WVU Researchers Help Bust Volkswagen for Pollution Violations

Sep 21, 2015

This WVU report found VW cars with emissions much worse than expected.

You may have heard about the scandal involving Volkswagen cheating on emissions standards. But did you know that WVU researchers helped catch VW in the act?

The International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research group asked WVU to test NOx and other emissions on three cars: a BMW X5 SUV, a VW Jetta, and a VW Passat.

WVU tested the cars in real-world scenarios, not the special computers usually used for emissions tests.

That’s when they discovered something strange: the BMW passed the test, but the VW cars didn’t. Emissions on them were much higher in the real world.

WVU published its report in May 2014, called “In-Use Emissions Testing of Light-Duty Diesel Vehicles in the United States.” Authors included principal investigator Gregory Thompson, Daniel Carder, Marc Besch, Arvind Thiruvengadam, and Hemanth Kappanna at the WVU Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions, Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering.

VW initially blamed the problem on technical issues. But this week, the EPA accused the company of installing software to cheat emissions tests. It switches pollution controls on during emissions testing, and off when it hit the road.

For seven years, some VW vehicles were spewing up to 40 times the allowed emissions.

VW stocks plunged 17 percent today, as CEO Martin Winterkorn apologized and promised a full investigation.

The company is expected to recall up to a 500,000 Jetta, Golf, Beetle and Audi A3 vehicles starting in model year 2009.