… Volkswagen to recall nearly a half-million cars, saying the automaker illegally installed software in its diesel-power cars to evade standards for reducing smog.
The Environmental Protection Agency accused the German automaker of using software to detect when the car is undergoing its periodic state emissions testing. Only during such tests are the cars’ full emissions control systems turned on. During normal driving situations, the controls are turned off, allowing the cars to spew as much as 40 times as much pollution as allowed under the Clean Air Act, the E.P.A. said.
The software was designed to conceal the cars’ emission of the pollutant nitrogen oxide, which contributes to the creation of ozone and smog. The pollutants are linked to a range of health problems, including asthma attacks, other respiratory diseases and premature death.
Experts in automotive technology said that disengaging the pollution controls on a diesel-fueled car can yield better performance, including increased torque and acceleration.
The Volkswagen case is not the first federal investigation into the use of defeat devices. In 2007, the federal government reached a landmark settlement requiring Casper’s Electronics, of Mundelein, Ill., to stop selling the devices, and to pay a $74,000 civil penalty. The company had sold approximately 44,000 defeat devices through its website and retailers since 2001.