NEW DELHI: Nearly four years after the Volkswagen’s emission-cheating scam came to the fore, a bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has asked the German car-making company’s India unit to deposit 1 billion rupees with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for not complying with the emission norms set by the country.
Acting on a petition filed by Saloni Ailawadi, a schoolteacher from the Capital region, the bench constituted a committee comprising of officials from the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Heavy Industries, CPCB and Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI).
The Volkswagen “dieselgate” scandal erupted in 2015 after the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found discrepancies between VW’s test results and real-world performance. Results showed that nitrogen oxide emission on road was 35% higher than the one conducted in the lab. United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA) investigated and found that the company had illegally installed an engine control unit (ECU) software, which allegedly helped them cheat on U.S pollution test.
According to a report by DownToEarth, the software is programmed to sense whether the vehicle is being tested in the laboratory, based on parameters such as the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, duration of engine operations and barometric pressure. It then switches the car into a clean-running mode, reduces NOx emissions and helps it pass the test. But once on the road, the software switches to run on a separate calibration, which reduces the effectiveness of the NOx control system, and the car begins to emit 10 to 40 times more NOx than the certified level, depending on the driving condition.
This resulted in a domino effect and regulators from all across the globe started investigating the possibility of the same happening in their country. This resulted in a fall of stock prices immediately after the news broke out. Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned, and the head of brand development Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Audi research, and development head Ulrich Hackenberg, and Porsche research and development head Wolfgang Hatz were also suspended.
In January 2017, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to criminal charges and set out a statement explaining how engineers had developed the defeat devices because diesel models could not pass US emissions tests without them.
In India, VW came under scrutiny when ARAI carried out an independent research and found out that the car manufacturing company used a defeat device to manipulate the emission norms under BS stage IV. VW denied it outrightly, stating that it has not flouted any law. Maintaining the recall as ‘voluntary’, VW, which sells cars in India under multiple brands including Skoda, and Audi announced a recall of over 323,000 vehicles in December 2015.
Volkswagen fraud brings out the loopholes in the monitoring system which requires stringent regulations. The United States of America is the first country to have drafted rules to prohibit defeat devices in vehicles way back in 1978. It also has the most elaborate system to make manufacturers accountable for their emissions performance on the road.
On the other hand, our country lags behind in stating the emissions standards and the intent to regulate the automobile industry, which is the major contributor to the global warming.