Talking to car enthusiasts about the outrageous ‘dieselgate’ scandal which has taken over headlines the past four days, the general reaction I’ve gotten has been a mixture of apathy and anger. Not anger towards Volkswagen, but anger towards the EPA for seemingly making a huge deal over nothing.
If you didn’t know, the EPA stands for the Environmental Protection Agency and they do exactly what their name implies; develop fuel economy and emissions standards, amongst a load of other environmental incentives to protect the environment. Groups like the EPA and the California Air Resources Board are the reason behind the ever increasing push for better and better fuel economy. Recently, the Obama administration announced that by 2025, all manufactures must have an average of 54.5mpg across their model range.
Before you roll your eyes and close the tab to go watch another 2000hp GT-R launch, let me explain why all of this is actually awesome. Do you like your Porsche 918 Hybrid? Do you like your Tesla Model S P85D? How about the BMW i8? Thanks to the ever increasing push to reduce emissions, we now have some of the most epic machines ever built. Matt Farah once said that the first time he launched a Model S P85D it made him nauseous. We’re talking about a family sedan that’ll take a Bugatti Veyron off the line. If you don’t think that’s cool you don’t have a pulse.
If it weren’t for these environmental incentives, there’s a good chance we’d still be running around with 454 cubic inch V8s slower than any modern hypercar. These incentives have created pressure to push the boundaries. The BMW i8 uses a hyper-modern aluminum chassis, three cylinder turbo-charged engine powering the rear wheels, and electric motors powering the front. It’s light-weight, balanced, makes an excellent noise and gets well over 30mpg.
By cheating its way through emissions using a few lines of code, Volkswagen gave up on innovation. Rather than gathering it’s engineers together to create a high-tech diesel that produced little more than unicorn farts, it slapped together a ‘defeat device’ and called it a day. Who knows – we could have had a Volkswagen TDI with a full electric mode that got 70mpg and made gobs of torque at zero rpm. Really, all Volkswagen had to do was spray urea into its exhaust fumes like literally every modern diesel out there. That brings me to my final point – competition.
Competition is what makes the automotive industry great. We only have the Bugatti Veyron because a few gear-heads at VW wanted to dethrone the Mclaren F1’s top speed record. Sure, maybe utilizing urea spray would have made TDI’s more expensive and less fuel efficient, but every other diesel manufacturer has to abide by the same policies. It’s like playing a game of monopoly with your family only to find out that your younger brother has been sneaking $500 bills out of the bank – the whole thing falls apart and everyone loses.
Being green doesn’t mean we aren’t able to have awesome cars, to the contrary the use of electric motors means we’re living in what is arguably the most exciting period in automotive history. Like all manufactures, Volkswagen needs to get with the times because in 2015, there’s no reason we should tolerate rolling coal any longer.