Page 26 - European Energy Innovation - Winter 2015 publication
P. 26
Winter 2015 European Energy Innovation


Automotive emissions:
How are we to turn defeat into victory?

By Mike Edmund

“If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined” - Pyrrhus of Epirus
Some four centuries
after the event, Roman formed an opinion of the story premature mortality. According
historian Plutarch that has since unfolded. A story, to the European Environmental
recorded this reaction indeed, that continues to unfold Agency’s 2014 report9, some
at a quite bewildering pace: 8-13% of the population of the

of King Pyrrhus to a particularly almost daily there emerges EU28 (which currently numbers

costly military victory. Now, some lurid new dimension to about 500 million people) is

nearly two millennia later, consider. An ICCT-ADAC Study4 exposed to levels of NOx that

the observation resonates has found “a serious compliance are in excess of EU and WHO

uncomfortably with news that problem for NOx emissions” reference levels, while the US EPA

broke on the 18th September. among a range of current suggests that even short-term

The US Environmental Protection Euro 6 diesel passenger cars. exposure (from as little as 30

Agency (EPA) issued to German Autocar Magazine5 reported minutes) to one of the nitrogen

automaker Volkswagen Group RIƓFLDOVWDWHPHQWVIURP%0: oxides, NO2, is associated with
(VW) a notice of violation (NOV) Ford, Mercedes, JLR, Peugeot, adverse effects that include


diesel engines. Something of a Porsche and Renault that all deny people and worsened respiratory

modern-day Pandora’s Jar was emissions test cheating. VW itself symptoms in people suffering

opened 46 days later when this has admitted “irregularities” in from asthma10. A recent Swedish

NOV was followed by a second the CO2 emission performance study11 showed that residential
one, referring this time to VW’s RIHQJLQHVƓWWHGWRDIXUWKHU exposure to even relatively low

six-cylinder diesel engines1. 800,000 vehicles6. According to levels of NOx is associated with

Much of the story is already LWVRIƓFLDOVWDWHPHQWŏ7KHPDMRULW\ increased mortality; and that the

well publicised, but some of its of the vehicles concerned have longer the exposure, the greater

salient facts bear repetition here. diesel engines.” Of course, “The the risk. So, though clearly not

At its heart is an allegation of majority” means “not all” and a trivial issue, it is equally clear

the deliberate, sustained and the EU Commission has now however that VW is not directly

systematic use of a so-called written to the 28 member states responsible for any of these

defeat device by VW in order requesting them to investigate harmful effects, since its engines

to misrepresent the real-world further7; and to VW to demand obviously are not the sole source

performance of its engines with FODULƓFDWLRQ8. There is also a of NOx in the atmosphere.

respect to emissions of oxides growing sense that the story is Moreover, the science of statistics

of Nitrogen (NOx). VW has by spiralling out of control. What is being what it is, it is impossible

its own admission sold some 11 the car-buying customer to make to identify which people will be

million of these diesel-powered of it all? directly affected, limiting the

trojan horses, vehicles whose scope for class actions or lawsuits

emissions exhibit “A noticeable Since this scandal is essentially even in light of the recent highly

deviation between bench test about emissions (both carbon GDPDJLQJƓQGLQJVRI%DUUHWWet

results and actual road use”; and nitrogen), let us pause for a al12, who calculate that “the excess

and it has earmarked some €6.5 moment for breath. emissions will cause 59 (95% CI:

billion ($7.2 billion) to rectify the 10 to 150) early deaths in the US”.

offending software2. VW’s initial 7KHƓUVWWKLQJWRHVWDEOLVKLVWKDW For clarity, this refers to emissions

claim that the problem related this story matters. It really matters. as a result of VW’s actions.

only to its four-cylinder EA 189 Emissions regulations exist for a Nevertheless, the estimated

diesel engine has since been reason; and notwithstanding our $450million social cost of these

revised3. efforts to limit CO2 emissions to 59 deaths13 is likely merely to be
combat climate change, there is the starting point for assessing

There can be few reading this a catalogue of research that links WKHXOWLPDWHƓQDQFLDOLPSDFWRI

magazine who have not already NOx with excess morbidity and the scandal.
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