Ann Arbor EPA lab tests other cars after VW scandal

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday said it’s begun testing other automakers’ vehicles in the wake of Volkswagen AG’s massive diesel-testing scandal. Some of those tests are being done at the agency’s emissions testing lab in Ann Arbor.

Janet McCabe, assistant administrator of the EPA’s office of air and radiation, said the agency is “upping our game” following VW’s admission last month that it cheated on emissions tests for more than 11 million diesel cars worldwide. The EPA said late last month it would conduct more spot checks of light-duty cars and trucks, testing vehicles owned by individuals and rental companies in real-world driving conditions. The EPA also could take cars from manufacturers’ assembly lines.

“We’re focused on diesel right now, but ... we’re becoming the unpredictable EPA, so we’ll be testing a range of vehicles with a range of configurations and situations,” McCabe told reporters at a Wednesday technology showcase event.

The EPA sent letters to automakers late last month, warning that it will take further steps to prevent fraud. New safeguards will “detect any kind of defeat devices” that might turn off pollution-control equipment, Chris Grundler, the head of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality, said. He called the new tests part of an “evolution” of enforcement.

McCabe declined to say if the agency discovered that any other automakers have used defeat devices. “When we finish that process we’ll be able to talk about the results,” she said.

The California Air Resources Board and Environment Canada also are conducting real-world vehicle emissions testing, and all three facilities plan to share the results.

McCabe said the EPA isn’t necessarily looking at software that could potentially trigger the defeat devices, which VW used to evade tests on its diesel vehicles.

“Our focus is on what’s coming out of the tailpipe, which is how our standards are set and what the cars need to be measured up against,” she said. “What we’re focused on is whether they meet the standards that are in our rules.”

McCabe was in Ann Arbor Wednesday to celebrate the launch of the EPA’s new heavy-duty truck chassis dynamometer, a $3 million piece of equipment built in Germany that allows the agency to perform emissions tests on full-size heavy-duty trucks. Previously, the EPA had to spend about a week removing truck engines to run the tests.

The new dynamometer is housed in part of the agency’s 200,000-square-foot National Vehicle & Fuel Emissions lab in Ann Arbor. The lab includes a number of emissions testing rooms that run simulations on cars, trucks and even small equipment like lawn mowers in a wide range of climates and conditions.

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