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VW Exec gets seven years

Oliver Schmidt, Volkswagen AG executive, was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined US$400,000 by a judge yesterday.

Oliver Schmidt earlier this year.

He was involved in a diesel emissions scandal that cost the car maker nearly thirty billion. 

Schmidt oversaw the company’s environmental and engineering office, until February 2015, where he oversaw emissions issues.

The sentence and fine for the executive were the maximum possible under a plea deal in August.

“It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States,” U.S. District Judge Sean Cox of Detroit told Schmidt in court.

“You saw this as your opportunity to shine … and climb the corporate ladder at VW.”

In March, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to three felony counts under a plea agreement to resolve U.S. charges that it installed secret software in vehicles to elude emissions tests.

U.S. prosecutors have charged eight current and former Volkswagen executives. Six of those remain at large.

The auto industry is still feeling the effects of Volkswagen’s diesel cheating.

Regulators around the world are currently investigating other carmakers for potential violations of diesel emissions rules.

On Wednesday, German prosecutors said they had begun an initial inquiry into BMW AG, as it is speculated that the automaker is selling a vehicle that emits up to seven times the allowed levels of smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

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South Korea to fine car makers on emission rules breach

South Korea’s Ministry of Environment plans to enforce a combined fine of NZ$90.2 million on units of automakers BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche citing violation of emission rules.

The BMW will be fine NZ$78 million for “falsifying” documents on emission test results and not obtaining approval for changes in emission-control components before their cars were sold, said the Ministry of Environment.

The Mercedes-Benz and Porsche units will be fined around NZ$10 million and NZ$2.2 million respectively for the same reasons.


The BMW unit said it is “faithfully cooperating” with the government on the investigation into certificate documentation errors, and will take necessary actions.

A few of the 200,000 cars that had been imported through customs between 2012-2017 had been declared for customs before approval was given or changes in components were reported, the Mercedez-Benz unit said.

Internal processes will be strengthened to stop such instances in future, it added.

A spokeswoman for the Porsche unit said the ministry’s measure will not have any effect on their business, as the emissions fine only involves component changes between 2010 and 2015, and all cars being sold now are properly certified.

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Independent auditor to investigate VW scandal

A German court has appointed an independent auditor to investigate Volkswagen’s emissions scandal due to pressure from investors seeking billions of dollars in damages.

The court said in a legally binding decision on Wednesday that an auditor must be appointed and the decision cannot be appealed by the carmaker.

Shortly after “Dieselgate” broke out in September 2015, VW hired U.S. law firm Jones Day and advisory firm Deloitte to investigate the circumstances of its wrongdoing and who was responsible.

Although VW promised to improve transparency, they did not publish the findings that were used as the basis for a $4.3 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

“This is an extremely good day for the VW shareholders who have lost a lot of money in the wake of the diesel scandal,” DSW Vice President Klaus Nieding said.

“At last, light will be shed on the darkness that has shielded VW for so long.”

The auditor will examine when VW’s top management board first learned of the test cheating and whether it disclosed the possible financial damage to investors promptly.

German securities law also compels firms to publish any sensitive news in a timely fashion.

However, VW has said it believes its management complied with obligations under German disclosure rules.

 

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One third of VW vehicles still affected

A third of the 1.2 million cars manufactured by Volkswagen with devices to cheat emissions tests remain unfixed, two years after the scandal erupted.

VW admitted back in September 2015 that they had been using software to cheat diesel emission tests in the United States and has since paid out compensation to U.S. motorists but has refused to do so in Europe.

The British parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee said that Volkswagen had slowed the pace of its work in recent months and called on the transport ministry to take action.

“It is over two years since the VW emissions scandal was discovered, a third of vehicles have yet to be fixed and rates have slowed considerably,” said committee Chairwoman Mary Creagh, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party.

“The campaign will remain open for the foreseeable future but the 100 percent point can never be reached for the following reasons: Some vehicles will have been scrapped, some written off, some exported and some owners decline or never respond,” a spokesman said.

 

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EU to tighten auto emission standards

The European Union has proposed tougher car emission targets for carmakers in order to boost low-emission car production, including a fine system for exceeding carbon dioxide limits.

The EU’s proposed on Wednesday a 30 per cent reduction carbon-dioxide emissions cars and vans by 2030 compared with 2021 levels. It also sets a provisional goal of a 15 per cent reduction by 2025 to help ensure automakers start investments early.

The EU’s eagerness for legislation to accelerate the development of electric vehicles stems from the need to stay ahead of the times and not fall behind the likes of China, Japan and the United States.

“The competition is here,” Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said, citing the use of Chinese electric cars by Brussels taxis firms. “The car was invented in Europe and I believe it should be reinvented here.”

If carmakers breach the new rules, they face impending fines in the millions, with penalties fixed at 95 euros for every gram of CO2 above the limit and for each new vehicle registered in that year.

Inspired by Californian climate policy, the draft bill would allow carmakers to offset their overall target if the share of zero and low-emission vehicles in their fleet surpasses a benchmark set by regulators.

Naturally the plan faces criticism from countries with large automotive industries. German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, warned on Tuesday that stricter emissions rules could cost growth and jobs.

“The current proposal is very aggressive when we consider the low and fragmented market penetration of alternatively-powered vehicles across Europe,” Erik Jonnaert, ACEA secretary general, said in a statement.

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Singapore to freeze number of private cars

Singapore has announced it will expand public transport and freeze the number of private cars from next year onward.
(more…)

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Road transport emissions increasing

Greenhouse gas emissions are increasing in New Zealand and road transport has one of the highest emission rates.

According to the latest national report from the Ministry of the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, while agriculture makes up nearly half of NZ gross emissions, road transport has had one of the largest increases in emissions, with a 78 per cent increase since 1990.

The report discusses the state of the atmosphere as well as projections for the country’s climate and the factors that influence our ultraviolet light levels, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased by 23 per cent since 1972.

According to secretary for the Environment, Vicky Robertson the most concerning change in New Zealand’s atmosphere is the unprecedented high levels of carbon dioxide, which are leading to increasing global temperatures and changes to our oceans, including rising sea levels and increasing ocean acidity.

“While New Zealand is not a large contributor of emissions globally, we are certainly affected locally and we need to act on what that means for us,” Ms Robertson said.

“The future impacts of climate change on our lives all depend on how fast global emissions are reduced and the extent to which our communities can adapt to change.

“Encouragingly, the report shows international efforts have been successful in phasing out the use of ozone-depleting substances. This has led to gradual recovery of the ozone hole.”

Meanwhile, global gross greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 51 per cent from 1990 to 2013 and gross greenhouse gas emissions have risen 24 per cent from 1990 to 2015.

New Zealand has experienced a 1°C temperature increase since 1909 and the country’s glaciers have decreased by a quarter of their volume since 1977.
Sea levels have risen 14–22cm at four main New Zealand ports since 1916
The global production of ozone-depleting substances has dropped 98 per cent from 1986 to 2015.

“We have enough data on measures like annual average temperature to confidently say New Zealand’s climate is warming. That is showing up, for example, in the significant loss of our glacier volume,” said government statistician Liz MacPherson.

“New Zealand has naturally variable weather, making trends in some areas difficult to determine. We need longer-term data to establish whether changes are persisting.”

“National and international data collections on the atmosphere and climate are increasingly comprehensive but there are still some things we don’t know at this time, in particular the full impact of climate change on our biodiversity, cultural values and the economy,” MacPherson said.

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NZTA emissions project seeks test vehicles

The NZTA has embarked on an emissions testing project with two Auckland consultancies, and has made a call for diesel vehicles to take part.

A 2012 report for the NZTA found that harmful emissions from vehicles cause 256 premature deaths (with social costs of $934 million) annually in New Zealand.

The research is a joint effort between Emission Impossible Ltd and AirQuality Ltd, and will be using a portable emissions measurement system (PEMS) to test real-world fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions from vehicles – a first in New Zealand for on-road emissions testing.

The project is an NZ Transport Agency research project which aims to improve our understanding of real world emissions and fuel consumption in New Zealand.

The project is looking for vehicles built to a range of emission standards, including light duty petrol and diesel vehicles and to heavy duty trucks.

A list of the vehicle types the project is looking to test.

Testing is scheduled to be undertaken in Auckland over October and November this year.

The project is one of several NZTA initiatives that seeks to reduce emissions in, others including subsidies for electric vehicles, the emissions trading scheme and the Heavy Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Programme, launched 2012.

Interest in the emissions testing project can be expressed via phone or email to Gerda Kuschel at Emission Impossible on 09 629 1435, or email at gerda@emissionimpossible.co.nz.

 

 

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Bloomberg release EV outlook

By 2040, 54 per cent of new car sales and 33 per cent of the global car fleet will be electric, according to a report released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance earlier this week.

The Electric Vehicle Outlook report is published by Bloomberg each year, and aims to analyse and predict global trends of EV adoption. The report is ambitious in its scope, providing a look at how economics, technology, policy, and consumer behaviour will impact EV adoption between now and 2040.

The report’s key findings revise predictions of EV uptake upwards on the previous year’s predictions. Bloomberg attribute this to battery costs falling faster than expected and rising commitments from automakers. While a mass EV uptake isn’t expected for some time, the report predicts it will come within the next 10-15 years.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

“…by 2029 most [EVs] will have reached parity with comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Real mass market adoption only starts after this point in most markets” the report says, though it also predicts that some EVs will become price competitive on an unsubsidised basis by 2025.

The US Federal Government currently offers financial incentives to encourage EV uptake while the New Zealand government is currently involved in projects to subsidise and encourage the embrace of EV technology. In September 2016, the Road User Charges exemption for light electric vehicles was extended until 31 December 2021, and the government has committed $1 million annually to a nationwide electric vehicle information and promotion campaign over the next five years. A $6 million per year Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund has also been established, awarding funding for 15 projects in 2017.

The Bloomberg report also predicts that battery electric vehicles (EV) will make up the majority of EV sales after 2030, mostly replacing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). This is currently the case in New Zealand, with EVs making up around 78% of total light EV and PHEV registrations.

Source: NZ Ministry of Transport

Fossil fuel demand will be displaced by a growing fleet of EVs if the above predictions prove accurate. With the predicted 33 per cent of cars on the road by 2040 being EVs, around 8 million barrels of transportation fuel could be displaced per day.

New Zealand’s small level of carbon emissions relative to the rest of the world makes it difficult for the country to make meaningful contributions to curbing global climate change. If the predictions of the Bloomberg report come to pass it would be a positive development for New Zealand, being largely at the whim of the rest of the world’s decisions related to fossil fuel use and emissions policy.

The EV market in New Zealand also stands to benefit from increased global uptake, as economies of scale bring prices down. The government has ambitious plans to reach 64,000 EVs on the road by 2021, with the total New Zealand EV fleet currently sitting at about 4,200 cars.

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Carmakers agree to diesel filter

German carmakers have agreed to install software in 5.3 million cars to make exhaust filtering systems more effective.

The software will bring down the vehicles’ emissions of nitrogen oxide by 25-30 percent.

A statement from German industry body Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) said the software updates would be free for motorists and would be just as effective in cutting nitrogen oxide levels as bans on diesel vehicles would be.

The targeted diesel cars will be mainly in the Euro-5 category for car emissions and some in the Euro-6 category.

Meanwhile, the manufacturers will also offer incentives for consumers to trade in diesel cars that are 10 years old or older.

BMW will give a discount of up to €2,000 ($NZ 3,229.83) to drivers who exchange a Euro-4 category BMW when they buy a new diesel BMW, electric BMW or Mini.

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Mazda’s future emissions reduction

Mazda Motor Corporation aims to reduce corporate average carbon dioxide emissions and achieve a 90 per cent reduction by 2050.

The manufacturer’s vision – ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ will look towards the year 2030 and as part of the vision, the manufacturer will introduce a next-generation engine called SKYACTIV-X in 2019. 

“The first generation SKYACTIV engine really made its mark in New Zealand due to both its power and environmental performance. The exciting changes planned for the next-generation SKYACTIV-X will further highlight the company’s commitment to the environment while still delivering the thrill of driving great cars,” says managing director of Mazda New Zealand, David Hodge.

Mazda will expand measures for carbon dioxide reduction from a “well-to-wheel” perspective, considering emissions over the vehicle’s entire life cycle. Its aim is to reduce corporate average “well-to-wheel” carbon dioxide emissions to 50 percent of 2010 levels by 2030.

This will be achieved by prioritising efficiency improvements and measures for cleaner emissions that apply in the real world. 

From 2019, the company will start introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution.

More advanced safety technologies will also be developed under the Mazda Proactive Safety philosophy, working towards the goal of eliminating traffic accidents.

Testing will begin in 2020 of autonomous driving technologies currently being developed in line with Mazda’s human-centered Mazda Co-Pilot Concept with the aim to make the system standard on all models by 2025.

 

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