Suzanne Higgins Published

Inspiring West Virginians Program Profiles Engineer Who Uncovered Huge Automobile Cheating Scandal

Inspiring West Virginian Dan Carder

Remember when Volkswagen got busted last year for cheating on emissions tests? A settlement that could reach $20 billion is still being negotiated.

Well here’s the back-story – how a car-obsessed country boy from West Virginia became one of the world’s great emissions engineers, uncovering one of the biggest scandals in automobile history. 

Forty-six year old Dan Carder of Wood County, WV is a WVU graduate, a mechanical engineer, and runs the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions (known as CAFEE) at West Virginia University.

That means Carder leads a team of faculty members, staff engineers, technicians and more than 30 Masters and PhD students.  They carry out pioneering emissions research and testing – from mining equipment to refrigeration units to heavy-duty trucks to passenger vehicles – using all kinds of fuels, including diesel, gasoline, biodiesel, hybrid and electric systems. 

The Center is trying to find that perfect balance among competing needs of power, fuel economy, fuel efficiency and low emissions.

“I believe our future looks very bright,” said Carder. “I’m driven by the need to try to figure out a way to bring opportunity and economic development to the state.”

It was here at CAFEE that Carder led a small team that developed the world’s first mobile on-board emission testing system. This led to detecting Volkswagen’s effort to intentionally deceive its customers through the use of a cheating device on their diesel vehicles. 

The research was so significant Carder was named to TIME’s 2016 list of the World’s 100 Most Influential People.

WVU President Gordon Gee says the impact that Carder’s work has had on the university, the state and the nation is profound.

“CAFEE has become one of the most central places in this country – if not in the world – where emissions tests take place, because it’s now become a gold standard,” said Gee.

The world class engineer says there’s no place else he’d rather be conducting his research than in the Mountain State, his home.

“I want my future to be here in the state,” said Carder. “I want my kids to be able to grow up here and have opportunity.”

“And I want to be able to make a difference.  When I’m retired, and look back and say, ‘now that was a good thing we did and look at all those jobs and opportunities we developed,’ that’s what we need to focus on.” 

Carder is one of 3 national leaders profiled in West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inspiring West Virginians program airing Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 8pm with encore broadcasts Dec. 30 and Jan. 2 at 1pm.