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It looks like automakers are trying to cheat emissions again

Chances are you have had to take your vehicle to have its emissions tested, and the experience was not one you enjoyed. It may have been relatively painless and perhaps even quick, but it’s still something you likely never wanted to do.

Yet it is something we must do in order to keep our cars legally registered. Aside from being a way for the government to make a little more money off us, the idea behind having emissions examined is to ensure our vehicles are not polluting the air anymore than they have to.

The barometer for how much each car should produce is set by the government, and as time moves on the limit is being lowered. Automakers are not particularly thrilled about being forced to adapt their designs, and it turns out some are trying to game the system.

It’s all about manipulating the numbers

© Veerathada Khaipet | Dreamstime.com

This is different than the issue Volkswagen had a few years back, in which they were caught having their cars pretend to meet emissions standards when they were being tested. Nowadays, the problem is with automakers rigging their vehicles to test poorly.

The scheme, if you can call it that, is based off of where emission standards will be set in 2020. While the standards do vary depending on where you are, new benchmarks are supposed to come into play that year. So, any cuts automakers are expected to make will be viewed through that lens.

Automakers understand this, and are doing things to try and make life easier for themselves by skewing their emissions results to be really high. Why do that?

Well, if the baseline is set higher than it needs to be, then it would not take much to get under it.

Pretty clever.

The European Commission found the evidence, which comes from some detailed testing. The tests were done with the vehicle having a depleted battery so that additional fuel was used in order to charge it during the test.

What they found was the start-stop function, which is used to shut down the engine when the vehicle is idling in order to trim emissions, was disabled. They also found that gear-shifting strategies that led to cars being driven in gears causing an uptick in CO2 emissions.

It’s probably not going to work

If automakers were trying to pull a fast one over regulators, they will probably have to figure something else out. The very fact that this story exists is a sign of awareness about what they are trying to do, and especially now you’d have to think even more attention will be given to this issue.

That said, the very nature of how emissions standards are set lends credence to the idea that automakers should not have too much trouble adjusting. While they may not be able to get away with fudging the numbers to their benefit, they are the ones who will essentially set what the regulators deem to be acceptable.

But even if the manufacturers should not feel the need to cheat the system, it’s not at all surprising they would try.

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