Support Provided ByLearn More
Tech + EngineeringTech & Engineering

VW Cheating Could Cause 59 Early Deaths, Not Including Newly Accused Models

ByTim De ChantNOVA NextNOVA Next

Receive emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday that it had issued a second notice of violation to Volkswagen for cheating on emissions tests—this time for around 10,000 vehicles sold since the 2014 model year with a 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine, which includes popular and profitable models like the Volkswagen Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, and Audi A6.

Support Provided ByLearn More
The EPA says about 10,000 Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen models sold with the 3.0-liter diesel engine also contain a defeat device.

“VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator in the EPA’s Office Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement . “All companies should be playing by the same rules.”

While Volkswagen eventually admitted to

cheating on emissions tests with its 2.0-liter diesel engines, it publicly denies that it installed a defeat device on its 3.0-liter V6 diesels. “Volkswagen AG wishes to emphasize that no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner,” the company said in a statement .

The EPA’s notice comes on the heels of a study published last week saying 59 early deaths could be caused by the additional NO x emissions produced by Volkswagen diesels equipped with the defeat device. That number does not include the latest news from the EPA. The results, produced by engineers and atmospheric scientists at MIT and Harvard, appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Those premature deaths are likely to cost $450 million, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of caring for people who fall ill from the pollution.

If the recall isn’t completed by the end of 2016, those numbers could increase significantly. If no recall is performed, an additional 140 deaths are likely, imposing another $910 million in mortality-related costs.

The researchers derived their results from a series of simulations that modeled excess emissions over ten different road types, from urban to highways, and calculated how those emissions would increase particulate matter and the formation of ozone, which can cause various respiratory ailments from bronchitis to lung cancer. “Morbidity impacts include ~31 cases of chronic bronchitis, ~34 hospital admissions, ~120 000 minor restricted activity days, ~210 000 lower respiratory symptom days, and ~33 000 days of increased bronchodilator usage,” the authors write.

The additional NO x emissions from the 482,000 Volkwswagen cars sold with the 2.0-liter engine are approximately 1% of of the total light-duty vehicle emissions in the United States, despite representing about 0.5% of total sales over that same time period . No estimates on increased emissions are currently available for the additional 3.0-liter vehicles.