How EPA Facilitates Auto Emission Fraud
Agency Doubles Down on Outmoded Dynamometers While Eschewing In-Use Data
Washington, DC — In the wake of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency still clings to the questionable testing methods that enabled the fraud, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At the same time, the agency is not using actual on-the-road “in-use” data it collects from diesel vehicles to monitor emissions or efficiency.
EPA emission and fuel economy testing is conducted by putting the vehicle on a dynamometer – essentially a big treadmill. VW engineers used software to control how the engines performed only on the dynamometer while actual in-use emissions were up to 40 times higher. The episode vividly illustrates that dynamometer test results can no longer be assumed to correlate with in-use emissions.
This was a lesson that EPA supposedly learned almost twenty years ago when it discovered that heavy duty diesel engine manufacturers were employing the same type of cheating strategy VW employed in its diesel vehicles. In response, EPA forced the heavy duty engine manufacturers to sign a consent decree in 1998 which, among other things, mandated “in-use testing” of vehicles to show compliance. That consent decree also clearly stipulated that the data of that “in-use testing program” was to be made public. Yet –
- Despite the commitment to make these data public, EPA has decided that the several years’ worth of in-use data it has collected from heavy duty diesel engine manufacturers data will not be released because it contains “Confidential Business Information”;
- EPA has invested another $50 million for a heavy duty chassis dynamometer and test cell that it will roll out at a “Showcase” on October 13th; and
- Individual EPA engineers and the agency itself license patents on the engine technologies that EPA is then supposed to regulate.
“All of the claimed public health and economic benefits of emissions and fuel economy standards are based completely upon an unproven assumption – that dynamometer test results correlate with actual in-use experience,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch who is pressing EPA through a Freedom of Information Act request to post the in-use heavy duty diesel data as promised in the consent decree. “Independent analysis of in-use data may reveal an even larger disconnect between lab tests and on-the-road performance.”
Ironically, just as the VW episode underlines the fact that chassis dynamometer tests no longer can be trusted, EPA is preparing a new showcase test cell. In so doing, EPA managers brushed aside internal objections that investment in a chassis dynamometer, especially since no regulations require it.
“This scandal shows that dynamometer technology is a dinosaur yet EPA keeps pouring money into it,” added Ruch, voicing frustration that past complaints from PEER about conflicts of interest within EPA on automotive technology have not been pursued. “The fact that the VW cheating was revealed by outsiders indicates the clubby and closed manner in which this arm of EPA operates.”