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The Volkswagen Group Wanted To Be The World’s Biggest Carmaker, Cheated In Attempting To Reach Goal

I’m fascinated by Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scheme — writing software to make diesel cars perform differently while being tested vs. driven. Why would they do this?

To make sense of it we need to go back to 2007 for the planned introduction of new Volkswagen TDI engine for the 2008 model year:

Amid the looming hordes of European luxury automakers planning a North American compression-ignition invasion in the next couple years, humble Volkswagen has announced its plans to return the Jetta TDI to the diesel dogpile in the spring of 2008. Powered by a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, and either a six-speed manual or DSG automated manual transmission, the 2008 Jetta TDI will be cleared for sale in all fifty states.

Some of the earlier diesels to make it to our shores over the next few years will only be available in 45 states; California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont have all adopted stricter emissions regulations for diesels that bar some vehicles from entry. Using technology developed under the BlueTec cooperative formed by Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, the Jetta TDI will slip by these stricter regulations without resorting to a urea-based exhaust treatment, as many BlueTec labeled models will.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are, along with particulate emissions (soot), the biggest hurdles facing diesels in the U.S. Most BlueTec vehicles will control NOx by injecting a urea-based solution called AdBlue into the exhaust system upstream of a catalytic converter that specifically targets NOx. In that catalytic converter, the ammonia in the urea reacts with the NOx in the exhaust gas and neutralizes it into nitrogen and water.

Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI will manage without a urea injection system by using a NOx-storage catalyst. Like the particulate filters in place on this car as well as other diesels, this catalyst is basically a trap that temporarily holds the offensive emissions. Periodically, the engine will switch to an air-fuel mixture that will burn off the material in the traps.

(Car & Driver February 2007)

Delayed a year, this new 2.0 TDI didn’t debut until the 2009 model year. The previous 1.9 TDI engine was sluggish and didn’t meet newer emissions standards — Volkswagen had no 4-cylindar diesel engine for U.S. models during the 2007 & 2008 model years.

From 2005 to 2006, the Jetta TDI is powered by a 1.9-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine (TDI stands for Turbo Direct Injection) good for 100 horsepower, but a healthy 177 pounds-feet of torque. Remember, torque is a rotational force required to get a car moving, so the more torque an engine has, the quicker it can move a car either from a standing stop or when overtaking slower traffic. 2009 and newer Jettas feature an all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with VW’s “clean diesel” technology. The clean diesel features particulate filters and other devices for removing diesel soot and order from the exhaust, as well as a system for reducing emissions. The 2.0-liter TDI produces 140 horsepower and whopping 236 pounds-feet of torque. While the 1.9-liter engine can best be described as peppy, the 2.0-liter TDI is down right quick. Rocketing out of a tollbooth or merging onto the freeway is a snap for the 2.0-liter TDI, which feels more like the GTI’s 200-horsepower turbocharged gas engine than a powerplant designed for maximum mileage. (AutoTrader August 2011)

The new 2.0 TDI engine was able to meet stricter worldwide emissions standards without using an urea injection to clean the exhaust — brilliant engineering, or so we thought. Every other diesel required urea injection, which had to be refilled about every 10,000 miles. When Mercedes BlueTEC diesels run out of urea you can start it only 20 more times before refilling it (TheCarConnection).

Over the years since the new 2.0 TDI engine was introduced the automotive press raved about it, and consumers bought more and more. After all, the performance was outstanding and the real world MPG exceeded EPA estimates. As we’ve learned, their urea injection-free diesel didn’t meet emissions standards. Their “CleanDiesel” wasn’t clean at all.

Visitors to the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show check out a Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI
Visitors to the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show check out a Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI

Sales of their diesels broke records:

VW Group of America has had great success with diesels in the US recently. Vee-Dub and Audi sold 105,899 diesel-equipped models in 2013. It was the first time the group ever sold over 100,000 diesels in a year, and they accounted for 24 percent of sales. (AutoBlog)

At the Chicago Auto Show in February we saw the newest SportWagen TDI — now a Golf — with a new TDI engine.

The 2016 Golf SportWagen TDI om display at the Chicago Auto Show. The new TDI engine in this 2016 model is equipped with urea injection to clean the exhaust.
The 2016 Golf SportWagen TDI om display at the Chicago Auto Show. The new TDI engine in this 2016 model is equipped with urea injection to clean the exhaust. However, VW has decided to pull all diesels from US showrooms for 2016.

Volkswagen had a stated goal of becoming the biggest car maker in the world, and for the first six months of 2015 they were:

Volkswagen (VLKAF) sold 5.04 million vehicles from January to June, a slight dip from a year earlier. That compares to 5.02 million sold by Toyota (TM) over the same period. Group sales dropped 1.5% due to a weaker performance by its Toyota and Daihatsu brands. (CNN/Money)

Many were expecting a close race between Toyota and the Volkswagen Group for top honors for 2015, now Toyota will locket retain the crown as Volkswagen deals with the fallout. My friends who own these polluting diesels are furious they were deceived. I’m furious millions of these cars have been polluting the environment while billed as eco-friendly clean cars.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Readers: We’ll Definitely Be Affected By Climate Change Within The Next 20 Years

September 2, 2015 Environment, Sunday Poll 1 Comment

Over half of those who voted in the most recent Sunday Poll got it correct — we’ll definitely be affected by Climate Change. How can I be so sure? It was a trick question — we’re already being effected by it! First, the poll results:

Q: Think you will be personally affected by Climate Change within the next 20 years?

  1. Definitely 20 [58.82%]
  2. Possibly 6 [17.65%]
  3. Doubtful 5 [14.71%]
  4. Certainly not 2 [5.88%]
  5. Maybe, maybe not 1 [2.94%]
  6. Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

Far too many people see headlines taking about what will happen by the end of the century and think they won’t be effected — few of us will be alive in the year 2100 — I certainly won’t be. But that view ignores the fact the changes have already begun and will continue unless the world takes big steps to slow it. Different regions will be effected differently, but the global food supply is the great equalizer.

September 2014:

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are “very likely” linked to human-caused climate change, Stanford scientists write in a new research paper. (Stanford: Causes of California drought linked to climate change, Stanford scientists say)

California is a big supplier of foods to the rest of the country — so we’ll feel changes in St. Louis: either in our wallet or lack of availability. From August 18th:

The UC Davis team used computer models and the latest estimates of surface water availability from state and federal water projects and local water districts. They forecast several drought-related impacts in the state’s major agricultural regions for the current growing season, including:

  • The direct costs of drought to agriculture will be $1.84 billion for 2015. The total impact to all economic sectors is an estimated $2.74 billion, compared with $2.2 billion in 2014. The state’s farmers and ranchers currently receive more than $46 billion annually in gross revenues, a small fraction of California’s $1.9 trillion-a-year economy.
  • The loss of about 10,100 seasonal jobs directly related to farm production, compared with the researchers’ 2014 drought estimate of 7,500 jobs. When considering the spillover effects of the farm losses on all other economic sectors, the employment impact of the 2015 drought more than doubles to 21,000 lost jobs.
  • Surface water shortages will reach nearly 8.7 million acre-feet, which will be offset mostly by increased groundwater pumping of 6 million acre-feet.
  • Net water shortages of 2.7 million acre-feet will cause roughly 542,000 acres to be idled — 114,000 more acres than the researchers’ 2014 drought estimate. Most idled land is in the Tulare Basin.
  • The effects of continued drought through 2017 (assuming continued 2014 water supplies) will likely be 6 percent worse than in 2015, with the net water shortage increasing to 2.9 million acre-feet a year. Gradual decline in groundwater pumping capacity and water elevations will add to the incremental costs of a prolonged drought. (UC Davis: Drought costs California agriculture $1.84B and 10,100 jobs in 2015)

But foods are grown many places:

Warmer temperatures may make many crops grow more quickly, but warmer temperatures could also reduce yields. Crops tend to grow faster in warmer conditions. However, for some crops (such as grains), faster growth reduces the amount of time that seeds have to grow and mature. [1] This can reduce yields (i.e., the amount of crop produced from a given amount of land).

For any particular crop, the effect of increased temperature will depend on the crop’s optimal temperature for growth and reproduction. [1] In some areas, warming may benefit the types of crops that are typically planted there. However, if warming exceeds a crop’s optimum temperature, yields can decline. (EPA: Agriculture and Food Supply)

It’s foolish to think we won’t be affected in the next two decades.

Here the Midwest:

The Midwest is home to roughly 66 million Americans and includes the cities of Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and St. Paul, among others. Most of the region consists of flat prairie that is farmed for corn, soybean, and wheat, or is used for grazing livestock. Summers in the Midwest are hot and humid, and winters are cold, since the region is far from the temperature-moderating effect of the oceans. [1]

In the Midwest, average annual temperatures increased over the last several decades. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and cold periods are becoming rarer. Snow and ice are arriving later in the fall and starting to melt earlier in the spring. Heavy downpours now occur twice as frequently as they did a century ago.[1] These trends are likely to continue under future climate change: average summer temperatures are projected to increase by 3°F over the next few decades and could increase by over 10°F by the end of this century. This range would make summers in Illinois and Michigan feel like those in present-day Texas and Oklahoma, respectively. [1] http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/midwest.html

In St. Louis our air quality will deteriorate further.

 

— Steve Patterson

 

 

A Century Since the River Des Peres Flood of 1915

August 20, 2015 Environment, Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, South City, St. Louis County Comments Off on A Century Since the River Des Peres Flood of 1915

One hundred years ago today St. Louis experienced deadly flooding. The problem wasn’t the Mississippi, it was the River Des Peres!

On the afternoon of Aug. 19, 1915, remnants of a hurricane reached St. Louis from Texas. Heavy and steady rainfall fell through the next day, dumping a total of 7.4 inches across the area. (6.85 inches on Aug. 20 remains the one-day record in St. Louis.)

The River Des Peres rushed from its banks, swamping long stretches of Delmar and Lindell boulevards, Manchester Avenue and other streets. People were stranded on the Wabash Railroad platform at Delmar (now a Metrolink station) by a seven-foot-deep current 200 yards wide. Firefighters reached them with ladders and used boats to rescue residents of Maple and Hodiamont avenues. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch — includes vintage photos)

In August 1915, St. Louis was flooded. All roads leading to the suburbs were cut off, and in Maplewood, the waters reached the second floor of some homes. The water was a mile-wide in Forest Park. Three bridges in the park were washed away, the Zoo’s Bird Cage and Bear Pits were flooded. The platforms at the old Delmar Station were destroyed. Passengers at the Wabash Station were surrounded by seven feet of water and had to be rescued by firefighters. Other people were trapped in their homes, and some even drowned. By the time the disaster was over, 11 people had died and more than 1,000 homes were lost.

The cause of the disaster was not the Mississippi River but the smaller River Des Peres, which ran along the City’s western edge.

River Des Peres, or “River of the Fathers,” was named after two Jesuit priests who founded a mission on its banks around 1700. Problems associated with flood and sewage control became obvious as St. Louis grew. In 1887, city officials planned to drain River Des Peres and Mill Creek. This plan was not completed, though, and River Des Peres had become an open sewer by the early 1900s.
Parts of the river were covered or diverted in preparation for the World’s Fair in 1904, and monitoring of flooding conditions began in 1905. However, no steps had been taken by 1915 that could have prevented the devastating flood that same year. (St. Louis Public Library)

Perhaps the first sewage the River des Peres received was from St. Louis’ Central West End chamberpots. In response to the volume of waste, the city wrote an ordinance in 1887 “to prevent discharge of sewerage or offensive matter of any kind into the River des Peres.” If the city had funded the ordinance, then a separate sewer system would have been built and the River des Peres’ history might have taken a different course. Instead, the government of St. Louis began a trend that has plagued the river for more than a century: St. Louis would support ideas to protect the River des Peres as a sewer more than as a river.

As St. Louis grew westward, so did the expanses of pavement. With less open ground to soak up the rains, the River swelled with runoff. The River des Peres flooded in 1897, 1905, 1912, and 1913. The flood of 1915 killed 11 people and forced 1025 families from their homes. Flooding – not sewage – prompted St. Louisans to action. Mayor Henry W. Kiel called for a hydrologic study, which was completed by W.W. Horner and presented to the St. Louis Board of Public Service in 1916. St. Louis voters chose to implement Horner’s recommendations, which cost $11 million.

The project was called the River des Peres Sewerage and Drainage Works, and it took nine years to complete (from 1924 to 1933). Workers re-graded and paved the River’s banks and straightened its bends. Elsewhere the River was directed below ground to join with the sewer. The engineering innovations brought national recognition for Horner (who was also the project engineer). Scientific American and Engineering News-Record featured the marvelous new River des Peres. In 1988, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the project as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. (River Des Peres Watershed Coalition)

The bond issue vote was in 1923 — 7 years after the plan was presented.

River Des Peres at S. Broadway, March 2012
River Des Peres at S. Broadway, March 2012
River Des Peres, looking East from Hampton, July 2015
River Des Peres, looking East from Hampton, July 2015
River Des Peres; looking North from Gravois. Tuesday August 18, 2015
River Des Peres; looking North from Gravois. Tuesday August 18, 2015

Problem solved? Wrong.

Explore any city enough, and at some point you’re likely to walk on water, so to speak. San Francisco is full of ghost rivers. So are Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. In the urban core of Baltimore, up to 98 percent of streams are underground. 

Early city planners may have hoped for healthier cities when they covered up these streams, but it turns out they created new problems. Paving over and piping waterways often worsens flooding. And as new research by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency indicates, buried streams can also exacerbate pollution. 

In a paper published in PLOS ONE, lead authors and EPA research scientists Jake Beaulieu and Heather Golden found that nitrates—nutrients that can become pollutants—travel on average 18 times further in buried urban streams than they do in open streams, before they are taken out of the water column. (City Lab)

From February 2014:

Starting in a few days, MSD will begin construction of a 3,028 foot-long tunnel under the River Des Peres, just south of Carondelet.

The tunnel will hold a pressurized pipe that will carry sewage to the Lemay Wastewater Treatment Plant.

MSD spokesperson Lance LeComb said the new pipe will increase the plant’s capacity to take in sewage, and also serve as a back-up in case the existing “force main” ? which dates back to the 1960s ? has a problem.

The project is the first of about a dozen tunnels, totaling nearly 33 miles in length, that the MSD will be digging under St. Louis in the next couple decades. Most of the tunnels will hold a mix of stormwater and sewage. “The longest one will be nine miles long, running underneath the River Des Peres, almost 200 feet below ground,” LeComb said. “And 30 feet in diameter.” (St, Louis Public Radio)

Hopefully this will keep our sewage out of the waterways and not create more problems! The River Des Peres starts in St. Louis County, flash flooding remains an issue.

— Steve Patterson

 

11th Street Rain Garden Five Years Later

August 14, 2015 Downtown, Environment, Featured Comments Off on 11th Street Rain Garden Five Years Later

It has been nearly 5 years since I posted about a demonstration rain garden downtown, see New Downtown Rain Garden Reduces Sidewalk Width Too Much. The design issues remain:

  • Rain garden takes up sidewalk rather than street
  • Parking still isn’t allowed in front of rain garden, so a lane of asphalt isn’t being used.

Still, now that the plants have matured it looks so much better.

November 2010
November 2010
August 2015
August 2015

It collects water runoff from the sidewalk and adjacent surface parking lot, the more rain water we can keep out of the sewer system the better. I still see no reason why a parking space or two hasn’t been added to 11th Street.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Start of Summer

June 5, 2015 Environment, Featured Comments Off on The Start of Summer

Summer officially begins on June 21st at 11:38am CST, but for me it began when I saw the green cherry tomatoes on one of our three tomato plants.

Green cherry tomatoes on our 4th floor balcony
Green cherry tomatoes on our 4th floor balcony
In another planter we have a volunteer -- possibly zucchini or cucumber based on seeds in our vermicompost
In another planter we have a volunteer — possibly zucchini or cucumber based on seeds in our vermicompost

We also have chives and an extra planter of cilantro — a herb we buy often. What are you growing this year? What is the start of summer for you?

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

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