Volkswagen used software to illegally alter emissions, European General Counsel Athanasios Rantos said in a legal opinion on Thursday (September 23).
The lawyer analyzed three computer programs used by the German car giant. Following previous cases in the Austrian Supreme Court, he found that these devices could detect when the car would be put to the test.
The device would distort parameters such as outside temperatures to show fewer pollutants, especially NOx.
“A purification valve that recirculates NOx and therefore reduces emissions turned off the harmful gas, automatically shuts off below 15 degrees Celsius or above 1,000 meters,” said the lawyer in his legal opinion for the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) – the highest level legal body in the EU.
According to Volkswagen, the stop was a protective mechanism to protect the engine from breakdowns, but the lawyer did not accept his defense.
Since this thermal window was not representative of actual driving conditions (since the average temperature in Austria and Germany and many other countries is well below 15 degrees Celsius), Rantos concluded that “the software in question reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system “. and it constitutes, in fact, a deactivation device.
The lawyer claimed that the device does not in fact protect the engine, but serves primarily to protect the components of the car. Therefore, “the diesel particulate filter does not fall within the scope of the exception, since the operation of these elements does not affect the protection of the engine”.
“Also, given the relief [topography] from Austria and Germany, motor vehicles tend to circulate there above 1,000 meters of altitude ”, added Rantos.
His find is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for Volkswagen, which began in 2015 when the US Environmental Protection Agency detected the trap devices in some of its vehicles.
According to the German automaker, the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal has cost the company 31.3 billion euros. Earlier this year, Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn avoided criminal prosecution for alleged market manipulation as part of the automaker’s emissions scandal, but was ordered to pay a record sum of around € 11 million to your former employer in a separate lawsuit.
In the past, the auto company has said it expects to pay an additional 1.2 billion euros in 2021 for more deals.
The legal opinion of the general counsel is not binding, but the CJEU often follows it. The final ruling is expected to be issued later this year.