Simanaitis Says

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THE SOOT CONTINUES to accumulate around diesel cars finagled to run clean in official testing, though not necessarily otherwise. “VW’s Diesel Scam” made news last year when the International Council on Clean Transportation discovered that some of VW’s cars selectively disconnected hardware intended to control NOX.


Now, as noted in Automotive News, August 1, 2016, it turns out that European Union regulators left a loophole in regulations large enough for the dirtiest diesels to drive through. Here are tidbits gleaned from the Automotive News feature.


“Roughly nine years ago,” explains Automotive News, “a bill was passed in Brussels detailing the process to receive approvals for light vehicles. It banned the use of defeat devices, which it defined as any emissions control sensor that reduces the effectiveness of the system ‘under conditions which may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal vehicle operation and use.’ ”

Clear enough. No fooling with a diesel’s NOX trap once the car wasn’t actually being tested on the official EU driving cycle.

Except Brussels then added a qualification, over which industry and politicians are now blaming each other: “The prohibition shall not apply where the need for the device is justified in terms of protecting the engine against damage or accident and for safe operation of the vehicle.”

As an example, GM Opel switched off the NOX after-treatment on its Zafira multipurpose diesel at specific altitudes, vehicle speeds or weather conditions. Indeed, the German Der Spiegel newspaper claimed the Zafira’s NOX control did no controlling whatsoever around 80 percent of the time in the real world.


The Opel Zafira diesel.

The German Transportation Ministry found a 1.6-liter BMW 2 Series diesel emitting more than five times the legal NOX limit. Real-world emissions of a 1.5-liter diesel in Renault’s Dacia Sandero were 13 times greater. Their defense included euphemisms such as “engine calibrations,” “acoustic function” or “thermal window.”


The Renault Dacia Sandero. Image from

Notes Automotive News, the loopholes were “circumstances that seemed to fall just outside the test parameters used in the EU driving cycle.” For instance, the defeat actuated at an elevation of 2789 feet, whereas the highest test station in Europe is found at 2165 feet.

It reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s line: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find trout in the milk.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016

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