Saturday 1 October 2016

'Engine re-tuning' of cars affected by VW scandal will mean higher fuel bills

Published 29/09/2015 | 02:30

Minister Paschal Donohoe
Minister Paschal Donohoe

Recalls of vehicles affected by the Volkswagen scandal - which now include several Audi and Skoda models - could involve re-tuning engines for higher fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, an Irish expert has warned.

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It may be the only way to clear more toxic diesel pollutants at the centre of the emissions-cheating scandal, he said.

Such a development would inevitably hit people's pockets with higher fuel bills.

And it could force the Government into seeking compensation from Volkswagen for the loss of revenue that the higher emissions would have brought to the Exchequer on those cars.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly is said to be monitoring events. He has sought an "urgent" meeting with Volkswagen Ireland chief Lars Himmer.

"A response is still awaited," a spokesman told the Irish Independent. He added that Mr Kelly is liaising with Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.

The threat of higher fuel bills here was mooted yesterday by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) automotive expert Damien Curran. He was speaking at a workshop organised with the Irish Motoring Writers Association at the Bolton Street campus on the technological details of the Volkswagen scandal.

Mr Curran explained how it could mean engines having to be "re-tuned" so they could work harder at burning off more diesel-related NOx pollutants. Doing so would necessitate using more fuel. And that would increase the level of ordinary CO2 emissions - which could push many models into higher tax bands.

Putting the diesel crisis into general context, Declan Allen, head of transport engineering at DIT Bolton Street, said the basic problem is that diesels have never been suitable for short journeys and were always intended for the long haul.

It is not clear if recalled cars will have to be re-configured as well as having the controversial emissions-cheating software re-mapped.

The cheat device is embedded in the software code that runs the engine control computer and cannot be switched off by owners.

The possibility of higher fuel consumption being part of the solution will raise more concerns for motorists already fearful the scandal will hit the value of their cars.

Meanwhile, around 2.1 million Audis are now affected worldwide, with 1.42 million in western Europe (577,000 in Germany). The models involved are the A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, TT, Q3 and Q5.

And 1.2 million Skodas are involved but there are no details on model breakdown or what markets are affected. Volkswagen Ireland, which distributes those brands, had no comment to make.

In separate developments, German prosecutors will investigate former chief executive Martin Winterkorn over "allegations of fraud in the sale of cars with manipulated emissions data", German authorities said.

Mr Winterkorn resigned last week, saying he was "not aware of any wrongdoing on my part".

The investigation aims to establish who was responsible and will look at Mr Winterkorn's role in the worst crisis to hit VW in its 78-year history.

Prosecutors said it is too early to determine if and when they may try and interview Mr Winterkorn himself.

"This is a very broad case and in other such investigations it has taken many months, sometimes years," a spokesman told reporters.

Irish Independent

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