Car manufacturers have been fiddling the books when it comes to pollutants for years, the latest scandal involving VW’s alleged “defeat device” is just the latest in a long line, the US EPA gave other manufacturers a hard slap on the wrist back in 1998, for instance.
Thing is…this “defeat device” isn’t really a device at all, it’s just engine management that detects when emissions are being tested (basically watches to see when the steering wheel isn’t moving and a couple of other things) and switches the car to low-pollution mode. So, why don’t all cars simply run on the roads in low-pollution mode if that’s something that they can do through engine management software?
Well, basically low-pollution, means low-performance, and we, as drivers, are on the whole not interested in driving cars that are unresponsive and do not accelerate quickly to the speeds at which we like to drive. Fundamentally, the emissions regulations are set too low for the kind of society we have where drivers like nippy cars. Nippy cars sell. One slight aside, manufacturing a car uses about the same amount of energy as driving it for 100,000 miles, if we take into account the cradle-to-grave lifecycling of mining and refining the metals, making the rubber tyres, all the bits of metal and plastic and the countless assembly and delivery processes (that includes non-petrol and hybrid cars too).
Anyway, bottom line: All cars pollute. Some less than others. Cleaner cars are boring to drive.
If we want to clean up the atmosphere we have to admit that and switch to low-performance, low-pollutant cars…or better still get back on our feet and on our bicycles.