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Researchers: FCA Diesels Emit NOx Pollution up to 20 Times Legal Limit

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/14/2017 Motor Trend Staff
2014-Ram-1500-ecodiesel-V6-front-view2© Motor Trend Staff 2014-Ram-1500-ecodiesel-V6-front-view2

Researchers at the same lab that uncovered Volkswagen's diesel scandal have found significant amounts of pollution in diesel vehicles from Fiat Chrysler, according to a report from Bloomberg.


The Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions at West Virginia University conducted laboratory tests and on-road tests of Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and Ram 1500 pickups from the 2014 and 2015 model years. During road tests, the Jeep and Ram models emitted nitrogen oxide levels at three to 20 times the legal limit. On-road emissions came in much higher than the emissions observed in the lab.

The researchers didn't go as far as accusing FCA of diesel cheating. However, in a recent lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department claimed the automaker used special software to evade emissions controls on diesel vehicles. FCA has firmly denied using "cheat devices" to pass U.S. pollution tests, although it's offering a software update to improve emissions performance on its vehicles.

FCA is now questioning the tests performed by West Virginia University. It notes that the study's on-road tests were conducted at average speeds more than 50 percent higher than those in the EPA test cycle. Also, the vehicles were equipped with 600-700 pounds of additional payload and were tested under different road conditions than in EPA tests. These factors, FCA says, "may increase emissions readings, therefore rendering invalid a comparison of on-road and off-road tests results." FCA says the West Virginia lab hasn't been willing to engage in a dialogue about the findings.

Daniel Carder, director of the center, admits to Bloomberg that some of the on-road tests conducted by the West Virginia researchers were more strenuous than normal U.S. laboratory tests. One example he gave was a test conducted on a steep ascending road, in which researchers found elevated NOx levels coming from the vehicles. He said that result was unexpected, given that emissions are often lower in this scenario due to the way exhaust treatment systems operate.

In 2013, the West Virginia center tested Volkswagen vehicles and found emissions as much as 35 times higher than expected levels. This finding was a driving force behind VW's diesel scandal, which led the automaker to recall millions of diesel vehicles around the world. So far, the automaker has shelled out more than $25 billion from the fallout.

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