Re: That's Bad

1

Does that take into account all the VWs in the UK? It's recursive!


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-22-15 10:46 PM
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Also, does the scam include SEAT and Skoda, or just the ones badged VW?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 1:39 AM
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I don't know exactly how but my guess is that the estimate is at best very misleading and probably totally fucking wrong. I suspect the error is most likely in or both of two places.

1) Cannot find the cite for the 10x to 40x the US pollution standard; is that the deviation of what the test would potentially allow? Or actual measured results of VWs tested fairly over US standards--I have trouble believing it is actually the latter.

2) They calculate the overage worldwide vs. the US standard which in this rare instance seem to be a good bit more stringent than Europe's (and I'm guessing other places).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 3:37 AM
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Don;t get me wrong, VW did a very, very wrong thing.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 3:38 AM
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3: On the open road, the Jetta exceeded the U.S. nitrogen oxide emissions standard by 15 to 35 times. The Passat was 5 to 20 times the standard.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-19/volkswagen-emissions-cheating-found-by-curious-clean-air-group


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 4:56 AM
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Well, by "emissions", they specifically mean NOx. NOx is a pretty serious thing for diesel engines, but isn't really a problem for nuclear or natural gas power plants, which is how the UK generates most of its electricity.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:09 AM
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7

We need a weighted basket of pollutants.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:10 AM
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5: OK, had just found another version of that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:12 AM
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Like Mr Stormcrow above, I agree that VW did a very very wrong thing here. But I can't help feeling there's some bad faith in the glee with which the world has leapt on them. It's almost as if it's being taken as an off the hook thing. Is all this emission our fault, for driving our cars everywhere rather than cycling to worK and so on? Perish the thought! It's all on VW!


Posted by: Adam Roberts | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:37 AM
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10

I take the bus more often than not.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:56 AM
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|?

Sliding to trolling the OP in two links

Kevin Drum ...gives a health update, but...

"And finally, a test to see if my sister reads all the way to the end: I now have permission to clean the cat litter box." ...KD

Cause the back is better? But immune system is shot. Watch out, Drum.

All know this story....
Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO defends 5,000 percent drug price increase
...the drug was to treat toxoplasmosis.

The connection between VW and Martin Shkreli? Focusing on specific "bad guys." Rule Number One of the Vampire Castle: Personalize and individualize everything and everyone, good and bad, so systemic or global critiques never get any air.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:05 AM
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I started paying attention to how common VWs are around here, and the answer is not at all. I just biked 4 miles across the city and looked at cars on the road and parked cars and didn't see a single VW. Some related brands- mostly Audi, one Porsche- but out of a couple hundred cars no VW.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:35 AM
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Is all this emission our fault, for driving our cars everywhere rather than cycling to worK and so on? Perish the thought!

Because everyone lives in places which are conveniently within cycling range of their work, and where the climate allows cycling all year round, and the roads are safe (and legal) to cycle on, and of course everyone is physically able to cycle several miles a day.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:41 AM
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That's true, but it's also true that the U.S. still effectively subsidizes housing that requires stupid long commutes and that a great many people deliberately choose to live in places without any public transit and that many zoning laws are specifically designed to make it impossible for anyone to live there without owning a car.

(These observations would also fit in the residential segregation thread.)


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:47 AM
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And by "deliberately choose to live in places without any public transit," I don't mean just that they are willing to move to a place with no transit. When they set out to find a place to live, they preemptively rule out any place with transit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:49 AM
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What this did make me think was: remember when dsquared was getting ripped on a few months ago for insisting that the financial sector wasn't uniquely bad and other people were going to have their "subprime moments" sooner or later? I think he thought that everyone was going to suddenly get angry about university grades or something?

Wrong industry, but right idea. This could well be the Blodget Moment or possibly Countrywide Moment for the automobile sector.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:50 AM
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I wouldn't be surprised if other auto companies were cheating like this, but I don't understand the technology enough to know if it is plausible for gas-powered cars. As long as it is just diesel, I think it will be a minor thing in the U.S.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:53 AM
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If there's one thing I learned from Thomas the Tank Engine, it's that Peter Fonda can't act anymore. If there are two things, they're that Peter Fonda can't act anymore and the diesel is bad.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:54 AM
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19

I take the bus more often than not.
I hope the bus is electric. Or at least hybrid.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:55 AM
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20

The third thing is that the Fat Controller will wall-up a sentient being for a relatively minor act of disobedience.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:56 AM
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19: I think some of them may be hybrid, but mostly it is a really old fleet. Some a natural gas, which smells better.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:57 AM
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22

In the name of God, Sir Topham!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:58 AM
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23

I wouldn't be surprised if other auto companies were cheating like this


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 7:00 AM
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24

Doesn't the efficiency of buses mean that more usage, even with gasoline, is a significant carbon/pollution gain?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 7:05 AM
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If by efficiency you mean that there are so many people I don't even have a good space to stand, then I assume so.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 7:16 AM
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16: I think D2's point is related to scandalous behavior that everybody knew was going on, but that was suddenly held up for public opprobrium. (I would uncharitably summarize his view as: Everybody has always known that norms in the financial industry are fucked up. Providing false information to manipulate Libor benchmarks was standard operating procedure and therefore much less bad than people think.)

With VW, it's genuinely shocking that they were breaking the law this way in part because we do not understand the auto industry to be fucked up in this particular way.

That is to say, yes, we know automakers conceal and soft-pedal dangers in their products. We do not know that they deliberately engineer their products to break the law. That's new information, even to the cognoscenti.

If GM engineers aren't surprised by this, or are doing something analogous, then this case would be similar to the ones D2 discusses.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 8:12 AM
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26: I think the "everybody knows they do that" level of dishonesty WRT emissions, at least, would be a sort of arms race between testing regimens and engine tuning, such that you get as much power/pollution as possible in daily driving, but as little as possible when hooked up to a testing unit. The testers try to match daily driving conditions, the engineers refine their tuning, etc. All marginal stuff in effects and SOP for rules & regulations.

IOW, the difference between gaming the system and utterly subverting it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 8:28 AM
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26.last I've got to wonder if the thinking at other automobile manufacturers, assuming they aren't doing, this is a combination of "Why aren't we doing this? We should have been doing this all along. Smithers! Find out why we weren't doing this!" and "Whew! Thank god we haven't been doing this."


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 8:29 AM
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28: I imagine there's a certain amount of: "Holy shit! We need to make sure we aren't doing this!"


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:08 AM
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30

This morning's WSJ headline cracked me up:

"VW Scandal Threatens To Upend CEO."

Ya think?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:14 AM
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31

Speaking of silly financial headlines, this from Bloomberg was impressively SEO'd, I thought:Women Have to Work Longer to Afford the Same iPhones as Men.

Or, you know, any other item that costs x dollars.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:38 AM
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32

Genuine question, as the owner of a 2 year old 15000 mile VW diesel wagon that I'd planned to drive into the ground, and as someone who at least tries to pretend to be environmentally conscious, should I trade in my car or wait and see what happens? (I would be inclined to trade it now except for the facts that the only comparable car I could imagine trading it for would be a non-diesel version of the same car I have. And buying another VW right now would feel... weird.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:49 AM
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33

I'm guessing there will be a patch or something coming up.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:50 AM
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34

33--I wouldn't think if there were an easy patch that they would have been cheating on emissions test for six years?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:52 AM
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35

If you traded it in now, I think you'd be selling at the low point of its value and not doing the environment much good since somebody would still be driving it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:52 AM
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36

31: Women work even longer to buy tampons than men do.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:53 AM
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37

34: What?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:53 AM
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38

34: The patch will be making the car less fun to drive while emitting an appropriate amount of NOx. I'd assume it's a fairly straightforward software thing, although I suppose there could be knockon effects in the equipment.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:55 AM
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39

Wasn't the selling point of these cars that you got pep AND low gas mileage AND low emissions? It seems not impossible, perhaps even likely, that this is an improbable combination to anyone with a certain level of nous about the car industry. In which case I think we might see revelations other companies were doing the same or similar things, if they were making similar performing cars.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:55 AM
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40

37: if there was a simple "patch" to fix the issue, why would they have been cheating (and risking the sort of massive liability that they are now facing)? Why not just use the patch and fix the issue?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:56 AM
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41

It wasn't something that was broken. VW deliberately created a system that cheated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:58 AM
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42

38: how do they avoid civil liability to carbuyers in that scenario?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 9:59 AM
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43

41: but they didn't create the cheat for the purpose of cheating. They created the cheat for the purpose of allowing their otherwise noncompliant cars to pass the test. If there were an easy way to make the noncompliant cars actually compliant, wouldn't they have done that instead?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:01 AM
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44

The easy way makes the car less attractive to the end-user somehow (in acceleration performance, fuel economy, etc.), and is probably what the eventual patch will do. The hard way is something like the urea-injection systems in BMW or Mercedes diesels.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:05 AM
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45

But there was an easy way - leave the "defeat" software on all the time.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:05 AM
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46

26.1 I'm not sure that's quite right. You say, "I would uncharitably summarize his view as: Everybody has always known that norms in the financial industry are fucked up. Providing false information to manipulate Libor benchmarks was standard operating procedure and therefore much less bad than people think."

I'm not quite convinced that that's an accurate summary of his position at the time, but to the extent that it is, it was wrong. True, everybody knew that norms in the financial industry were fucked up, but what made the subprime scandal and the LIBOR thing scandalous was that we thought we knew the ways in which they were fucked up and we didn't know they were fucked up in those ways (as well).

I think that squares very well with the present case. Everybody assumed that the automotive industry would screw its customers in any way they could get away with, but here they come with a brand new way of doing it that we hadn't even thought of.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:14 AM
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47

43: The easy way to make the cars compliant involves making them perform less well. To avoid that choice, they cheated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:17 AM
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48

The fix will mean your car will drive like a Yugo with bad timing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:18 AM
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49

The cars could comply, and did so during testing. What they couldn't do was comply and still be fun* to drive.

To 39, VW diesels had been efficient and fun to drive for years, so them continuing to do so post-2007 wouldn't have been a red flag to anybody (I'm guessing/assuming that regs changed in 2007 making the cheat necessary?). Furthermore, basically nobody in the US knows anything about diesel engines for passenger cars, so none of those engineers would have been paying much attention. It's possible that some of the engineers at other Euro car companies were skeptical that VW was pulling it off (at those prices), but there wasn't AFAICT any reason to think that VW was doing something unpossible.

*for some value of fun. What's unknown is whether this was done to avoid a modest decrease in Fahrvergn├╝gen, or a drastic one


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:19 AM
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50

42 to 44 and 47.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:20 AM
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51

Replacing a car because the people who made it lied might be the ethical choice, but it's pretty expensive for the gains. Is there perhaps a cheaper offset one could purchase, or a cause one could donate too?
Also, if you're in a relatively uncongested area, are NOx emissions that bad?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:22 AM
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52

They can't avoid civil liability to buyers. They'll be lucky to avoid criminal liability.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:24 AM
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53

Environmentally, my intuition is that the costs are sunk. A big part of the total environmental impact of a car is manufacturing it in the first place, so buying a replacement car when the existing car works is always going to be an environmental negative. This obviously involves some weighting of all the different environmental costs going on, and if you decided NOx emissions were particularly important, you might think differently.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:28 AM
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54

Ok, good. I don't want to deal with the hassle of trading a car right now. But I don't want to drive a pollution factory either.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:30 AM
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52 beat me to it but, yeah, they really can't and if you don't feel like filing your own suit against them you should at least keep an eye out for an award from the class action suit that's almost certainly coming very very soon.

If you really liked it because it was high performance/zippy/etc. then maybe think about replacing it because it's likely to get less that way (or maybe not depending on where you live - if the emissions standards are lower you might be able to get away with not updating the software?). If you got it to go from one place to a different place and don't particularly care about how sports-car-y it feels then there's no reason to make any change that I can see.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:31 AM
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51 was kind of dumb. Obviously, the easy answer is to adopt the fix, drive your now poorly performing car, and join the class action lawsuit.
By 51.NOx, I meant that NOx emissions are a local, transient problem. If there are enough around you're contributing in some small way to a number of premature deaths, but you aren't speeding the biosphere unto its demise as with greenhouse gasses.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:32 AM
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57

I haven't read D2 since he took his blog private. I'm curious if he's spent any time making a positive case for the financial industry, either its social benefits or its ethics, or any time criticizing it and suggesting reforms? Or, as in his CT posts, its been exclusively about deflection.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:36 AM
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58

If you really liked it because it was high performance/zippy/etc. then maybe think about replacing it because it's likely to get less that way (or maybe not depending on where you live - if the emissions standards are lower you might be able to get away with not updating the software?). If you got it to go from one place to a different place and don't particularly care about how sports-car-y it feels then there's no reason to make any change that I can see.

Well I certainly only paid a significant premium over the identical car in a gas model because it had the attractive combination of better fuel economy and better performance.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 10:58 AM
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59

58: Good answer! You're ready for the deposition!


Posted by: Opinionated Plaintiff Lawyer | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 11:00 AM
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re: 57

He hasn't posted anything in a year, and it's not, I think, private anymore.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 1:08 PM
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61

Daniel can be found over on Crooked Timber and in Medium. I believe the specific matter we're discussing was his Crooked Timber post here.

One may judge for oneself the validity of my admittedly uncharitable summary (of both his post and his comments on the post), but I think it's clear he's talking about a phenomenon different from the VW situation.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 2:12 PM
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He's pretty active on twitter, https://twitter.com/dsquareddigest


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 2:41 PM
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I think Volkswagen is still pretty optimistic about its ability to walk away from this mostly unscathed:

Winterkorn said the company will set aside $7.3 billion* -- half a year of profits -- to pay for the affected cars to be fixed, as well as all of the fines, civil-lawsuit settlements, and other expenses they might have to deal with soon.
They might be right about it, but I think they're still at the stage in the process where they haven't fully grasped just how screwed they are.

*This would be, what, seven hundred dollars a car?


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 3:39 PM
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64

What is nitrous oxide? I had an old Mercedes diesel, but it had terrible emissions. I didn't even have to have it tested for emissions in California, because it was a diesel. Presumably it would have failed. I don't think that the particulate emissions were so great.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 3:46 PM
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64: Nitrous oxide makes smog and acid rain.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 4:13 PM
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66

Also whipped cream.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 4:36 PM
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67

And dental anesthesia.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 4:37 PM
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68

Nitrous oxide isn't one of the NOx pollutants emitted by cars. Those are nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which are the ones that cause acid rain, breathing problems, etc.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is laughing gas, used as an anesthetic (and known as "hippy crack" when inhaled out of whipped cream dispensers or balloons as a recreational drug). Of course that can also cause breathing problems if you manage to asphyxiate yourself with it. That's pretty rare, though.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:06 PM
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"Hippie crack" seems like a contradiction. We always called that whippets. As in, "Check the tamper seal on the can of whipped cream to be sure the stock boys didn't use it for whippets."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:10 PM
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70

Because that's what kids in Ohio do for fun.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:19 PM
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71

Teach to the test, but for cars. Isn't this basically what technocratic school reform is all about?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 5:51 PM
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72

Whippets were the first drug I ever quit.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-23-15 6:49 PM
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73

Saiselgy with an effective bit of Twitter commentary on this NYTimes note on VW:

As Germany has emerged as the dominant actor in Europe, it has lectured Greece and other debtor nations on the virtues of thrift and lately wagged its finger at countries that balk at receiving a share of refugees from the killing fields of Syria. Its right to lead, based on a narrative of self-sacrifice and obedience to rules, was generally acknowledged.
That is one reason the Volkswagen scandal has shaken the country's very core. More than just a tale of corporate misdeeds, the disclosure of systematic cheating by one of Germany's most iconic companies has delivered a sharp blow to its conception of itself as an orderly nation and tarnished its claim to moral leadership of the Continent.
Pwned by Moby a few days ago, however.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-24-15 1:24 AM
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Interestingly, apparently US firms tried the same trick, and were caught, with heavy diesels seventeen years ago. You'd think people in charge would be looking out for it?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-24-15 3:46 AM
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74 is indeed interesting. Nice find.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-15 4:10 AM
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49: It wasn't so much that they weren't as "zippy" as that the fuel consumption (and hence CO2 emissions) goes way up. the device that was only activated during tests recirculates exhaust gas into the engine, lowering the combustion chamber temperature and therefore the NOx emissions (because the N comes from the intake air and burns with the O2 when it's hot enough). but this worsens the engine's thermodynamic efficiency, and also means the fuel/air mix is less lean because some of the air is substituted for crap.

so it's a tradeoff. optimise for CO2 or NOx? remember NOx kills you quick:-0


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-24-15 5:12 AM
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"Volkswagen's lies to consumers and regulators weren't tangential to its business: instead, they were crucial to how it marketed its diesel cars, at least in the United States. Diesel has always been a tough sell in the U.S., where the technology is associated with the dirty, clunky engines of the nineteen-seventies, and where fuel economy (typically a strong selling point for diesel) tends to matter less to consumers than it does in Europe. Volkswagen's solution to this problem was to trumpet a "new era of diesel," featuring engines that were cleaner than ever. The headline on a 2008 BusinessWeek article summed up the pitch: "This Is Not Your Father's Diesel." Improvements in diesel technology had made it possible for diesel engines to run cleaner than ever before. But the assumption had been that there was a trade-off: making diesel cleaner would also lower a car's fuel economy and/or its performance. Volkswagen promised customers that they didn't have to make these trade-offs. They could, for a relatively modest price, get a high-performing car with great fuel economy (and, therefore, lower CO2 emissions), while also releasing less of other pollutants. It sounded too good to be true--and, for Volkswagen, it was. (BMW and Mercedes made a similar case for their diesel cars; neither has been implicated in the emissions scandal, though.) Volkswagen did deliver the high performance and the fuel economy but did so, it has now become clear, only by disabling the emissions controls, which meant its cars were pouring hundreds of thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere."

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-environmental-legacy-of-the-volkswagen-scandal

Waiting for other shoes to drop chez the other manufacturers...


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09-25-15 3:21 PM
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78

What a surprise!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-30-15 8:52 AM
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78:

The article leaves the impression that there is a certain amount of gaming, but these results are due to the inadequacy of existing tests to measure real-world, or even more realistic conditions.

The difference might be described as "tuning to the test," as opposed to the downright fraud of VW.

You could tune to the test, get acceptable results knowing full well that under realistic road conditions the emissions would differ substantially.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09-30-15 9:06 AM
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