Volkswagen announced today that the German Federal Motor Transport Authority has accepted its proposed fixes for the EA 189 four-cylinder diesel engines with the "defeat device" emissions cheating software. In Europe, at least, those changes won't be too extensive.
For the 2.0-liter engine, the change will require only a software update, while the 1.6-liter engine (which is not offered in the United States) will get a software update and add a "flow transformer" in front of the air mass sensor.
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The flow transformer is a mesh that calms the swirled air flow in front of the air mass sensor and therefore allows measurements taken by the sensor to be more accurate. Volkswagen says air mass throughput is a very important parameter for an optimum combustion process.
According to Volkswagen, software and airflow are keys to the fixes: "Thanks to advances in engine development and improved simulation of currents inside complex air intake systems, in combination with software optimisation geared towards this, it has been possible to produce a relatively simple and customer-friendly measure."
Volkswagen claims the fixes will have no adverse effects on performance or fuel consumption, and that the fixes will take less than an hour.
It should be noted that these fixes will almost certainly not work for the 482,000 affected cars on these shores. That's because the current U.S. Tier 2, Bin 5 emissions standards, adopted back in 2008, are far more stringent than Europe's Euro 5 standard, which was in effect from 2005 through 2014. In fact, even the latest Euro 6 standards won't be as tough as current U.S. standards until 2017.
Could the flow transformer be applied to the 2.0-liter in the U.S. to fix the issue? Probably not, though it could be part of the solution. The 90,000 or so 2012-2014 VW Passats could possibly use this fix. That's because these cars are already fitted with an SCR Urea system as well as a Lean NOx Trap. VW Group of America CEO Michael Horn has said these cars will need a software update, as well as possible hardware modifications.
However, the roughly 325,000 other affected cars will need more extensive changes because they have a Lean NOx Trap but not the SCR Urea system. These cars include the 2009-2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and Jetta SportWagen TDI, 2010-2013 Golf TDI, 2012-2014 Beetle TDI, and the 2009-2013 Audi A3 TDI.
It is speculated that these cars may need software updates and hardware changes that could include the addition of a urea system, which would require extensive changes to the car. The expense of those changes could also result in a buyback.
Last week, VW submitted its plan to fix cars in the U.S. to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board. It is not yet known what those proposed fixes are. We will be sure to fill you in when that news becomes available.
To view our past coverage on the VW Group's emissions cheating scandal, head to our Volkswagen news hub.