The automobile giant Volkswagen, the largest car manufacturer in the world, has a lot it may have to answer for.
Car manufacturers across the globe have to make sure that their vehicles submit to and pass emissions tests. Each vehicle has to comply with environmental standards before hitting the market. These standards, in a nutshell, regulate the amount of pollutants that these cars emit. Cars can only emit up to a certain level of pollutants like nitric oxides to pass the emissions tests.
The German car manufacturing giant used “defeat devices” to, simply put, cheat on the tests. Researchers estimate that 1,200 premature deaths may occur as a result of the excess emissions. However, if the company recalls the affected units by the end of 2017, more early deaths can be prevented.
In September of 2015, Volkswagen admitted to using a device that made it seem like their cars were emitting an acceptable level of nitric oxides. However, 11 million units produced from 2008 to 2015 were in fact emitting four times the acceptable amount of pollutants.
The units in question were able to hoodwink the emissions tests with use of “defeat devices”. These devices can detect laboratory tests and adapt accordingly. They can therefore make it seem as if the units were complying with regulatory standards. In reality, however, these units can emit far more than the acceptable levels of pollutants.
The company issued a recall of these cars, but by then, it was already too late. The excess emissions had already affected public health in Europe and the U.S.
Researchers claim that the excess emissions released between 2008 and 2015 will likely cause 1,200 early deaths. This is due to the high levels of pollutants that the units released. The pollutant nitric oxide can cause cardiopulmonary and respiratory diseases when it reacts with particulates in the air. Nitric oxides is also a component of ozone, another pollutant that's able to negatively impact human health.
Though Germany has the most Volkswagen cars, the effects of the excess emissions has spread throughout Europe. “Air pollution is very much transboundary,” says Steven Barrett, one of the study's authors. These emissions will hit Germany the hardest, but the nitric oxides have already circulated around Europe. Units in the U.S. have already impacted public health in that country as well.
The company has to recall and retrofit all environmentally unsafe vehicles by the end of 2017 to mitigate the effects of excess emissions. By January 2018, all their units will have to emit no excess pollutants. According to researchers, doing all this would prevent 2,600 future premature deaths and 4.1 billion euros in health costs.
There is indeed a way for the company to fix things. However, it may not be the only car manufacturer to use defeat devices or circumvent the tests in some way. There are cars that pass the tests but emit beyond the acceptable levels of pollutants in actuality. Hopefully, this incident with Volkswagen will serve as an example to other manufacturers that skirt around emissions tests.Save
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