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Science & Environment

EPA Says Volkswagen Dodged Clean Air Rules With Emissions Software

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Volkswagen has been caught in a big deception. The U.S. government says the German company has admitted to installing software that could turn off emissions controls on 482,000 diesel cars in the U.S.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has more details and says this could cost the company dearly.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: Volkswagen is the king of diesel passenger car sales in the U.S., but a dark side to that dominance emerged today. The EPA says Volkswagen installed software on diesel cars that turns off emissions control when driving normally and turns them on when the car undergoing an emissions test. The software is in model year 2009 through 2015 Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars.

Cynthia Giles is with the EPA's office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

CYNTHIA GILES: Known as a defeat device, this design feature results in the cars emitting as much as 40 times the emissions that are allowed.

SAMILTON: It's not known yet why Volkswagen did it, but it may have significantly improved the car's fuel economy along with driving performance. The California Air Resources Board was first to spot the cheat. The board's Richard Corey says the emissions rules are there for a reason - to protect people's health.

RICHARD COREY: This defeat device resulted in substantially more oxides and nitrogen, a powerful chemical that under a hot California sun, literally cooks and creates ozone and fine particles.

SAMILTON: The EPA calls it a very serious violation of the Clean Air Act. Volkswagen says it's cooperating with the agency. The automaker will almost certainly be obliged to issue a recall, and it could face huge fines. For NPR News, I'm Tracy Samilton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.