Tag Archive | "emissions"

Volkswagen Fix Rejected by California Board as Setbacks Grow

Volkswagen AG’s work to overcome the emissions-cheating scandal was set back after the California Air Resources Board rejected its proposed engine fix as “incomplete,” just a day before Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller meets regulators to discuss ways out of the crisis.

“Volkswagen made a decision to cheat on emissions tests and then tried to cover it up,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the state board, said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement. “They need to make it right”

The rejection closely followed a bumble by Mueller, who in a Sunday interview appeared to dismiss the crisis by saying Europe’s largest automaker “didn’t lie” to regulators about what amounts to a “technical problem.” The timing couldn’t be worse: VW also is in the midst of complex technical talks with the California board counterparts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about possible fixes for about 480,000 diesel cars with 2-liter engines.

On its website, the California board said it “determined that there was no easy and expeditious fix for the affected vehicles.” The EPA seconded the idea on Tuesday, saying it agreed with the state regulator that VW’s plan can’t be approved.

The German automaker reiterated Tuesday that it’s committed to cooperating with regulators in California and elsewhere and said it will present a reworked proposal to the EPA tomorrow at the meeting in Washington. California’s rejection related to initial plans submitted last month, VW said. At that time it asked for an extension to submit additional information and data about the diesel engines and turbocharged-direct injection, or TDI.

“Since then, Volkswagen has had constructive discussions with CARB, including last week when we discussed a framework to remediate the TDI emissions issue,” VW said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday.

CARB said it and the EPA will continue to evaluate VW’s technical proposals.

Mueller’s Flub

CEO Mueller had apologized Sunday in a speech on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “We know we deeply disappointed our customers, the responsible government bodies and the general public here in the U.S.,” Mueller said. “I apologize for what went wrong at Volkswagen.”

That was the same night he made the controversial comments in an interview with National Public Radio appearing to downplay the company’s role in actively deceiving regulators. On Monday morning, the company asked NPR for a do-over, where Mueller blamed a noisy atmosphere for his earlier comments and apologized again.

Mueller is scheduled to meet with EPA chief Gina McCarthy and members of Congress Wednesday morning in Washington. On Monday evening, Mueller had dinner with Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. VW has a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, which is undergoing a major expansion. Corker said VW views the meeting with EPA as “very important.”

U.S. Meetings

“They understand fully the order of magnitude of mistakes that have been made and my sense is they are very committed to resolving this in an appropriate way,” Corker said in an interview Tuesday, before ARB announced it had rejected VW’s recall plan.

The CEO’s appearance in Detroit and in the nation’s capital mark his first trip to the U.S. in his new role as CEO. Mueller, the former head of VW’s Porsche sports-car unit, was named CEO in September after Martin Winterkorn was forced out as the “dieselgate” scandal erupted.

Beyond developing an effective fix for each of the three types of non-compliant 4-cylinder engines, VW must document any adverse impacts on vehicles and consumers. And since the emissions scandal centers on Volkswagen’s use of a sophisticated “defeat device” to skirt regulations, any proposed remedy — whether that’s retrofitting cars with new parts or revising software codes — will need to be tested by California technicians before the plan is rolled out to consumers.

Rebecca Lindland, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said Tuesday that the rejection was not a surprise.

“Volkswagen has been working on an additional potential fix involving the catalytic converter. Those details have not been worked out. The reasons for the rejection involve needing more details and specifications,” she said in a statement.

“Today’s actions do not preclude a recall, but allow for a broader array of potential remedies,” the board said in the statement.

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California Passes New Auto-Emission Rules

California regulators established new rules on Friday that require dramatic cuts in emissions from most cars and trucks by 2025.

The new “advanced clean cars” regulations, adopted in a unanimous vote by the state Air Resources Board, requires cars and light trucks sold in 2025 to emit 75 percent fewer smog-forming pollutants and reduce carbon dioxide by about a third, reported The Wall Street Journal.

The program envisions that 1.4 million, or one in seven, new cars sold in California in 2025 will run on electricity or hydrogen and produce no emissions, or run on electricity and gasoline to produce much lower emissions than conventional gasoline-fueled cars.

The rules would apply to cars and light trucks for model years 2017 and later.

Auto makers said they are already making electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles and support the rules. But they worried about whether enough electric and hydrogen fueling stations would be widely available throughout California, which they said is a requirement for widespread consumer adoption of zero- and low-emission vehicles.

“Auto makers have invested massive sums of money to bring these vehicles to market, so we have a huge stake in trying to sell them,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group. “The success depends on the fueling infrastructure being available so consumers will buy them.”

The alliance represents General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and other manufacturers, all of whom deferred to the trade group for comment.

Auto makers believe that since the state has mandated that their industry build and sell zero- and low-emission vehicles, it’s only fair for the state to require fuel retailers to make electricity and hydrogen widely available so that consumers will buy and drive the cars, Ms. Bergquist said.

But refiners and service station owners don’t see it that way.

Oil refiners and fuel importers oppose a rule that requires them to put hydrogen-fueling equipment at service stations, most of which are independently owned by other companies, said Cathy Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association.

“We refine gasoline and diesel and we do not believe it’s appropriate for refiners and importers to be obligated to put hydrogen infrastructure at retail gas stations that we don’t own,” Ms. Reheis-Boyd said.

Service station owners also don’t want to be required to install hydrogen-fueling equipment, over concerns that they could lose money on the investment.

Instead, both industries have proposed that the government provide subsidies to install hydrogen-fueling equipment, at least in the early years of the clean cars program.

State officials said the clean car rules would be similar to a federal proposal to boost fuel efficiency standards for most cars and trucks. The Obama administration has discussed the proposed rules, but has not formally proposed a set of regulations.

ARB Chair Mary Nichols said California’s clean-car rules would be essentially the same as the expected federal rules, with possible slight differences.

“We’re not seeing any fundamental differences with the federal government in fundamental philosophies,” Ms. Nichols told reporters on Friday. “I don’t think the delay will have a negative impact on the auto industry at all.”

The rules are the latest version of regulations originally adopted in 1990 to improve air quality in California, which has some of the nation’s dirtiest air.

This time, the clean car rules include limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, in line with the state’s 2006 plan to combat climate change.

Consumer groups, environmental groups and local government agencies that oversee air quality lauded the new rules.

“ARB’s decision is a victory for California residents, where 90 percent of the public still live in areas of unhealthy air,” Simon Mui, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in a blog post. “With all major auto makers already launching or planning to offer in total 30 to 40 plug-in electric vehicle models, these standards will help scale-up and pull forward technologies already available today.”

The regulations include a provision under which the ARB would take another look at how the rules were working and whether changes might be needed to reach the goals of the program.

The Air Resources Board has estimated that the rules will add an average of $1,900 to vehicle prices, which the agency said would be offset by savings on fuel purchases that would average about $6,000 over the life of the car.

Auto dealers have countered that the rules could boost the car prices nearly double what the ARB estimates, and hurt growth in the market.

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House Committee Votes to Strip EPA of Emissions Authority

WASHINGTON – The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved a bill to strip the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California of the power to limit tailpipe emissions and other greenhouse gases.

The committee voted 34-19 to approve the measure. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, voted with majority Republicans — the only member to cross party lines, reported The Detroit News.

Republicans sent the bill to the full House, which is likely to vote on it in the coming weeks. But it faces an uphill road in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and is strongly opposed by the Obama administration.

“We should not put the U.S. economy in a straightjacket because of a theory that hasn’t been proven,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, referring to the purported link between emissions and global warming.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, noted that Michigan lost 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the last three years. He argued the bill would prevent new regulations from costing additional jobs.

But Democrats said the bill would make America further dependent on foreign oil, thereby “funding our enemies” in hostile, oil-producing countries, said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

The measure would supersede a 2007 Supreme Court decision giving the EPA authority to regulate tailpipe emissions as a danger to public health under the Clean Air Act.

The ruling allowed California to impose its own tailpipe emissions limits. The prospect of a patchwork of separate state and federal emissions limits has been harshly criticized by automakers.

In the wake of the decision, the Obama administration reached a deal with California and automakers in May 2009 to set nationwide standards for the 2012-16 model years that will hike fleet-wide fuel efficiency to 34.1 mpg by 2016. The deal essentially extended California’s proposed standards nationwide, but gave automakers additional flexibility in early years.
California’s standards were adopted by a dozen other states.

The pact will cost the auto industry about $52 billion over five years, but save 1.8 billion barrels of fuel over the life of the vehicles. The Obama administration says it would save $3,000 per vehicle in gas over the life of the vehicles.

The administration is working on the 2017-2025 regulations and California is also working on its own proposal. Both proposals are to be issued in September.

The administration is considering annual 3 to 6 percent increases during that time frame, which would require a fleet-wide average of 47 to 62 mpg by 2025.

The Republican bill would bar EPA from taking part in setting future standards — and would bar California from limiting tailpipe emissions.
Instead, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have sole authority to set Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

“No longer will the EPA or the state of California be able to overrule NHTSA,” Upton said.

Republican authors of the bill argue that it would not overturn the 2012-16 fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions standards, but Democrats disagree.

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