Monday, 12 October 2015

Volkswagen's loss is Bosch's gain

Paul Willis, managing director of Volkswagen UK, appeared today before the Transport Select Committee of the UK’s House of Commons in Parliament to answer questions from MPs in connection with the "defeat device" that VW fitted to its cars.

Willis said that some 400,000 cars would need to have their "diesel fuel injectors" changed He did not specify which items were affected -or why. These systems are made by Bosch and implies a major (and costly) 'hardware fix'. If Willis's pronouncement is correct, this implies also that Bosch's factories making common rail fuel injection components will be working flat-out to meet VW's requirements in both Germany and overseas. On the other hand, Willis may have been misinformed by associates and another piece of hardware may need to be changed.

The remaining vehicles would require a software fix. Earlier, Volkswagen UK claimed 1,189,906 vehicles in all in the UK are affected by the 'defeat device' scam, affecting Audi, Seat, Skoda,  and Volkswagen cars plus Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle products.

Willis, who has been left 'holding the baby' for 'mistakes' made in Wolfsburg by German engineers, appeared to suggest that the VW cheat device software did affect the EU test results. This suggests that owners of certain VW Group vehicles have been snared innocently and unknowingly by a little black box under the bonnet.

Willis said:  "I'm not an engineer, and it seems that in the test regime the engine behaved differently to real life via software. The software affected the flow of gas to the engine which affected the results.”

When asked if the cheat device affected the emissions tests of cars in the UK, Willis appeared to indicate that it did indeed affect the NOx figures of vehicles tested in the EU.

"It seems from what I understand – and I'm not an engineer – that the system of gas regulation in the engine influenced the NOx output in cars on sale in the UK," he told MPs. "These cars are type approved in the UK and Germany, of course. One of the questions we have is how fit for purpose the test regime is."

Willis appeared to irritate some MPs because he kept saying “he was not an engineer”; this might imply that VW had sent the wrong man in to bat.

Willis claimed engineers were "Under orders to ensure fuel efficiency would not be affected." He was referring to the fixes that would be unveiled in due coarse. However, meeting emission requirements and ensuring customers do not lose out in the fuel economy stakes might be a bridge too far.

He told MPs that 1,079 cars were sold in the UK before the decision was taken to halt sales. He claimed this was because the company had “60 models, five brands, three engines and two transmissions” to take into account.

Willis told MPs on the Transport Select Committee that the first car sold in the UK with a defeat device took place in 2008.

According to Autocar, Volkswagen’s “EA189 engine uses a lean NOx trap (LNT) to store oxides of nitrogen, which are then burnt off in a purge cycle. This technology is widely used and works. BMW, for example, one of whose diesel models was singled out as fully compliant in real-world tests in the EU, use an LNT.”

The 2-litre became the EA288 its Euro 6 version and according to VW “does not cheat”.

VW invested millions of Euros to develop a lean NOx trap (LNT) which soaks up nitrous oxide and nitrogen dioxide like a sponge. Once the trap is full, the system can inject a dose of fuel which reacts with the NOx to form benign substances which are then released.

It is possible that VW resorted to cheating because the LNT consumes fuel and/or damages performance.

There is so much of this sorry saga that is supposition. Industry experts are hoping that a senior Volkswagen Group engineer will deliver the definitive statement (explaining how, where, when and why this defeat device was allowed to be installed in VW Group cars and vans) at the forthcoming 37th Internationales Wiener Motorensymposium that will be staged by OVK on 28th and 29th April 2016 in Vienna, Austria. (

                                  Similar grilling in the US

Paul Willis’s grilling is a re-run of that endured last week in the by Michael Horn, president and chief executive officer of Volkswagen of America. Horn faced a similar situation on 8 October from the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations into matters regarding ‘Dieselgate’.

In his testimony, Horn conceded that defeat devices were likely installed because the vehicles could not meet the new, more stringent diesel standards.

However, he claimed that VW engineers in the US were “left in the dark about them”.
Following the publication of the West Virginia University study in 2014, which found that real-world NOx emissions on certain VW vehicles exceeded EPA standards, the OEM originally told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that the discrepancy was due to technical issues and unexpected in-use conditions.

Horn conceded that these representations were incorrect and false, but that nobody at Volkswagen of America knew of the defeat devices at this time, or when a recall was announced in December 2014.
According to Horn’s comments, it would appear that VW Group engineers in Germany were well aware of the situation.

Faced with the question of whether the discrepancy “was because of the wilful act of some engineers in Germany,” Horn replied: “That’s my understanding.”

Members of the House Subcommittee asked why these German engineers, well aware of the use of defeat devices, did not inform informed their US counterparts and let them go ahead with a recall and an unsuccessful ‘fix’ for that recall.

Horn could only think that the German engineers had not told their US colleagues of the situation. “Otherwise we would have been here much earlier,” he added.

According to Horn the situation impacts about 500,000 diesel vehicles on US roads, and some can be fixed with a straightforward software patch.

Others – the bulk of models – will involve both a software and a hardware fix. Each of the three generations of the 2-litre diesel engine will require a different remedy.
The group of Generation 1 vehicles, the earliest models, will likely need a hardware solution.

“For these we believe a software-only solution is not possible,” Horn explained. “If it would have been possible they would have done it in the first place. For this group, they are looking at both software and hardware solutions, with different strategies with catalytic converters and an SCR (urea - Ed)  tank. This is complex and takes time to develop and test.”

1 comment:

Alan Bunting said...

Willis's assertion that cheating engines will need their 'diesel fuel injectors' changed must be regarded in the light of his repeated utterance that he was not an engineer.
Most powertrain engineers would think it highly unlikely that the injectors themselves would have to be changed.
Any injection characteristics that required alteration to cut NOx - principally timing retardation - would be tackled through electronic management control, possibly in combination with an EGR rate increase.
His further claim that VW engineers organising the recall action 'were under orders to ensure that fuel efficiency would not be affected' shows that Willis is living in fantasy land.
Unless, that is, they can successfully overcome the formidable practical and cost challenges of retrofitting SCR, with its requirement for an AdBlue tank and dosing unit as well as a bulkier silencer (to accommodate the SCR catalyst).