The US Environmental Protection Agency said today that it will launch sweeping changes to the way it tests for diesel emissions after getting duped by clandestine software in Volkswagen cars for seven years. In a letter to car manufacturers, the EPA said it will add on-road testing to its regimen, "using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device" similar to the one used by Volkswagen. The testing would be in addition to the standard emissions test cycles already in place, the EPA said. VW's sophisticated software allowed its cars to pass tests in the lab and then spew pollution into the atmosphere while on the highway.
The revelations about VW led to unwanted scrutiny for the EPA. Its testing procedures have been criticized for being predictable and outdated, making it relatively easy for VW to cheat. EPA did not initially uncover the problem; researchers at West Virginia University did, using on-road testing that EPA did not. Chris Grundler, head of the EPA's office of transportation and air quality, defended the agency's testing procedures, noting that passenger vehicles with diesel engines account for far less than 1% of overall vehicle emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide. "It's not a question of equipment or technology or capability. It's a question of where we deploy those resources," Grundler told reporters today. The EPA has conducted on-road testing on heavy duty trucks, rather than passenger cars, "because that's where the emissions are," he said. (Read more Environmental Protection Agency stories.)