Elon Musk Wants VW Forced to Produce Zero-Emission Vehicles

Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk – together with a group of 44 businesses and environmentalists – thinks that the punishment for Volkswagen’s lies regarding the exhaust emissions of its diesel cars should be to force the manufacturer to produce zero-emission vehicles, in lieu of fines and “impractical” recalls.

In an open letter to California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols, the group asks that they “cure the air, not the cars.” Instead of forcing a recall and repair of VW vehicles will emission-cheating software, the letter asks California to give VW the option of building zero-emission vehicles to allow it to make amends.

The letter proposes:

  1. Release VW from its obligation to fix diesel cars already on the road in California, which represent an insignificant portion of total vehicles emissions in the State, and which cars do not, individually, present any emissions-related risk to their owners or occupants
  2. Instead, direct VW to accelerate greatly its rollout of zero emission vehicles, which by their very nature, have zero emissions and thus present zero opportunities for cheating, and also do not require any enforcement dollars to verify
  3. Require that this acceleration of the rollout of zero emissions vehicles by VW result in a 10 for 1 or greater reduction in pollutant emissions as compared to the pollution associated with the diesel fleet cheating, and achieve this over the next 5 years
  4. Require that VW invest in new manufacturing plants and/or research and development, in the amounts that they otherwise would have been fined, and do so in California to the extent that California would have been allocated its share of the fines
  5. Allow VW some flexibility in the execution and timing of this plan by allowing it to be implemented via zero emission vehicle credits.

Image courtesy of International Business Times.

Video From Volkswagen Shows Emissions Cheating Fix

Today, a video from Volkswagen was released on Youtube, outlining their planned fixes their EA 189 1.6 and 2 litre diesel engines, which have been at the center of their recent emissions scandal.

There are two parts to the solution outlined in their video: The first is an update to the engine control software of the car, the second the installation of a flow transformer, a grated plastic tube that “stabilizes the air flow and allows for a more precise measurement of the incoming fresh air” and according to Andreas Krause, “the fuel can be metered more precisely and will improve emissions”. VW state that the fix will be quick for the vehicles, with the 1.6 litre engines taking less than an hour and 2 litre as little as 30 minutes.

Unfortunately for American owners of offending VW vehicles this fix is only for European vehicles, where the regulations in place regarding diesel emissions are less strict. And while VW claim that the fix to their 3-litre engines is only a software upgrade to the engine, no fixes that have been submitted by the German company have yet to be approved by US regulators. Until a solution is approved, the countless Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen cars that are fitted with an offending engine remain suspended from sale.

Despite this, Volkswagen assure consumers that the cars remain “technically safe and roadworthy until the respective technical measures can be implemented”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKN8danpIfE

Revolutionary New Smartphone Sensor to Detect Pollution Levels

People could soon be using their smartphones to detect air pollution, thanks to a potentially life-saving breakthrough sensor by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Apparently experts at the university have developed the first low-cost and reliable method of detecting nitrogen dioxide the type of air pollutant that has been linked to more than seven million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Research has uncovered that the gas could increase the risk of respiratory disorders in children with the elderly being most at risk. The Projects leader Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, from RMIT’s Centre for Advanced Electronics and Sensors, said the negative impact of nitrogen dioxide could be prevented by access to personalised, highly selective, sensitive and reliable monitoring systems that could detect harmful levels of the gas early. Kalantar-zadeh stated the following

“The revolutionary method we’ve developed is a great start to creating a handheld, low-cost and personalised NO2 sensor that can even be incorporated into smartphones, not only would it improve the quality of millions of people’s lives, but it would also help avoid illness caused by nitrogen dioxide poisoning and potentially even death.”

The main contributors of nitrogen dioxide are the burning of fossil fuels, particularly in coal-fired power stations and diesel engines such as those highlighted in the recent emissions scandal, which can impact on the health of people in urban areas. The professor goes on to state:

“A lack of public access to effective monitoring tools is a major roadblock to mitigating the harmful effects of this gas but current sensing systems are either very expensive or have serious difficulty distinguishing it from other gases, the method we have developed is not only more cost-effective, it also works better than the sensors currently used to detect this dangerous gas.”

The sensor operates by physically absorbing nitrogen dioxide gas molecules onto flakes of tin disulphide, not only would this be a great solution for smartphones but apparently it can outperform any other nitrogen dioxide sensing solutions on the market! To create these sensors the researchers transformed tin disulphide into flakes just a few atoms thick. The large surface area of these flakes has a high affinity to nitrogen dioxide molecules that allows its highly selective absorption.

EPA Finds Another Emissions Scam in Volkswagen Cars

Following revelations the Volkswagen was using software to fake its vehicle’s emission reading – a scam overseen by at least 30 high-ranking VW executives – the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has discovered a second emission-cheating program in the German car manufacturer’s diesel vehicles.

The software, designed to allow VW vehicles to fraudulently pass air pollution tests, has been found to be in use in 11 million individual cars so far, in models dating back to 2009. The new software, discovered by the EPA, was set to be used by VW in its EA 189 2.0-litre diesel engines for its 2016 range, but is thought to be included in earlier vehicles, too.

“We are investigating the nature and purpose of the additional [auxiliary emissions control device],” an EPA spokesperson said.

“VW did very recently provide EPA with very preliminary information on an auxiliary emissions control device that VW said was included in one or more model years,” the EPA’s Nick Conger said. Both the EPA and the state version in California “are investigating the nature and purpose of this recently identified device.”

In the wake of the scandal, VW has been hit by over 250 class action lawsuits and faces charges in Texas and West Virginia.

At Least 30 Managers Behind VW Emissions Scam

The Volkswagen emission saga continues, as German news company Spiegel reports that at least 30 VW managers are suspected to be involved with the VW emissions scandal, as a result of the ongoing internal investigation. Up until now, VW has proclaimed that only a small group of executives had overseen the installation of the software used to manipulate the emissions results of millions of engines worldwide. If true, that certainly isn’t the “small group” of managers it was once thought to be. However, a Volkswagen spokesman rejected the claim, saying “the number is without foundation”.

It is thought that the emission device responsible for this scam dates back to 2008 and can be found in over 11 million cars worldwide. Meanwhile, as the investigation progresses and uncovers more facts, VW lost yet another manager! The newly elected Skoda Chef Winfried Vahland left the Skoda division owned by VW over differences of opinions. Whatever way you cut it, this is not looking good for VW as the investigation progresses.

Despite VW losing a significant amount of its shares over the last month, alongside the risk of being fined billions for their fraudulent activities, do you think VW will be able to pull through? Let us know down in the  comments below.

Thank you Spiegel for providing us with this information.

Self-Driving Taxis Could Be the Key to Greenhouse Gas Reduction

We have heard a lot of news about self-driving cars, mostly from Google, in the past years and they have already come a long way. The main focus in this area has been on reduction of accident rates, general safety, as well as freeing up your time. We’ve also seen how they can improve the quality of life for people who can’t drive any normal car, blind people for example.

A recently published study from Berkley Lab has found more good reasons for us humans to make the switch and the main one is the reduction of greenhouse gasses. The study suggests that switching the transportation grid from conventional vehicles to autonomous electric taxis could cut greenhouse gas emission levels up to 90 percent by 2030. Those numbers are of course the best case scenario where everyone plays ball and the infrastructure follows with charging stations and green power plants.

Transportation has to be smart. A lot of the times you don’t need that big car of yours to get around in, it’s just an unnecessary load to carry around. Automatic driving could also allow for very tight packed traffic that eliminates wind resistance and thereby reduces the energy needed and it would be able to pick the smartest route on any given time.

That is very optimistic and the researchers know that we as humans just won’t do that. There are too many people who would resist parts of it or all of it and they also got some good news on a smaller scale. If we just had self-driving taxis and they made up 5 percent of 2030’s estimated car sales (about 800,000 machines), they would cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 2.4 million tons per year.

Thank You Engadget for providing us with this information