Tesla’s NOx Problem: Model X Delay Explained?

Model S - Picture courtesy Tesla

As the maker of tailpipe-free electric vehicles, Tesla is perhaps the last auto manufacturer you’d expect to struggle with an NOx emissions problem. Yet like any other auto manufacturer, Tesla operates factories which produce a variety of emissions including the NOx carcinogens at the center of the recent Volkswagen scandal. In fact, Dailykanban has discovered that Tesla has self-reported an NOx noncompliance at its Fremont, CA factory that may be contributing to delays in the production of the firm’s new Model X SUV.

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Despite Barra’s Denials, GM Diesel Test Results Indicate VW-Style Cheating

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We’ve suspected for some time that more automakers would be caught up in the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, and the first new perpetrator has apparently been identified: General Motors. GM CEO Mary Barra’s insists that VW-style software cheating on emissions tests “is not a condition that exists in our vehicles,”  but the German environmental group Umwelthilfe has sponsored tests that throw that claim into serious doubt [English press release in PDF format here].

In testing of the Opel Zafira 1.6 CDTi, performed at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, GM’s diesel engine passed NEDC cycle NOx tests performed on a two-wheel (single-axle) rolling road but emitted two to four times the Euro6 limit for NOx when the same test was performed on a four-wheel rolling road. This strongly indicates that a software “test mode” exists for this engine, although Opel insists that “The software developed by GM does not contain any features that can detect whether the vehicle is being subjected to an emissions test.” But, says International Transport Advisor Axel Friedrich,  “I have no normal, technically plausible explanation for the emission behavior of the Opel vehicle.”

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Tesla Battery Swap: CARB’s Bridge To Nowhere

Tesla and California’s Air Resources Board are standing by the controversial “fast refueling” credits that are directing as much as hundreds of millions of dollars to the California-based electric car maker for its little-used battery swap capability. At the same time, both Tesla and CARB admit that battery swap has not shown much promise and CARB staff tell Daily Kanban that they tried to completely eliminate the credits out of concern over Tesla’s “gaming” of the system only to be overruled by board members. The tension between Tesla and CARB’s defense of ZEV credits earned by Tesla’s battery swap capability and their apparent lack of optimism about the technology going forward confirms the fundamental concerns that surfaced in Daily Kanban’s initial investigation: battery swap credits seem to have done nothing to advance the cause of ZEV adoption, Tesla appears to have gamed the credit system for huge financial gain, regulators show little interest in ending Tesla’s obvious abuse and the public remains under-informed about the entire situation.

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Tesla And Its Customers Find It’s Not Easy Being Green

Tesla Motors and its customers are famously proud of their environmentally friendly image, but their anti-carbon and anti-oil sentiments are apparently not as absolute as their public statements and vanity license plates might suggest. In the course of investigating Tesla’s Harris Ranch, CA battery swap station, Daily Kanban found that Tesla’s solution to peak demand for grid-powered Superchargers that are also on-site does not involve stationary battery storage or customer battery-swapping at its only swap station. Instead, the company relies upon  backup Superchargers powered by diesel generators. Moreover, several Tesla customers were observed charging from the noisy, carbon-emitting backup generator even when the standard Supercharging station had numerous plugs available. This oddly un-green charging option, foisted on customers as a result of Tesla’s lack of desire to make its battery swap capabilities widely available, in turn raises unanswered questions about the environmental claims Tesla has made about its entire charging network.

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