Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Road Haulage Truck Recall Likely as More Emissions Problems Discovered

Faulty Component Problem Spreads to More Manufacturers
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – With the €800 million fine levied on Audi by German authorities this week the total costs for the Volkswagen group have now apparently topped €27 billion in the aftermath of the emissions scandal. Now another vehicle manufacturer, Volvo, has stated that some of its own diesel engines have a different emissions problem, a faulty component which has already cost one engine maker dear, and this one may have very serious effects for the car and commercial vehicle producer as it is believed to have implications for many road haulage trucks, particularly in Europe and the US.

It seems, unlike the VW situation, this is in no way a deliberate act to defeat emissions testers, but a component failure which sees a slow degradation in its performance over time. This means that, although a vehicle has perfectly acceptable emissions control when new, after a while the efficacy of the process tails off.

Investigation of the problem by Volvo is apparently in the early stages but the manufacturer says early results indicate that the degradation does not seem to affect all vehicles and engines in the same way and to the same extent. The company is now in the process of informing the appropriate authorities in various markets, and beginning discussions regarding remediation plans.

The degradation of the component does not pose a product safety issue, nor does it negatively affect vehicle or engine performance in areas other than emissions control. Until a full analysis of the issue and plans with regulatory authorities are finalised Volvo says it will not be able to estimate the volume of engines or vehicles that may need to be addressed. Consequently it is not possible to assess the financial impact on the group at this stage. The company however has stated that ‘the cost to redeem the issue could be material’.

The problem came to light only last week after engineers at Volvo Trucks North America addressed suspicions that something was awry. What is known that the affected component, part of the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, is fitted to virtually all Class 8 truck engines in the US in line with the emissions standards in place since 2010, as well as many lorries sold elsewhere.

An SCR works by injecting a liquid reducing agent, normally urea based, through a special catalyst into the exhaust stream of a diesel engine. The ammonia in the fluid converts nitrogen oxides (NOx) into nitrogen, water and CO2. An efficient conversion can see as much as 90% of the NOx removed from the exhaust gases.

This may be something which affects more truck and diesel car manufacturers, as diesel engine specialist Cummins issued a voluntary recall a couple of months ago for around half a million 2010-2015 model medium and heavy duty trucks after discussions with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA, together with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) conduct regular checks on many types of vehicles and, with the useful life of a heavy truck being 10 years or 435,000 miles, both agencies became concerned about a tail off in effectiveness and advised the manufacturer of their findings, prompting the voluntary recall.

Cummins has apparently set aside a contingency fund of some $200 million to manage the problem but Volvo, although stating that as yet they have no idea of the scale of the situation, might possibly see that figure pale by comparison as investigations continue.

Photo: Two technicians check a truck’s emissions at one of the European Union’s own testing facilities.