Mobility

Road Test

BMW accused of cheating on diesel emissions

Hopefully smoke without fire. Source: Fotolia, BMW [M]

Source: Fotolia, BMW [M]

Bad press about Germany’s car industry and emissions has become a chronic disease since VW’s Dieselgate scandal became public in 2015. BMW is the latest to fall victim to the illness. An environmental group, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, accused the luxury carmaker had manipulated the engine of its 320 diesel model, part of BMW’s best-selling 3 Series. The car spews out up to seven times more nitrogen oxide on the road than during lab tests, the group said. The toxic gas poses a health hazard and contributes to creating smog.

BMW initially said little about the accusations, which newspaper Tagesspiegel and broadcaster ZDF reported on Monday evening, but the carmaker refuted them later. “There are no activities or technical provisions to affect the test mode used to measure emissions – that means that our exhaust systems are active both on the test bed and in practice,” the Munich-based carmaker said.

Umwelthilfe tested the vehicle under different conditions, both in a laboratory as well as on the road, and by driving 10 percent faster than the usual European test standard. BMW complained that it did not make sense to compare random road test results to official lab measurements.

Cars commonly emit more nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide on the road than in laboratory tests. On the test bed, a car is typically made as light as possible and the radio and air conditioning, for instance, are switched off.

The test results clearly show that illegal emissions controls systems are part of the engine’s software.

Jürgen Resch
Managing director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe

During lab tests, the BMW 320d stayed below the EU limit, Umwelthilfe said, but it exceeded the EU limit of 80 milligrams of nitrogen oxide per kilometer during all test drives on the road. Following official test driving conditions as ordered by the EU, the car emitted 182 grams of nitrogen oxide per kilometer. When the speed increased 10 percent, emissions rose to 470 grams on average.

An inspection of the car by DS Motorsport, a specialist in tuning BMW motors, showed the engine’s software reduced emissions cleaning if the motor made more than 2,000 rotations per minute and shut it off completely from 3,500 rotations per minute, Umwelthilfe said. “The test results clearly show that illegal emissions controls systems are part of the engine’s software,” said Umwelthilfe’s managing director Jürgen Resch in a statement.

BMW should remove the manipulating software code from its engine’s management system, Mr. Resch said. Umwelthilfe would hand over its report to German authorities and demand a re-examination of the BMW 320d’s regulatory permit, he added.

Jens Tartler is an editor with Tagesspiegel, a sister publication of Handelsblatt. Gilbert Kreijger is an editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the authors: kreijger@handelsblatt.com