breathe easy?

VW exec haunted by claim on diesel's air-cleaning abilities

Thomas Steg, Ulrich Eichhorn und Matthias Müller
With a straight face indeed. Source: DPA

An interview has emerged in which VW’s current chief of development says diesel-powered cars actually clean the air.

Ulrich Eichhorn, in 2013 the managing director of the VDA, the German association of the auto industry, said “through the modern facilities for processing exhaust emissions, diesel technology no longer plays a role in environmental discussions, because the technology reduced particles and nitrogen dioxide to a level which is virtually “homeopathic.”

He was speaking in an interview for a newsletter published by the EUGT, a European a lobby organization funded by the auto industry. “You could practically say that a modern diesel cleans the air in many situations,” Mr. Ulrich told the newsletter, which has been seen by WirtschaftsWoche, a sister publication of Handelsblatt.

Mr. Ulrich had taken up his post in 2012 after having worked for Ford, Volkswagen and Bentley. Holder of a doctorate in mechanical engineering and a Harvard Business school alumnus, Mr. Ulrich became head of research at Volkswagen in 2000. In 2016, he took on the top role managing and coordinating research and development for Volkswagen.

Although diesel vehicles are believed to be the main source of nitrogen oxide, the emissions which contribute to smog, VW did not tone down the statement when contacted by journalists from WirtschaftsWoche. The company responded by saying that “basically, a modern diesel can purify the air in some cases.”

His comments come at an unfortunate time for Volkswagen after it emerged that the company used monkeys to test the effects of emissions.

These revelations also involve the EUGT, the European Research Association on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector, which ostensibly aimed to investigate the effects of emissions on humans and the environment but in fact sought to prove that diesel cars were no longer as harmful as their predecessors.

The research involved animals and humans, and the revelations have led to the suspension of two Volkswagen managers, and a flurry of denials by other carmakers and suppliers.

This article is by staff at WirtschaftsWoche, a sister publication to Handelsblatt. To contact the author: williams@handelsblatt.com

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