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French Car Company Embroiled In Diesel Deception

To many people it’s probably unthinkable that only one automaker is responsible for designing cars that deceive emission tests. And now a German environmental group says France’s Renault may be joining Germany’s Volkswagen as a clean-air cheat.

VW has admitted that unidentified employees installed software to deceive emissions tests into 11 million of its diesel-powered vehicles. The group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), based in Berlin, said Tuesday that Renault appears to be guilty of cheating to get the same result with its Espace, a passenger van, though it’s not sure it used software to do the deed.

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What DUH does know, the group said, is that the Espace meets environmental standards on nitrogen oxide only when its engine is cold, as it is during emissions tests. When the van is on the road and the engine is warm, it said, the Espace spews out 13 to 25 times the acceptable levels of the toxic gas.

The finding was based on tests conducted by Switzerland’s Bern University of Applied Sciences and commissioned by DUH. These tests have not been independently confirmed.

The group’s report comes as VW’s competitors await a report by the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, Germany’s auto regulator, that is testing the emissions of 50 vehicles of several brands sold in Europe. It’s findings are expected sometime in December.

Also in December, VW CEO Matthias Mueller says his company will issue an update on its probe into who was responsible for installing the cheating software in its vehicles. But he emphasizes that “it will take several months before there are conclusive findings.”

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Renault, based in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, disputed the DUH report, saying the Espace “complies with applicable regulations, just as all its vehicles” and that the tests conducted by the Swiss university “are not all compliant with European regulations. The report shows important variations in test findings which are not conclusive and require ‘additional measurements.’ ”

The company said these findings are at odds with those published in August by the independent German auto club ADAC, “which tested the Espace model and concluded that it complied with regulations.”

Many European environmental groups say emissions testing on the Continent is flawed and that automakers take advantage of the weakness to increase profits by spending less on pollution controls. The testing by Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, though, includes tests for emissions both in laboratories and on the road in order to get accurate emissions readings from both stationary and moving vehicles.

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The report isn’t the first time DUH has reported on suspicious data from a vehicle manufactured in Europe. In October the group said it couldn’t explain the emissions levels of the Zafira van produced by the German-based automaker Opel, which is owned by the General Motors Corp. Still, DUH said, it was too early to say whether Opel was deliberately trying to deceive the tests.

The tests on the Zafira, also conducted by the university in Bern, showed that the van complied with European emissions standards only when its front-drive wheels were moving, but exceeded them when all four tires were spinning, indicating that on-the-road testing found flaws in its pollution-control system.

At the time of the DUH report, Opel replied that its own tests found that the Zafira meets European clean-air standards and that none of the company’s cars use software that could cheat on emissions tests.

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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