Faculty Forum Online, Alumni Edition: Is Diesel Dead?

Faculty Forum Online, Alumni Edition: Is Diesel Dead?


Hi, I’m Judy Cole, the
executive vice president and CEO of the MIT Alumni Association. And I’m delighted to welcome
you to this web production of the MIT Alumni Association. Welcome this is the MIT Faculty
Forum Online Alumni Edition. I’m Wade Roush, outreach officer
for the MIT program in science, technology, and society
and fellow alumn, and I’ll be moderating
our panel today. To ask a question, there’s a
forum right below this screen, and you can type
your question in. It’ll be fed directly to
me, and I’ll get to as many of those questions as I can
later in the conversation. You can also tweet
about today’s event using the hashtag MITalumn. So let’s jump right to it. So we’re doing something a
little bit different today, and we’re going to engage
with a specific technology issue that’s been in the news
over the last month or two, namely the revelation that
Volkswagen installed software on almost half a million
vehicles sold in the United States, turbocharged direct
injection diesel cars, and on up to 11 million
vehicles around the world that deliberately was designed
to deceive emissions testers by turning
up the pollution controls on these diesel
engines during emissions tests, and then turn the controls back
down during regular driving. So to talk about
how this may affect car owners and the
automotive industry and the future of
diesel, we’re bringing in a couple of MIT alumns
who really understand the ins and outs of this technology. So joining us today
are Anup Bandivadekar who is the Director of
the Passenger Vehicle Program at the International
Council on Clean Transportation in San Francisco,
which, as you may know, was partially responsible for
bringing the whole Volkswagen scandal, the deception to light. Anup earned his
master’s and PhD degrees from MIT’S Engineering Systems
Division in 2004 and 2008 respectively. And also joining
us is Don McKenzie who is an assistant professor
in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
at the University of Washington. Don also earned his
master’s and PhD degrees from ESD a little bit after
Anup in 2009 and 2013. So gentlemen thank you so
much for joining us today. It’s going to be a
great discussion. Thank you. And it’s great to see you. So often during these
online discussions, we start off by having
people chat about their work and what they’re up to
at their institutions. But in this case, I’d
like to jump right in with an issue question, and
it’s a very basic question. It’s probably one a lot of
people have been asking. I think we thought that the
question of whether there is such a thing as clean
diesel was, sort of, settled, but this whole VW
scandal has reopened it. And I’d like to ask each
of you to talk about, like, what’s really going on here? What is the limitation
in diesel engines, or at least, sort
of, what did VW think was the limitation
in their engines that they felt they had to
compensate for in some way by installing these so-called
defeat devices, this software, sort of, trick to
mislead emissions testers by adjusting the
nitrogen oxide output? So what what’s
wrong with engines such that they felt
they had to do this? OK, so let me try
to talk about what might be the case in this case. It’s very difficult to
speculate exactly what was the motivation at
Volkswagen, and so I wouldn’t speculate about that. But we have seen
consistently the problem with modern diesel
technology as efficient and fun to drive as it is, that
it does have emissions problem, particularly with respect to the
particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. In most cases, the diesel
particle accelerator has been able to quote, unquote
solve the particulate matter problem, but the dealing
with NOx emissions is proving to be tricky. And in spite of two
or three generations of technology in
Europe in US now, we are still seeing issues
either with respect to urban applications
of light duty diesels or under different types
of driving conditions. And the kinds of
technologies that are available to deal with
these exhaust emissions actually do exist. They are the so-called
lean NOx traps and selective catalytic
reduction or the SCR technology. And those technologies
can actually be made to work quite
well across a wide range of operating conditions
and temperatures. In fact, in our testing
one of the vehicles, the BMW X5, actually
performed fairly well, that it could actually meet
low emission standards even in the real world across a fair
number of operating conditions. So what it tells us is
that while challenging, it’s not an
insurmountable problem. And so in this case
one could speculate that there might be something
to do with respect to gaining fuel efficiency benefit, trying
to cut corners on the cost. If you are using the SCR,
which requires the owners to refill urea into
the [INAUDIBLE] tank at periodic intervals. Just trying to
make sure that they don’t have to replace the urea
in between service intervals. One doesn’t really know
exactly which of these reasons, but those might be, kind of, the
causes where somebody somewhere thought that they
needed to cut corners. Right. Well, Don what do you think
about what kind of light does this cast on diesel
technology in general? Obviously, it’s bad
publicity for Volkswagen, but it’s also bad
publicity for diesel, which had been basically
getting cleaner over time. And, Don, you’ve done
a lot of your research on electrical vehicles,
right, and trying to get people to think more
about alternative energy schemes for transportation. And I imagine that you may not
be entirely dismayed, right, by this recent, sort of,
controversy around diesel. What’s your take on the
impact of the scandal? Well, I think for my
entire life diesel has been really a big player
in the US light duty market. I think it’s only recently
that people have– they’ve, kind of– memories
have faded with respect to the dirty, unreliable
diesel engines that we– that came on the
market back in the early 1980s. Volkswagen was probably
the biggest player in turning those
perceptions around with the diesel engines
that they were offering. As you noted at the outset,
fun to drive, enjoyable, nice. These were great. They weren’t noisy. They weren’t rattley. They were smelly. But I think what we’ve seen now
is that they weren’t really all that they were promising to be. Now, I don’t know that this– it’s a blow for diesel. I think, by far,
the bigger blow here is to Volkswagen. My
sense is that really this says a lot more about
Volkswagen than it does about diesel
technology in general. I think, as Anup
said, one of the– there are systems out there that
can make diesel clean enough to be sold in the US market. One of the challenges
here is that in the US we do have the strictest
tailpipe emissions standards in the
world when you are talking about things like NOx. And diesel engines are,
sort of, inherently problematic from
a NOx standpoint. Because of the high compression
ratios, the high temperatures that exist in these
engines, you just– you end up with a lot of NOx
coming out of the engine, and there’s not a lot
you can do about that. You can do some exhaust
gas recirculation to lower those in
cylinder temperatures and reduce the engine out NOx. But you really do need some
kind of after treatment system like a lean NOx trap or
selective catalytic reduction. What’s really puzzling to
me is clearly the hardware was on these vehicles, right. So if you’re talking
about cost savings, it’s not clear where
the cost was saved, because the basic hardware
to get these emissions down to acceptable levels was
installed on the vehicles. So it starts to
look like it must be some sort of in use
or operational benefit that the Volkswagen
engineers were trying to get for their vehicles. Now is that fuel efficiency? Possibly. You burn fuel to
regenerate a lean NOx trap, so that is going to hurt
your in use fuel economy. I would point out,
though, that’s not going to help them with meeting
EPA’s fuel econ– greenhouse gas standards or the DOTs
fuel economy standards, because those greenhouse
gas emissions and fuel economy are measured
on the same tests that are used to measure NOx. So if you turn emission controls
on and incur a fuel economy penalty, that’s going to appear
in your test cycle fuel economy numbers. It’s not going to
get you a benefit on your CAFE or corporate
average fuel economy standard. So it’s really puzzling what
the motivation was, and it’s really hard to understand that. Well, couldn’t there will also
be another explanation here, which was that by turning
down the controls– the emissions controls,
you also restore a certain level of performance. I mean, the cars are
just zippier, right, when the NOx trap
isn’t operating. So is it possible that the
only way that Volkswagen felt they could
deliver on the promises around making these
cars fun to drive was to make sure that the
emissions controls were off most of the time? Does that make any sense? As Don said, it’s a little hard
to speculate what caused this. If you read one of the
recent articles by Bob Lutz, he speculated that it was
just tremendous amount of time pressure to deliver a winning
diesel technology in the US market in a short
period of time, and maybe they were
just not ready. And, again, I’m speculating
in this case as well. So it appears a little
bit of a problem that could point in
engineering challenges, in terms of management
challenges, the company culture challenges. Perhaps a mixture
of all of them are harder to separate
them from a distance. Anup, so I wanted to ask
you since we have you here and you’re at ICCT
and you were part of the team that helped to
bring this all to light, can you actually tell us a
little bit of the history here. This all started when
you had some questions about whether European
cars were meeting– there were
discrepancies in tests that you were doing in Europe
and you wanted to, kind of, do a comparison here in the US. And you brought in that team
from West Virginia University. So can you talk about what–
how did these suspicions get planted at first? Sure. Yes, as you pointed out, this
story really started in Europe. That’s where more than
half of new vehicles sold are diesels, as compared with
just a couple of percentages in the US market, which mostly
are in pickup trucks and very few cars. But we have consistently
observed in European Emission Standards, whether these are the
past emission standards of euro four or euro five or the present
euro six emission standards, that the in-use emissions
performance of these vehicles hasn’t been quite good. All of them passed the
European test cycle. Under testing conditions,
they get type approved, but when you measure
them on the road, they are almost
always quite heavily polluting anywhere between
three to eight times the limit values and the standards. And our motivation
was, well, you’ve got the US standard that is
more stringent numerically, that has got higher durability
requirements, that has got supplemental
testing requirements. As a result of all of those
things, the cars in the US are going to be
cleaner, and we should be able to show to
our friends in Europe that diesels can
actually be clean. It’s just a matter
of making sure that we apply that technology
appropriately in order to get the emissions to be quite low. And that was the
motivation with which we began this investigation. And the goal was then to compare
the emissions performance, and then highlight the
differences in technology, if any. As in, is the amount of
catalyst used greater in the US? The volume of the
catalyst greater? What really are the differences
in the after treatment technology. Unfortunately, we never
got to that phase. Once we saw that the emissions
from the test vehicles were rather large, at
least on two of the three that we tested, I,
sort of, put on halt to that research process
there, and, sort of, something else was going on. Yeah, well, this is a
quick aside to that. You mentioned that the
BMW that you tested actually performed
within the promises, so could you focus there
very– just very quickly? Does BMW’s technology answer
the question you just laid out? It could very well
be, and, in fact, now if you see the
new BMW models that have been introduced in
the US market, many of them actually have a small LNT
in combination with NSCR. It seems to be the
unique strategy that is using a small LNT
in front of the CR unit and is actually achieving
very low real world emissions. Just this year in
[INAUDIBLE] symposium, Mercedes has introduced
their own technology that seems to point
that you could meet these low emissions under a
variety of different driving conditions. So we’ve got enough
evidence here to show that you could design
the systems to function appropriately. So, Don, I think you
did your PhD at MIT on emissions improvements in US
cars over the years from 1975 up to the early 2000s. You must have been also
looking and, kind of, comparing the data
between the US and Europe. And I was– I’m wondering
whether you or anyone else ever looked at the claims,
sort of, miles performance numbers for diesel’s
sold in the US and asked yourselves how is it? What’s going on here? How is it that the
BMWs are getting 40 or 50 miles per gallon
in the United States. So I know other–
some of my colleagues spent more time looking at
comparisons between the US and Europe. I was very focused on
the US and that largely means looking at
gasoline engines, because that’s what
the technology that we have generally used in the US
over that whole time period. What we did see was that the– in that work we did, kind of,
estimate how much of a benefit are you getting from
diesels in the real world. Then it is on the order
of a 25% reduction in fuel consumption per mile. That’s what we observed
based on tests. And when we normalize for
differences in acceleration performance, for differences in
vehicle weight, and so forth, we see about a 25% reduction
in fuel consumption per mile, which is in line with what we
would expect based on, sort of, the inherent benefits– the
inherent in the benefits of the diesel cycle. So it never struck
us as the, kind of, benefits we were seeing
were particularly out of line or unexpected from
a fuel consumption standpoint. And I do want to say that
25% benefit is sizable, and that can be part
of a balanced strategy that these companies–
that many companies may wish to deploy in working
towards the 2025 greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards that
the federal government has laid out. Those require about a 4%
per year annual improvement each year through 2025. That adds up to a fairly
substantial change over time. So any technology that
can help get you there is definitely valuable. I would say that
there’s potentially another source of pressure
on VW being joined with companies like Porsche. One of the changes we’ve
seen in fuel economy standards in the US is a move
to size-based fuel economy standards meaning that
companies with smaller cars now have to meet a higher
fuel economy standard. Additionally, the imposition
of the greenhouse gas standards from EPA doesn’t really
allow for companies to buy their way out. So under the CAFE
fuel economy program, companies have the option of
essentially buying their way out of complying
with the standards, and that’s a strategy that
many European companies took over the years. Under the EPA greenhouse
gas standards, that’s not an option. You basically have to
meet that standard, and that may be an
additional source of pressure on companies like VW to meet
the standards in any way that they can. I want to ask both of you to
maybe step outside your roles as engineers and
scientists for a second and speculate about
what the long term effects of this
particular scandal might be on diesel technology. So I mean clearly there’s going
to be an extended transition period. We’d like to get away from
internal combustion altogether. We’d like to get away
from fossil fuels, but that’s not going
to happen overnight. Diesel may have an important
role as a trans– sort of, transition technology. But the VW episode and,
particularly, sort of, the political backlash
it may provoke and the problems it
may create for VW could bring a premature end
to the technology, right. And there are people saying
that maybe this could be– this could turn into the excuse
for an outright ban on diesel in passenger cars in
the United States. And I want to get your
sense of how likely that is, and if that were
to happen, would it be premature death
for diesel or would it be an appropriate death. So I think we can
pretty much clearly say that the rumors of the
death of diesel technology are highly exaggerated. Diesels are not going away. This whole episode and a variety
of technological developments do raise questions
about liability of the diesel pathway. And let me, sort
of, expand on that. As Don mentioned, diesels
have traditionally been quite an attractive
technology for some car manufacturers, because they are
offered this efficiency benefit as well as, sort of,
this fund to drive low and torque from the diesel car. What’s happening is that
the benefits and advantages of the diesel are getting
eroded on both sides. So on the lower end, you
have gasoline technology that keeps on improving. In particular, the turbocharged
gasoline direct injection engines are becoming
more and more popular. They are employing much
of the similar tactics that diesel technology implores. So using turbochargers,
using the direct injections, using EGR, all of these things
incorporated in the gasoline engine without any of the
after treatment hassles of the diesel. On the higher end,
hybrids are as efficient and in many cases more
efficient than diesels, and they are bringing
down the cost of hybrids making that technology ever
more competitive for mainstream customers. As a result, you can see
diesel sort of getting squeezed as more and more
demands are put on it, and, particularly, if
you look at the US tier three emissions standards that
will go into effect from 2017 onwards, it’s just going
to be a lot more pressure on that technology to perform. But that doesn’t mean the
technology will go away. In particularly, markets
like Europe and India and Indonesia where
diesels are already a sizable portion of
the vehicle fleet, it’ll be very hard to displace
that technology outright. But certainly in markets
where diesels haven’t been a big market
share so far, one could, sort of, question
the attractiveness of bringing in this technology
at this time and after, especially this kind. Don, what do you think? Does this– does this
shorten or extend or have any effect at all on the,
sort of, the lifetime for diesel in the US? Well, I think Anup, kind of,
hit the nail on the head, right. There are a lot
of other pressures that are, kind of, squeezing
on a diesel technology right now that are making it
less competitive, sort of. The improvements in conventional
gasoline technologies, the development hybrid
and electric technologies, and then this ever tightening
air quality standards that are going to just make
it that much harder for diesel to be competitive. That said, the
technology does still shine in certain applications. It’s very efficient,
inherently efficient at part load conditions. So if you’re someone who drives
long distances on the highway, it can still offer
a sizable benefit. So I would agree that rumors
of the death of diesel are greatly
exaggerated, and it’s likely to continue to
play a role in the US. That role, as I said before. Has always been pretty small. And I don’t see that really
changing in the future. OK, great. Well, all appropriate
apologies and credits to Mark Twain there for that
greatly exaggerated. I love that. So I’m going to go to questions
from our audience now. And if you’re listening
today via the webpage, there is a form underneath
this video window, and you can use that to
send us more questions. But I’d like to relay
a question from Shane in Fairfax, Virginia,
and it relates to a question I had as well. The New York Times reported this
week that regulators in Europe aren’t all that– aren’t necessarily–
basically, there was a story that said that there
may be a loophole in emissions regulations in Europe by
which this kind of deception would not have been
illegal, right. So the big question is are
European auto regulators up to the task of regulating
one of their own companies, and what can we expect in
terms of the regulatory, sort of, reaction in Europe? Can we look to– will there be more cooperation
between the EPA and European regulators, and can we
expect an overall tightening as a result of these
recent revelations? Certainly. I should clarify
that Europe does have a provision
that would render what was going on illegal. The defeat devices as a
strategy is prohibited in the European context. But this whole
episode did highlight a couple of problems with
the European operation, in particularly, the problem
of compliance and enforcement. And so while some people
would claim, well, the problem got unnoticed in the
US for also five years or more, the fact is when problem with
high emissions from one or two vehicles was noticed by
the US regulatory agencies CARB and EPA, they
acted quite swiftly and pursued the
matter very vigorously until they forced Volkswagen
to admit to the cheating. In Europe, the problem with
high in-use NOx emissions has been well known for
nearly five years now, and the enforcement mechanism
there is relatively quite weak. The cars certified for sale
in one country in Europe can be sold across the
European Union market. And any enforcement
action typically goes back to the country
that has certified the car in the first place. These authority– so there is
no pan-european type approval or emissions control reporting. And those sorts
of weaknesses that are institutional in nature
have been highlighted by this scandal in particular. The other part is that– and now the European
Parliament has actually called on the
European Commission to take a bigger
role in ensuring that more in-use emission
tests are conducted, which is again something that
European authorities have not been doing until this point. And so there are
some positive signs that there will be changes
to how in-use emissions are tested, how the testing
protocol is tightened, and perhaps at a later date
institutional changes that really drive compliance
and enforcement to the top in the European
Emissions Control. So to stick with this question
of the role of regulators for a second, Don, you gave a
paper recently under the title Do automotive fuel
economy standards increase rates of technology change? And so I wanted to ask you
whether you think tougher fuel economy standards really– what would– really do forced
technological improvements, or whether automakers
wind up meeting those standards by
sacrificing in other areas like performance. And if so, what can EPA
and European regulators do to really ensure automakers
meet both economy standards and emission standards? Right, so in that paper, I mean,
the bottom line answer was I wouldn’t say no that they– that
we could convincingly say they don’t, but we– nor did we find
convincing evidence that the standards
themselves were responsible for accelerating
technology change in cars. And in part, that’s because
the periods historically where we’ve had our standards
being tightened most quickly have also been periods when
fuel prices have been high. So it it’s very
difficult to disentangle those effects of fuel
price versus regulations. What we do know is that,
as I mentioned before, VW and other European
manufacturers have been to pay fines
rather than actually meet the standards. So when you treat that standard
as not binding and you regard, you basically feel
that you have an option to buy out of compliance as
these European firms have done, that is going to reduce the
incentive for those standards– it’s basically reducing
the incentive effect that those standards have
on technology advancement. That said, I think there’s– I just want to
underscore that there’s a big difference between
saying that fuel economy standards don’t make
technology change more quickly or may not make
technology change more quickly, that’s not
the same as saying that they don’t change fuel economy. It was really that if– and there’s definitely
a large body of evidence saying that
fuel economy standards do change fuel economy. But as you alluded
to, a lot of that can come through, kind of,
rebalancing different design priorities, particularly
acceleration performance, and putting a greater
emphasis on reducing fuel consumption as opposed
to some of these other design goals. I, sort of, want to
add a little bit there. I think there are two important
things to keep in mind. One is what we’ve seen actually
in the last four or five years is the rates of
technology penetrations have accelerated sharply
since the US adopted long term greenhouse gas fuel
efficiency standards. So, sort of, the adoption
of 6, 7 speed transmissions in the marketplace of
these so-called GDI turbocharged
gasoline engines have occurred at rates that are
quite unprecedented in the past. But the second part also
is that manufacturers are making very innovative
designs that, sort of, don’t force these trade-offs. And the example is
really this new Ford f-150 with massive
weight reduction and use of aluminum in the body. And if you look at
how Ford has been able to sell the technology
is really not just on the basis of fuel
consumption improvements, which are substantial, but on the
basis of ability of that pickup truck to tow a lot more and
have better performance, because of this lighter body. And so there would
be ways to, sort of, balance out these
priorities, but certainly one does expect most of it to come
through technological change. So I want– I want
to just actually– I’ll admit that I’ve not looked
at sort of how large the system level impact has been over
the last five or so years, but when we use that term like
unprecedented to describe rates technology change today, I would
point out between 1975 and 1990 the average new car in the US
improved at about 5% a year. That’s not the fuel economy. That’s essentially how much
technology they put it. If you had kept other
vehicle attributes constant, you could’ve seen about a 5% a
year fuel economy improvements. So historically we’ve seen some
very rapid rates of improvement as well. Post-1990 those rates for
improvement were much slower, and so as we look
to the future, we see that rates of technology
improvement through 2025 are faster than we saw, sort
of, over the past 20 years, but by no means unprecedented
from an historical standpoint. Well, so, OK, to stick with
this question about technology improvements, we have a question
coming in from Kevin in Boulder who is asking about
the considerations around the SCR,
the urea bath that is becoming a common
emissions control technique in diesel engines. So could one or
both of you speak to the economics and, sort
of, the supply considerations around that? Are we moving toward a world
where all diesel engines will have that particular
technology in them, or are their equally
economical ways to handle NOx emissions
without having a urea bath? So some sort of after
treatment technology is going to be needed
on modern diesels to meet emission standards. There is– we don’t
see a pathway that doesn’t take either a
lean NOx trap or an SCR. Mazda has tried to pursue a
technological pathway that would allow them to reduce
emissions dramatically using EGR on the light duty diesels. What’s EGR? It’s the exhaust
gas re-circulation. However, they have
had difficulties in meeting US
emission requirements and have not been able to
introduce that in the US market so far. Traditionally, when we’ve
looked at the cost of these LNT and SCR technologies,
what we’ve found is that the economic scale such
that for smaller engines, about 1.5 liter and lower, LNTs
had been traditionally more cost effective. As the engines become
bigger, 2 liters and above, the SCR has been the
preferred technology. Now what’s happened in the
aftermath of this Volkswagen case, and as
Volkswagen has said, is that they are essentially
dumping LNT as a technology and have decided to go SCR all
throughout their fleet, even smaller diesels. And that would have cost
implication for their smaller vehicles where they
were pursuing the lowest cost pathway. But that might not be sufficient
for them to meet the real world emissions requirements. And so it’s appears that
SCR as the technology will be much more
widespread than it is now. So does SCR add to the cost per
gallon for operating your car or does it add to the
purchase cost of the car, and what’s the behavior so far? Do people actually get
on board with this idea of having to add blue liquid
to their engine every so often? So it certainly does
add cost to begin with. Now you get a little
bit of benefit, because the way the SCR works is
that you can actually then tune the engine to be more efficient. And so you save some
money on the diesel but you have to put in
money to purchase urea. And so a few percentage
point benefits that you gain by going
down the SCR pathway, you give back some of that
in having to use urea. But on the neck, you
still come out a bit ahead in that game, although
not necessarily once you incorporate
the cost upfront of the after-treatment
technology itself. Now, this is the technology
that is common on all heavy duty diesels, whether in the US or
in Europe or anywhere else. The SCR is the
preferred pathway. And, in fact, we would
remember– at least some of us might remember a story
in the US from a few years ago with Navistar, which was the
only manufacturer that decided not to use SCR on their
heavy duty diesel engines to meet the US 22 and
emission standards. Unfortunately, they
were not able to make any other technology pathway
work, and a couple of years ago really had a
crisis of existence and were forced to buy SCR
technology from Cummins at a later stage. And so it does
appear increasingly that there are less and
less pathways other than SCR in order to meet NOx emissions. And I would point out,
I think, this story is, kind of, illustrative of
a broader challenge we face, which is as we look at
future vehicle technologies, it can be very hard
when you’re starting out to predict what’s going
to be the most successful, the most cost effective, the
best performing technology, and this speaks to the benefits
of having some diversification in the technologies
that you’re pursuing. That would be true if you
are a manufacturer pursuing after-treatment technologies. It can also be
true in the broader context of an alternative
fuel strategy. And so I think this does a
nice job of illustrating that. So I’m going to pivot
to a question that gets at the larger perspective
here and brings it back to what kinds of decisions that
car owners have to make. So Reynald in Portola
Valley, California asks– well, he says, even
with the emissions controls quote not
working properly, I’m getting 44 MPG on my VW TDI. Isn’t that a lot better
than the 19 miles per gallon that I get on my
10-year-old minivan, right. So if you’ve got two cars
sitting in your driveway, you’re still going to
drive the diesel, right. Let’s keep this in perspective. Certainly, [INAUDIBLE]. Also we shouldn’t set up
very false comparisons. I mean, if you’ve
got two kids and you want to take the minivan
out, you’re going to do that. And by all means, consumers
should make whatever choices they need to make. But one shouldn’t make,
sort of, false comparisons of 19 MPG of a minivan with a
sedan that is, sort of, quite attractive to drive and
cost quite a bit different and has a lot of features. I think none of this is really
meant to say or cast shadows on what kind of technology
manufacturers should make or what kind of technologies
consumers should choose. But it is quite
important to note, what are the implications
of not playing by the rules? And in this particular case,
I would highlight this study that MIT Professor Steve
Barrett has released recently in ERL, what has been the
real cost of not following these emission
control standards? And his estimate
just give or take is about 60 additional
deaths in the US context. Now, we haven’t done
the numbers for Europe, but given that
the number of cars that were spewing a lot higher
emissions is about 20 times, one could, sort of,
speculate that it’s going to be at least hundreds
of unnecessary premature deaths as a result of this. So we should be mindful about
the public health implications of what is being discussed
here that it is really not to make manufacturers comply
with a standard just because, but there are real public
health benefits at stake here. Absolutely. So maybe a closing question. Do either of you think
that this is the last we’re going to hear about this issue? Is it just– or is it just
the tip of the iceberg? Is this, sort of,
like the beginning of the Snowden revelations,
right, about NSA? Are there more car
companies out there who might be discovered to have
been cheating in some way? Would you be surprised
if that happened? So, Wade, if I knew the
answer to that question, I would know whether to
hold or sell my VW stock. I would love to
know if there was– if there were more
allegations that were going to emerge
and more bad behavior, whether from Volkswagen or
the rest of the industry. But I think it is interesting. My, sort of, react– my, sort
of, final reaction to that the other victims here are
the other other, all right. So Anup pointed out, right,
consumers are losing, VW customers are losing,
the general public is losing, right. This is causing debts in
the real world, right. And those are– that’s
really unfortunate. The other losers here are the
rest of the auto industry, because fundamentally much
of our regulatory system is based on trust, right. EPA only tests a small minority
of vehicles that they approve. They really rely on firms to
be honest in self-monitoring and reporting. This is true not just in the
auto industry, by the way. And when you have that
system based on trust, it runs a lot more smoothly. The government, and
that means all of us, can spend less money on
monitoring and enforcement. And the firms
themselves are, sort of, treated like responsible adults
and don’t have people, sort of, hovering over their shoulder. Now this scandal really
undermines that trust, and I think that’s bad
for Volkswagen, certainly, but it’s also bad for
the public and it’s bad for the rest of
the auto industry. Anup, does this give
you more visibility, and, perhaps, more leverage? Are you going to go out and
see how widespread these kinds of issues might be? Are you testing even more
vehicles as we speak? So while we are going to do
some limited testing ourselves in different markets,
what’s really happened is that governments around the
world have been stepping up. So in fact, if you saw– now the
German transport ministry, KVA, is actually now testing 23
different brands and 50 or more different make or models. France is undertaking
a testing program where they’re actually testing
hundred cars themselves. India has actually issued a
show called [INAUDIBLE] because of this part, Korea, Brazil. And so there has already
been a ripple effect as a result of this. And so from our point of
what’s really important is to focus on what are
going to be the key policy implications as opposed to try
and find cheating going on. What we would like to see is
not just cheating prevented, but really behavior that
nudges the manufacturers to meeting emission standards or
efficiency standards on a test cycle only, while not
performing as well a real road. And the test for all of
us and the regulators is going to be to
try to see this. So I don’t think we’ve heard
the last of this issue, at least in general terms. There is a lot more to happen
both on emission controls and real world fuel efficiency
in the coming years. Absolutely. It turns out the level of
scrutiny on the regulators, as well as on the manufacturers. Well, gentlemen, thanks. I think we’re going to
have to leave it there. So this has been fantastic. We did not get to all the
questions that folks submitted, but we will pass those
questions on to you guys afterward and see if you
can deal with them offline. So on behalf of the
MIT Alumni Association and the MIT Program of Science,
Technology, and Society, this is Wade Roush,
and I want to thank you for tuning in today to
this faculty forum online alumni edition. A special thanks
to our MIT alumni panelists from the
International Council on Clean Transportation and
the University of Washington. You can send feedback
about today’s event to alumni learn at MIT.edu, and
keep an eye on the MIT Alumni Association website for news
about upcoming faculty forum online events. Thanks again for
watching, and thanks, gentlemen, for joining us today. This has been terrific. Thank you. Thank you. All right. Bye guys. Thanks again for joining us. For more information on
future MIT Alumni Association productions, please
visit our website.

One thought on “Faculty Forum Online, Alumni Edition: Is Diesel Dead?

  1. This is the largest engineering "retail" scam of the last century, no? But you know, Toyota in the 40's already had electric cars, if we made all cars electric we would not have to put up with the oil industry and the Middle East mess.

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