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Dieselgate 2.0?

Trouble: Hyundai, Kia raided over suspected diesel emissions defeat devices in Germany.

Hyundai/Kia allegedly sold 210,000 diesel vehicles with defeat devices in Europe

5 Jul 2022

HYUNDAI and Kia offices in Germany have been raided by authorities in relation to an allegation that the companies fitted diesel emissions ‘defeat devices’ to their cars.


Defeat devices alter tailpipe emissions during certain scenarios such as official testing cycles, the term coming to prominence in 2015 amid the so-called Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal that cost the giant German manufacturer billions in compensation and fines, and precipitated a pivot away from diesel to EVs.


Other manufacturers, including Renault, Fiat Chrysler, Opel and Mercedes-Benz have been caught using defeat devices and diesel popularity in Europe has dropped dramatically with many car-makers quickly following VW into EVs.


German authorities have now raided Hyundai and Kia offices in that country and Luxembourg over an allegation that the car-makers put over 210,000 diesel vehicles with suspected illegal defeat devices onto the road.


The news sent shares of the both South Korean companies plummeting as investors feared it could lead to an expansion of the investigation and punitive damages similar to those levied on Volkswagen.


Although Hyundai and Kia are big suppliers of diesel powered vehicles around the world, they sell none in the United States – where VW copped some of its biggest penalties. 


Engine control units (ECUs) and software used by Hyundai and Kia are thought to have come from parts companies Bosch and Delphi, which is now owned by the BorgWarner group. 


Bosch was implicated in Dieselgate as a component supplier and was fined by German authorities for its involvement.


The suggestion is now being made that Bosch and Delphi Automotive are being targeted for diesel emissions defeat devices in Hyundai and Kia vehicles.


German Public Prosecutor’s Office personnel searched the Hyundai/Kia business premises at eight properties in a coordinated operation.


Hyundai confirmed the raids and said the company was working with the authorities. The investigation could be expanded but Hyundai/Kia will not make any further comments on the matter at this time.


To reiterate, from 2006, Volkswagen built diesel engines with what they called the “lean NOx trap”. 


VW said this was a way to remove nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from their diesels without using a Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) system that injects a reductant fluid (AdBlue) into a catalyst to convert NOx into diatomic nitrogen (N²), and water. 


All internal combustion engines produce NOx, but diesels generate more due to the higher combustion chamber pressures and temperatures these engines need to operate at.


Volkswagen claimed that the lean NOx trap could clean up diesel NOx emissions by using catalytic converters and not require the use of the bulky and more expensive DEF injection system.


However, VW's system was not reducing emissions enough but was made to seem so by using coding in the engine control unit (ECU) to determine when a diesel-equipped VW was being emissions tested.


In "low emissions mode" the engine would produce lower emissions than it did when driving normally, for example whenever the car detected the bonnet was open or the engine was running but the vehicle was stopped. In such scenarios, it would pass emissions tests.


Volkswagen is now in the process of dropping diesel engines entirely and fast-tracking EVs across the Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi brands – as well as Skoda and other subsidiaries. 

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