The debate around reducing harmful car emissions has been going on for some time. Recently, the UK government announced it was looking to bring criminal charges against manufacturers that use software to cheat emissions tests. The software takes the form of defeat devices. In an effort to stop another Dieselgate, ministers are lobbying for the right to recall vehicles that emit illegal levels of nitrogen oxide fumes.
The announcement is set to be a key part of the Department for Transport’s ‘Road to Zero’ strategy. The decision to recall cars will likely introduce complications. This includes software cheating in cars that were engineered outside of the UK and introducing new legislation to bring criminal charges.
Despite the challenges, the government is determined to stop another scandal like the one that happened with Volkswagen, which saw 1 million cars sold in the UK with high levels of pollution. Volkswagen fitted its vehicles with software that detected laboratory conditions and adjusted emissions. This led to VW cars producing higher levels of nitrogen oxide when on the road. Other manufacturers like Opel and Fiat Chrysler have been accused of using technology to lower car emissions.
German authorities have already issued an EU-wide recall of over 60,000 Porsche cars that have defeat devices installed. The recall came a day after the European Commission released a statement that Britain and five other EU countries are being referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to address air pollution. Audi was also ordered to recall 127,000 diesel V6 and V8 TDI engines across Europe.
The British government has been repeatedly challenged in court by the ClientEarth environmental law group for stalling over high levels of nitrogen dioxide, which has been linked to up to 9400 deaths a year in London.
Environment secretary Michael Gove’s clean air strategy is expected to include various measures on tackling air pollution. The strategy will propose a crackdown on dirty coal and ‘wet wood’ to decrease harmful emissions of soot and smoke.
The recall of cars that have defeat devices is likely to be controversial, but the potential benefits cannot be ignored.