West Virginia Center Finds FCA Have Up To 20-Times Allowable NOx Emissions

The university research center that uncovered the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal has conducted on-road tests with Fiat Chrysler vehicles greatly exceeding emissions standards.

Researchers at West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions (CAFEE) conducted real-world and laboratory tests on two diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and three diesel Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks during 2016. Tests found that route these vehicles released nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions exceeding government standards by 3-to-20 times during on-road driving.

While the model years weren’t given by CAFEE, FCA has been investigate by government agencies over emissions violations. In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board issued notices of violation to the automaker for alleged software that increases air pollution on certain Jeep and Ram diesel vehicles.

The notices were given on 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the U.S. That covered an estimated 104,000 affected vehicles.

Last Thursday FCA issued a statement on the CAFFEE release:

“FCA US has recently been made aware of on-road emissions testing conducted on two of the Company’s diesel-powered vehicles by West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions (CAFEE). Based upon court filings and discussions with CAFEE, this testing appears to have been commissioned by a plaintiffs’ law firm for purposes of litigation. ”

“FCA US has asked CAFEE to discuss its testing methodology and share the resulting data for the Company’s understanding, and to determine which on-road test results could conceivably be compared with results from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laboratory procedures. CAFEE has been unwilling to discuss the report.”

CAFEE had not issued a response to FCA’s assertions.

The WVU center had been the first to uncover the Volkswagen defeat device on diesel vehicles. VW admitted the violation when investigated by EPA and CARB representatives.

SEE ALSO:  FCA Gets Government Subpoenas Over Alleged Diesel Emissions Violations

The center has learned more about conducting emissions tests from the FCA field project.

“This type of testing – the combination of real-world and laboratory – allows us to learn more about the challenges that vehicle manufacturers face to produce cars with low emissions that also satisfy consumer expectations of performance,” said Dan Carder, director of the center. “These are opportunities to gather data and other information that can help both manufacturers and regulators find solutions, improve technology and provide better air quality.”

Carder, Marc Besch, research assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Sri Hari Chalagalla, an engineer at CAFEE, and a team of engineers and technicians had tested the vehicles.

On-road emissions testing used scaled-down version of traditional laboratory equipment called a portable emissions measurement system, or PEMS. It’s the size of a refrigerator and is powered by a generator. This “mobile lab” can fit into the back of a vehicle and analyzes its exhaust released while driving on a road.

Researchers studied different real-world driving factors from the exhaust pipe, including road and ambient conditions, traffic patterns, and terrain over two routes – an urban and a highway route – in the Morgantown, West Virginia, area.

“Testing vehicles on the road allows you to collect data from diverse driving conditions,” Besch said. “You can see how the vehicle technologies perform with different loads, vehicle speeds, ambient temperatures, etc.”

CAFEE engineers also tested the diesel vehicles in their lab. The vehicle would be placed on a light-duty chassis dynamometer, which serves as a large treadmill to simulate driving. The dynamometer was able to provide driving conditions that closely simulate driving out on the road.

The researchers used the same mobile lab equipment used on the road to analyze the vehicles’ exhaust in the laboratory.

Carder said that finding NOx emissions at a lower level does typically happen, but the factor of 20 drew their attention. But without U.S. standards for on-road, in-use emissions, an absolute comparison between real-world and laboratory isn’t possible at this time, he said.

“When looking at results averaged over a trip, we would not be surprised to find deviations of 3 to 4 times between on-road and lab conditions. Results that show an increase by a factor of 20 indicate different emissions control strategies, but the scope of our research doesn’t include whether those strategies have previously been negotiated between automakers and regulators or not,” Carder said.

CAFEE will provide the research data to help refine existing technology and advancements for the future – and to identify possible gaps between regulatory certification and compliance standards and real-world performance, he said.

“Clean diesel is not a myth,” Carder said. “When I started in this field more than 25 years ago, the heavy-duty standard for NOx was 6.0 g/bhp-hr, and we are now working on 0.02 g/bh-hr. As an industry, we have made a difference, and we will continue to do so.”

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