency and VW.  The manufacturer insisted that third party tests on their cars cannot be considered reliable and refused to take responsibility for the findings.  It was not until the EPA threatened to withhold approval of 2016 models that VW was forced to admit their wrongdoing.

Dieselgate in cartoon

Between recalls and a $14.7 billion settlement the scandal is hardly over.  The incident has raised concerns about whether or not other manufacturers are employing similar tactics to pass emissions tests.  A US-based campaign group, Transport & Environment, have been inspecting all top manufacturers air pollution levels.  They found that not one of the manufacturers tested complies with the “Euro 6” pollution limits, with Volkswagen being far from the worst offender.  In fact, the report stated that Volkswagen was one of the cleanest manufacturers under “Euro 6” regulations with Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Dacia ranking the worst.

 

NOx

In Britain the focus has always been on CO2 emissions, which is what consumers pay tax on.  While this gas does contribute to global warming it is not directly harmful to the public.  Nitrogen Oxide and Nitrogen Dioxide (not to be confused with Nitrous Oxide, N20) penetrates the soft tissue of the lungs damaging them, worsening respiratory diseases and  aggravating existing heart conditions.  Furthermore, these gases can be carried by the wind far from the original sources.  News that car manufacturers are vastly overproducing harmful compounds is alarming for the general public who seem generally unaware of the risks associated with owning a “dirty” vehicle.

The need for reform is obvious.  The EU has stated that changes will be made to regulations so that, as of September 2017, vehicles producing more than double the lab limit of NOx will be banned from the roads.  Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the UK trade body of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, has said that more stringent tests will be implemented with Real Driving Emissions tests being mandatory for all vehicles.

As different manufacturers have proven themselves unreliable in building and testing vehicles that are safe to the public, the responsibility now rests with the consumer.  To keep our air clean and society healthy car owners should become more concerned with the emissions of their vehicles.