New scandal spills over diesel pickups in the United States

The US Environment Agency estimates that nearly 550,000 diesel pickups do not meet environmental standards. At issue: the modifications made by the owners themselves.

Are we on the cusp of a new Dieselgate? A new case has just arisen across the Atlantic via the EPA, the US environmental protection agency. Noticed by The New York Times, the 23-page report on “Modified diesel pick-ups” is of immense magnitude.

An aftermarket cheat system

Unlike Volkswagen’s Dieselgate (extending to other FCA-like manufacturers), the case does not affect car manufacturers, but those modifying vehicles after sales. These are therefore individuals, small businesses or garages, coming to apply boxes and software. These are intended to improve performance, and sometimes to override emission controls. These systems are of course illegal.

EPA recalls that diesel pickups now emit 500 mg / mile of NOx (or 310 g / km), “About 50 times lower than the levels of the 1980s” while “The manufacturers have doubled the power and the torque”. However, these fraudulent systems would cancel these efforts, or even worsen them. The agency also says it focused only on Class 2 b and 3 pick-ups (weight 3,855 to 6,350 kg) during its 5-year investigation. Here, we are therefore talking about large utilities, called “Trucks” so literally trucks. In terms of models, we can evoke the Ford F-250 (photo), RAM 3500 or Chevrolet Silverado 3500.

Finally, the EPA adds that these systems affect all categories of vehicles, but to a lesser extent.

More than half a million vehicles affected

According to the EPA, around 557,500 diesel pickups have been modified in the country in the past 10 years. This estimate includes 352,109 vehicles confirmed via the data collected, plus 205,369 estimated undetected. This would represent “Approximately 15% of the national volume”.

Not all states are in the same boat. California and its demanding standards are said to limit fraud to 2.7% of the market, compared to 26% in North Dakota. By volume, Texas weighs the most with around 65,000 vehicles, followed by Florida (24,600) and Washington State (23,650).

Pickupgate 2020 United States Percentage by state

Fraud varies greatly from state to state, as this illustration shows (in percentage)

A catastrophic ecological balance

According to calculations made by the EPA, the consequences for the environment would be enormous. These modified vehicles would result in the release of 570,000 tonnes of NOx and 5,000 tonnes of additional fine particles over their lifetime. Concretely, this would amount to adding 9 million diesel pick-ups on the road, or the equivalent of two and a half years of sales on the American market.

NOx are gases that are very harmful to health. Nitric oxide (NO) is unstable but forms ozone (O3), which can be inhaled directly like nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These pollutants increase the risk of respiratory problems, especially in frail people, and cause premature death. Acid rain can also result, affecting nature as well.

Also mentioned in this report, fine particles (example: PM2.5) are even more harmful. They can enter the bloodstream, causing more cardiovascular problems, such as stroke or heart attack.


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