• Turbo Diesel Register

    by Published on 10-05-2015 02:34 PM

    G. R. Whale, TDR Writer

    For years Audi plastered their press cars in “TDI Clean Diesel” banners, a fact which annoyed me because you couldn’t put people in one of those cars to surprise them with the progress diesel had made without them knowing already it was a diesel. Volkswagen got some figuratively great mileage out of their TDI campaign and now it’s all come down to naught.

    And just one letter separates us, so the TDR will likely receive some scorn, too.

    Chicken Littles everywhere have jumped on the “diesel-is-bad” bandwagon. Headlines declare Volkswagen has done irreparable harm to the global environment. The New York Times calculated VW’s failure will be responsible for more than 100 deaths, though they generously admitted that while the EPA has said the emissions may have exceeded legal limits by 40 times, the newspaper used 39 times for their calculations and it might be a “high assumption.” Even if the bad TDI’s were emitting 40 times the standard (I believe there are too many variables to know and EPA chose the worst-case scenario for shock value) that would still be around the same as a 25-year-old U.S.-spec diesel. In referencing a study by an MIT associate professor that suggested VW’s added emissions would account for 40 more deaths over time, the Times says “That probably undercounts the impact, though, since it does not consider the effects of direct nitrogen oxide pollution or smog.”

    Fortunately the same article puts that in perspective with a Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (in Germany) study that estimates air pollution causes three million premature deaths a year, a number that may double by 2050. Note the use of “premature” since “air pollution” doesn’t appear a valid cause on death certificates and smoking can do the same thing.
    I’m not excusing what VW did, but 40 out of three million seems a smaller percentage than how many deaths have been attributed to GM’s ignition-key issue. According to a University of Washington Bothell/Seattle study, coal dust from a passing train can present a far greater particulate problem than those from the engines pulling the train.

    California has already pulled out of a multi-state investigation of VW to do their own—pooling resources is not their thing, because California’s long been a bastion of smog and pollution speak, in great part because it has a lot of motor vehicles, dust, agriculture and sunlight, and it’s my opinion the various governors named Brown have made substantial money on the state’s smog-check program. It’s rare a politician there doesn’t utter the sound-bite “global warming” while apparently forgetting that California’s air pollution doesn’t all begin here. Anyone who’s flown west and eastbound in the northern hemisphere knows that, generally speaking, wind goes west to east. And what’s east of California beyond a vast ocean? Asia. Most of which beyond Japan and South Korea haven’t had vehicle emissions requirements as long, strict or both. So the California Air Resources Board (CARB) runs amok with retroactive regulations—a friend left the state when informed his recently purchased (in California) used truck, on which he put less than 5,000 non-commercial miles per year, would require an emissions equipment retrofit that cost more than the truck—that have no effect on the “global” air carried here.

    As of January 2014 California had about 13 million registered vehicles. A spokesman for CARB says 50,000 of those (less than half of one percent) are diesel cars, brand and vintages unspecified. Volkswagen Group’s cheater TDI’s account for a fraction of one percent of the vehicles on the road in the U.S., and an even smaller fraction of worldwide vehicles sales. From 2000 to 2010 China’s vehicle sales increased by 20 times, India had the second-highest growth and Oceania was third. Have you seen the air in Shanghai, Mumbai or Bangkok lately?

    CARB says more than 7,000 premature deaths occur in California yearly because of air pollution, and more than 70 percent of the population live in counties with “unhealthy” amounts of pollution. I emphasized counties because the air quality varies widely within most of the counties home to a large population.

    In California you can drive a gasoline car with the “service engine now” light that indicates an out of spec or compliance condition illuminated for up to two years, the time between smog checks. However, CARB decreed that no part of an emissions strategy for diesel engines should require driver/customer action, hence DEF tanks sized for maintenance intervals and the countdowns to no-start or limp-home mode. Politicians and CARB would be very happy if everyone there drove electric cars, despite the issues the grid has issues keeping up.

    Around my Southern California area most larger medical buildings, hospitals and some research establishments have back-up generators, and most of them have a “1993” placard that signifies diesel fuel on their tanks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 just five percent of nitrous oxide in the U.S. came from transportation and six percent from stationary combustion, and while nitrous oxide emissions standards for motor vehicles have come down, in the U.S. NO emissions went up about eight percent from 1990-2013, agriculture and the electric power sector cited primary contributors, and EPA expects it to increase between 2005 and 2020 from agricultural activities.

    So yes, someone at VW screwed up. My friends who work there (in Germany and the States) have been demoralized through no fault of their own, the stock price has revised many retirement plans, and salesmen friends are essentially taking a pay cut. My phone’s been ringing more than normal because of it. VW will be fined because it’s an easy payday for EPA and/or CARB (would CARB fine EPA for their toxic spill if it happened in California?), but I doubt they’ll be fined the maximum—more than most of the cars cost. And the cost of any U.S. diesel engine is likely to go up because of added regulation. But given the numbers I hardly the think the global pollution levels will ever have a measurable difference because of it, let alone the air-mageddon Chicken Little says it is.
    by Published on 09-29-2015 08:16 AM


    What I Learned at the Turbo Diesel Register (TDR) Website

    Robert Patton
    Editor, Turbo Diesel Register

    In a TDR website conversation started on September 18 by “Wayne,” there are numerous (it keeps growing) posts under the thread, “Massive Emissions Trouble for VW.” I would encourage you to login and read the text. Great insight and discussion.

    At page 4 or 5, TDR members start to wonder what it might mean to us. Stricter emissions tests? Recall notices where your registration is tied to the dealer’s performance of the recall?

    My take? How about a recall notice that, if not performed, would result in a fine by the EPA direct to the owner? If this seems a little far-fetched, you may want to step back to the late ‘90s and read about some of the smoke-and-mirror kind of activity that occurs in these settlements, continue on as we investigate the past.


    I really cringe when the bubble-headed bleached blonde comes on at 5 o’clock, she can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye.

    It’s, interesting when people die give us “Dirty Laundry” *

    * Don Henley, 1982 “Dirty Laundry”

    No doubt the Volkswagen diesel/emissions news stories have your attention. As the news outlets grasp to broad-brush the diesel industry, they bring up previous industry run-ins with various government agencies. Just this morning the bubble-headed news reader proceeded to remind the audience of the “billion dollar fine levied against the big-rig manufacturers back in the late 1990’s.” I’m guessing he had to use a “billion dollar” number to get your attention. In fairness, he was only repeating the sensational headlines from back in the day.

    Been There, Done That

    TDR members, we’ve been there, done that. The truth about the big-rig manufacturers and the EPA and Department of Justice is found in Issue 78, page 47. Here is the story from TDR’s Jim Anderson from a book review of Red, Black and Global: Cummins Corporate History 1995-2010.
    “One of the book’s chapters deals with the famous consent decree debacle of 2000, where the EPA and US Justice Department charged six engine makers with failure to meet exhaust emission standards. The whole case revolved around the single word urban in the emissions regulations that all engine makers must meet. Though the engine makers met the letter of regulations, the EPA and DOJ contended the makers did not meet the spirit of the law. However, the engine makers were fined a token civil penalty amount of $83 million and were made to provide revised engine control software that brought all existing engines into compliance, thus allowing the government agencies to save face. The makers were also required to meet the next tier of upcoming emissions standards 18 months early, which required a massive effort on their part to meet. Cummins was the only maker to do so without problems, while Caterpillar paid a penalty on every engine they built after the due date. The EPA revised their regulations to close the loophole and everybody was once again happy.”

    Folklore has it that the engine’s control modules (remember, this is mid-1990’s engine control technology) knew when the truck was driving at a steady state (on the highway/interstate), and the engine’s emissions of NOx were higher in this non-urban drive cycle than the on-off throttle that the engine would see in an urban setting. In urban settings the engines met the letter-of-the-law. Additional folklore: the EPA had knowledge of these engine settings. My opinion: as evidence by the “lack of the fine” levied and the terms “directed toward research“, I would have to agree that all parties knew what was going on. Some thought the insignificant EPA/DOJ fine was a bit of grandstanding and political posturing. (There was an election later that year.)

    Now we’ve only discussed the token $83 million in civil penalties. That is a far cry from $1 billion. So I went to the EPA website to research the missing $917 million. (Thank you to TDR members for the link.) Here is what the EPA press release said:

    Total Settlement:

    • $83.4 million in civil penalties, the largest civil penalty for an environmental violation
    • $109.5 million for additional environmental projects like development of new emission-control technologies
    • At least $850 million to produce significantly cleaner engines, including engines that have their emissions reduced by 80% compared to current levels 15 months before those standards are scheduled to take effect

    Violations and Settlements for Individual Companies:

    • Caterpillar
    $25 million civil $35 million projects
    • Cummins
    $25 million civil $35 million projects
    • Detroit Diesel
    $12.5 million civil $12 million projects
    • Mack
    $13 million civil $18 million projects
    • Navistar
    $2.9 million civil $.5 million projects
    • Volvo
    $5 million civil $9 million projects
    • Total

    $83.4 million civil

    $109.5 million projects

    Yes, those numbers add up to $83.4 million and $109.5 million respectively. And if you look at the definition of “projects like development of new emission-control technologies” that, my friends, is the definition of corporate research and development. Change a line item on the corporate balance sheet, and you’re good to go.

    Now where is the “At least $850 million” number? That’s where fuzzy math kicks in. Here is another quote from the press release that explains the $850 million:
    “In addition, EPA estimates that the companies will spend collectively more than $850 million to introduce cleaner new engines, rebuild older engines to cleaner levels, recall pickup trucks that have defeat devices installed and conduct new emissions testing.”

    Got it. Let’s analyze the statement, “Estimates to introduce cleaner new engines.” If it were a new engine, I estimate that the customer paid for the technology. Acquaintances at Cummins recall that “rebuild of older engines” was not enforced. There was no recall of pickup trucks.

    So the truth about the $850 million . . . it looks to me like it was “paid” by the customer, but since the $850 million was an “estimate by the EPA that the manufacturers would have to spend to introduce the cleaner engines,” the $850 million was never collected by the government.

    As a final footnote to this activity in the late 1990’s, in an old EPA press release I learned that the “One Billion” fine was the third significant Clean Air Act settlement from 1995 – 1999. Previously they had levied fines of $45 million for GM/Cadillac, $7.8 million against Ford $267 million against Honda. So the “One Billion” headline certainly made the news, especially in an election year.

    Audi, Truth in Engineering?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist the easy bashing of the Volkswagen Group. Audi has been using this advertising campaign since 2007. Unlike the bubble-headed news reader report of the “misgivings of the big-rig manufacturers,” the folks at Volkswagen are in BIG trouble. Here is a news outlet that strives to keep it factual: www.thetruthaboutcars.com

    What This Means To You?

    Hopefully, not a darned thing as I don’t believe games were played with the Ram/Cummins engine. For the Volkswagen crowd here’s one to think about. Eventually the Volkswagen owner gets a recall notice to flash his ECU. He feels this would cause a hit to the car’s fuel economy and chooses not to respond to the recall. As mentioned by TDR members, several states already have performance of a recall linked to your yearly automotive registration. If not performed, I wonder if an owner becomes liable for the “individual $25,000 fine”?

    What individual $25,000 fine, you ask?

    Here is the legal verbiage from issue 83, page 44:
    “November 1999, issue 26, pages 32-33: “Uprates, Emissions, Aftermarket Parts and Your Warranty.” This 13 year old article spells out the basics:

    • Tampering with emission control devices is a violation of Section 205/203(a) of the Clean Air Act and penalties of up to $25,000 per day of violation can be levied. Did we not live through the first catalytic converters on automobiles back in 1974?

    Looks to me like the Volkswagen owner’s lack of response to a potential recall would put them in to the category of

    Geez, this is going to be BIG!

    Robert Patton
    Editor, Turbo Diesel Register
    by Published on 09-25-2015 01:46 PM
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    by Published on 08-31-2015 05:04 PM

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    by Published on 08-18-2015 10:10 AM
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    The annual celebration of all things diesel is just around the corner! Edge is excited to host Weekend on the Edge, to be held September 12, 2015, in Ogden, UT. Each year spectator and participant attendance grows. Edge will continue to offer a record-setting purse for all of those involved to make sure this year's event ...

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