Vehicles | November 27, 2020 6:30 am

Are We On the Verge of the Next Big Diesel Emissions Scandal?

An EPA report cites unethical behavior by truck owners

Diesel fuel pump
A diesel fuel pump.
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

It’s been 5 years since the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, a moment when one of the world’s leading automakers had designed vehicles to appear more environmentally friendly than they actually were. As scandals went, it touched on a number of nerves, ranging from bad corporate behavior to environmental damage. Scandals involving diesel emissions are worrying for a host of reasons — and we may have another one to worry about now.

An article this week in The New York Times by Coral Davenport offers readers some unsettling news, which at first seems to follow a familiar pattern. The article describes a number of recent findings from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Enforcement. Here, too, are examples of diesel emissions being falsified; here, too, is a widespread practice that could become an outright scandal.

The chief difference here is that the issue isn’t with troubling corporate behavior this time out. Instead, the issue is coming from a group of diesel pickup truck owners. The EPA report estimates that this new scandal affects 500,000 vehicles; the Times article suggests that might be an understatement.

In their report, the EPA pointed to the practice of truck owners installing devices that can manipulate emissions data, making it seem as though a given vehicle is far more environmentally friendly than it actually is. When hundreds of thousands of vehicles — if not more — do this, you can see why this is so concerning.

“The technology is essentially an at-home version of the factory-installed ‘defeat devices’ embedded into hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the United States by Volkswagen,” Davenport writes. The EPA has been looking into this matter for 5 years; its conclusions, and the implications of them, are thoroughly unsettling.