Published on August 24, 2023

Did Dieselgate Have a Lasting Effect on Air Quality?

The Dieselgate scandal of 2015 had far-reaching consequences for the automotive industry, with Volkswagen admitting to cheating on diesel emissions tests in the United States and Europe. As a result, the company was forced to pay billions in penalties and compensation to affected customers. 

Beyond the financial and reputational damage to the automaker, the scandal also raised concerns about the impact of diesel emissions on air quality. While the immediate effects of the scandal on air pollution were limited, the issue has since become a critical concern for many countries and cities. 

Despite efforts to reduce diesel emissions through improved regulations and technology, air pollution remains a significant public health issue, with NOx contributing to various respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The lasting effect of Dieselgate on air quality cannot be understated, as it has sparked a necessary conversation about the negative consequences of diesel emissions on human health and the environment.

How did Dieselgate happen?

Volkswagen installed software called “defeat devices” in their diesel cars, which detected when the vehicle was undergoing emissions tests and changed the engine’s performance accordingly to meet the requirements. Outside of the lab, the car’s emissions were much higher; up to 40 times more than what is legally allowed. This was an act of deception on the carmaker’s part as they knowingly manipulated the tests, and it was later found that millions of cars were affected globally.

As soon as the illegal software was exposed, Volkswagen issued recalls for the affected vehicles, and the US Justice Department filed a lawsuit against them. Many car buyers lost faith in Volkswagen and the company was forced to pay a $14.7 billion (approximately £11.73 billion) settlement to customers and authorities in the US. They also had to pay compensation in other countries where legal action was taken against them. The scandal questioned the German carmaker’s reputation, resulting in massive brand damage and financial losses. The situation prompted other countries to launch similar investigations, and fines have been imposed on other carmakers.

Renault, for example, was also investigated for similar offences. The widespread nature of this issue highlights a larger problem within the industry that goes beyond just one company. Renault emission claims have been put to the test by multiple independent organizations. In 2015, the German environmental group DUH conducted emissions tests on several Renault diesel vehicles. The results showed that the vehicles in question emitted more NOx than permitted under regulations. Renault diesel emissions represented a significant blow to the company’s reputation, and the share prices of the carmaker plummeted. 

How air pollution levels changed after Volkswagen’s emissions scandal

The scandal is said to have released thousands of tons of NOx emissions per year. This is dire news as nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of smog, which can have serious health consequences on nature and human health. Exposure to smog can cause respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease, stroke, and premature death.

The scandal also had a lasting impact on the reputation of diesel as a cleaner fuel. Europe has been pushing for tighter pollution controls on diesel vehicles and moving towards electric cars. Governments in European countries such as the UK and France have proposed or enforced bans on selling new diesel and petrol cars beyond 2030 or even sooner. This shift is likely to dramatically impact pollution levels in cities across Europe and beyond.

In the aftermath of the scandal, many cities and countries began introducing diesel bans, which prohibited diesel-powered vehicles in certain areas. For example, Paris, Athens, and Madrid announced that they would ban diesel cars from their city centres by 2025. London introduced its Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in 2019, which charges diesel vehicles more than their petrol equivalents to travel into the city centre.

Research has highlighted that the Volkswagen emissions scandal has potentially led to hundreds of premature deaths in Europe. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, the increased levels of NOx emissions during Volkswagen’s fraudulent emissions tests can be linked to 2,600 premature deaths. The findings suggest that the scandal had a far-reaching impact beyond Volkswagen itself.

Dieselgate highlighted the need for stricter emissions testing and better enforcement of emissions regulations. The European Union introduced new regulations that require stricter emissions testing and penalties for non-compliance. It also led to increased scrutiny of other automakers’ emissions practices, with many other companies found to be cheating on emissions tests.

When should I make my diesel claim?

If you own an affected vehicle, you may be able to make a diesel claim and receive compensation. One way to know if your vehicle is affected is by checking to check if you’re eligible. Visit their website here – 

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