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Behind the rumors of “22 minute diesels”

by David Zatz on

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag claimed back in May that the German transport department, KBA, had discovered FCA was shutting off their diesel emissions controls after 22 minutes. That accusation was reportedly widely in worldwide media, but was never confirmed.

FCA’s chief technical officer, Harald Wester repeatedly denied the  “22 minute” charge in statements to the EU Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (EMIS):

Contrary to allegations, 500X does not deactivate its emission control system after 22 minutes from cranking, but uses control strategies … solely to protect the integrity of the engine and the safety of the vehicle occupants…

He wrote that FCA had already provided experimental and field evidence to justify varying emissions controls.  The EU allows this, in rules that are not operationally defined (do not clearly spell out what is allowed and what is not).

FCA has committed to cutting the gap between test-cell results and real-world results. In February, FCA updated its Euro 6 calibrations since the KBA’s tests, bringing “improved and more stable emissions performance” to current and some past cars.   The company is also speeding its adoption of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to other diesel engine families.

As for the gap between lab tests and real-world observations, the International Council on Clean Transportation’s John German pointed out that American diesels have less of a problem because there are fewer vague, undefined rules, and because the rules were designed more intelligently.

The question then remains whether the “22 minute rule” is an error or a red herring, and we may never know the answer.

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