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US EPA, California ARB notify Fiat Chrysler of Clean Air Act violations

12 January 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) issued a notice of violation (NOV) to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and California law, respectively, for installing and failing to disclose engine management software in light-duty model year 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines sold in the United States. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the vehicles. The allegations cover roughly 104,000 vehicles, including 14,000 vehicles in California.

The undisclosed Auxiliary Emission Control Devices (AECD) found by the agencies include: (1) full EGR shut-off at highway speed, (2) reduced EGR with increasing vehicle speed, (3) EGR shut-off for EGR valve cleaning, (4) urea (DEF) dosing disablement during SCR adaptation, (5) EGR reduction due to modeled engine temperature, (6) SCR catalyst warm-up disablement, (7) alternative SCR dosing modes, (8) use of load governor to delay ammonia refill of SCR catalyst.

Some of these AECDs appear to cause the vehicle to perform differently when the vehicle is being tested for emission standards compliance (FTP, US06) than in normal operation and use, stated the EPA in the NOV. However, at this stage the agencies have not finally determined that any of the undisclosed strategies represent a “defeat device” as was the case with Volkswagen.

The presence of an AECD is not necessarily a regulatory violation. An AECD is an element of design (software, strategy, algorithm, hardware, etc.) which in some way alters the performance of the vehicle emission control system. An AECD may be allowed under conditions where running the full emission control system could damage the engine.

However, under US and California emission regulations, manufacturers are required to disclose all AECDs prior to vehicle emission certification. None of the AECDs in this case were disclosed—noted the California ARB—and many do not operate during certification testing, only when the car is taken off the required testing procedures in the laboratory.

In September 2015, the California ARB introduced additional emission tests in their In-Use Compliance Program, which include modified test procedures in the lab, and testing of emissions while the car is being driven on the road, in addition to the certification test cycles. This enhanced testing program—developed during the Volkswagen investigation—is now being used routinely by the ARB for vehicle certification and in-use compliance testing. The current FCA violations were discovered as a result of the enhanced testing procedures, said the ARB.

The next step in the NOV process will be for FCA to justify the use of the AECDs in the affected vehicles. If the company cannot do that, it may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief. The EPA and the ARB are also investigating whether the auxiliary emission control devices constitute illegal “defeat devices”.

Source: US EPA | California ARB