Exhaust gas cleaning software increases nitrogen oxide emissions
Photo: lOvE lOvE / Getty Images
The Advocate General at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) classifies the so-called thermal window exhaust technology as illegal in the diesel proceedings against Volkswagen and Porsche.
The exhaust systems used by other car manufacturers also violate European laws, the Advocate General said in his closing argument on Thursday.
The VW group is now threatened with a legal setback in cases in which motorists demand the return of the purchase price of their vehicle equipped with the technology.
The judges at the European Court of Justice follow the line of argument of the Advocate General in most cases, but are not bound by it.
It is the first time that the ECJ has specifically dealt with thermal windows.
German courts had recently dismissed claims for damages against Daimler.
The manufacturer, who also used thermal window technology, could not prove any fraudulent deception.
The courts did not even find out where exactly the line between legal and illegal systems runs.
Exhaust gas cleaning only at certain outside temperatures
The Advocate General now sees clarity on this issue, which should strengthen the position of plaintiffs.
Three Austrian courts had submitted questions to the ECJ.
You have to decide on lawsuits from VW buyers whose diesel vehicles were equipped with thermal windows during a software update.
In cars with thermal window technology, the exhaust gas cleaning only works at certain outside temperatures, in the present cases only between 15 and 33 degrees and at an altitude of less than 1000 meters.
The Austrian courts wanted to know whether it played a role that this should protect the engine according to the manufacturers.
Software can override the emission control of cars.
However, it is not necessarily a question of clearly illegal disconnection devices as in the diesel scandal.
The fraudulent software used at the time ensured that the car recognized when it was being examined.
Then the emission control worked better than in normal driving - which is why compliance with pollutant limit values was only simulated.
Engines emit more nitrogen oxides
Thermal windows, on the other hand, are not specially designed for the test bench. The technology is used by numerous car manufacturers. Some of the exhaust gases are fed back into the engine and burned again. This mechanism works best within a certain temperature window: In particularly warm and especially cooler outside temperatures, fewer or no exhaust gases are recirculated. Diesel vehicles then emit more harmful nitrogen oxides. Critics accuse manufacturers of saving themselves more powerful exhaust gas cleaning technology in this way.
The manufacturers state that the thermal window is necessary to protect the motor.
Volkswagen explained that the exhaust gas recirculation in its EA288 engines will only be reduced at "absolute extreme values" below about minus 25 degrees and above 70 degrees Celsius.
The EA288 series is the successor to the EA189 engines that were particularly affected by the diesel scandal.
In December, the ECJ ruled that defeat devices are permitted if they are to protect the engine from "sudden and extraordinary damage".
But it is not enough if it is only about wear and tear or soiling of the engine.
It is illegal to use the technology to disguise the true emission values.
Diesel drivers also recently sued in German courts and demanded compensation from manufacturers for installing the thermal windows.
The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, the highest German civil court, has so far dismissed claims for damages, most recently in several lawsuits against Daimler.
The cars had not been recalled by the Federal Motor Transport Authority.
The BGH did not decide whether the technology is permissible.
It was about willful immoral damage that could justify a claim for damages.
Even if the thermal window is inadmissible, the car manufacturers concerned must have deliberately wanted to deceive so that their behavior could be assessed as immoral, argued the BGH.
At the time, the plaintiff's lawyer pointed out in vain that consumers could not prove a lot because they did not have a look inside the company.
He spoke of an "imbalance" between customers and car companies.
Daimler, for its part, stated after the hearing that the BGH's position was "a guiding principle for thousands of legal proceedings in Germany."
A thermal window is not comparable with the impermissible shutdown device used by Volkswagen.
fww / AFP / rtr