EMISSIONS STANDARDS AND FREE TRADE — THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY The effectiveness of emissions monitoring has been brought into focus by two recent events: the VW emissions scandal and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
W is now suffering the consequences of greenwashing and is facing a total loss of reputation along with millions or even billions of dollars of fines and compensation payments. You would have to have been hiding under a rock not to have heard the reports on how VW intentionally programmed its turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate certain emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing. The programming caused the vehicles’ nitrogen oxide (NOx) output to meet US standards during regulatory testing. However, under real-world driving this ‘defeat mechanism’ was not activated and the engines produced up to 40 times higher NOx output. An estimated eleven million cars worldwide (including 91,000 in Australia) were involved. Compounding this, the engine was not only used in passenger and commercial VWs but also in Skodas, Audis, Porsches and SEATs. While the scandal is new, VW’s practice of greenwashing is not — engines with the defeat mechanism have been on the market since 2009. So for at least seven years, VW has been able to circumvent emissions regulations all over the world. So the question that arises from this is: is VW the only one — who else is flouting national and international emission regulations? It appears that all software-controlled machinery can be prone to ‘cheating’. One way to combat this could be to make the software source code accessible to the public. Dr Kamil Agi, CEO
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of SensorComm Technologies, believes that IoT smart emissions monitoring could be part of a solution to deter any other ‘VWtype’ situations. His company has developed a wireless IoT-based automotive sensor that measures NOx emissions at extremely low levels (sub-ppm) with real-time measurement and cost-effective monitoring capabilities. The sensor can be tuned and manufactured for specific ranges enabling accurate NOx measurement that facilitates compliance with current and future LEV III, TIER III and EURO 6 regulatory standards. “The world is rapidly becoming IoT based with smartphones, smart homes and smart cars. A natural extension of this will be IoT smart emissions monitoring. Had this technology already been adopted by industry and regulators, it would have made Volkswagen’s effort to circumvent air pollution laws completely unnecessary,” said Agi. Others argue the Internet of Things is not the answer and could be subject to internal and/or external calibration attacks. However, in Australia, better equipment may still not be the answer due to our inefficient vehicle emissions standards compared to the world standards. For example, Australian new cars are far less efficient than those in South Korea, the European Union, Japan and China. Even the United States outperforms our standards.