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“Useless” academic research helps uncover VW emissions scandal

Posté par Neil Athertonil y a 6 annéespas de commentaire

A couple of years ago the inventor and investor Elon Musk said that most academic papers are useless. He claimed that 90% of papers that have been published in academic journals are never cited and that as many as 50% are never read by anyone other than their authors and peer reviewers.

But it was an academic paper written by the West Virginia University (WVU) that lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to uncover that Volkswagen had implemented illegal software which allowed its diesel cars to run on a cleaner cycle during emissions testing.

It was a scam that wiped off 20% of VW’s market value and is expected to generate $18bn in fines, or the equivalent of more than a year’s net profit for the German company.

The research was intended for use in Europe, where The International Council on Clean Transportation paid WVU an initial $50,000 to test the emissions of diesel vehicles. The fraud became apparent when WVU’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions developed a test that allowed researchers to gauge exhaust emissions outside of the lab in real world conditions, thus circumventing VW’s illegal software deployed in the lab.

The results showed levels of nitrogen oxides to be 15 to 35 times what is allowed, while in the lab the VWs tested fine.

The researchers at first put the discrepancies down to variations in testing, but when VW approached them after a presentation at a conference something was amiss. The EPA did their own tests and VW were forced to admit their wrongdoing and apologize for “cheating”.

Of course, Elon Musk must be somewhat happy now that at least one academic paper has finally proved useful – his company, Tesla Motors, is an all-electric automaker whose stance against carbon emissions pollution is one of the company’s unique selling points.

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