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VW scandal may be just the tip of NOx iceberg

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VW scandal may be just the tip of NOx iceberg
Volkswagen said its emissions scandal could affect 11 million of its cars around the globe. Photo: Axel Schmidt/Scanpix
13:38 CEST+02:00
As Volkswagen admits that it manipulated the emissions tests of its cars in Europe, Danish experts warn that the amount of nitrogen dioxide being released on Danish roads could be far higher than thought.
The Volkswagen group’s emissions scandal discovered in the US earlier this week has now spread to the rest of Europe, including Denmark. 
 
US officials discovered that VW vehicles contain sophisticated software that covertly turns off pollution controls when the car is being driven. On Thursday, the company said that vehicles with 1.6- and 2-litre diesel engines sold in Europe have the same software.
 
As the VW scandal continues to unfold, the trade magazine Ingeniøren reported on Thursday that Danish roadways are filled with diesel vehicles that emit more hazardous NOx emissions than allowed. 
 
The magazine said that roadside samples have shown that VW’s scandal-hit models and vehicles from other car companies have for years been emitting more NOx than allowed without European authorities taking any action. 
 
“One can conform to European test standards without pulling the same number as VW,” Jesper Schramm, a professor of mechanical technology at the Technical University of Denmark, told Ingeniøren. 
 
He said that Europe’s lax testing standards and a lack of action from officials mean that more harmful emissions are constantly released into the air than is allowed. Studies have shown that levels of NOx have not fallen despite increasingly stringent rules on the maximum allowed emissions. 
 
According to Ingeniøren, diesel vehicles are the single biggest source of air pollution in Copenhagen, which has exceeded the EU’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels for years. 
 
A new test to better measure NOx levels on Europe’s roads was approved earlier this year but will not take effect until an undetermined time in 2016. Even when the new test is introduced, European countries haven’t agreed on how much the emissions levels can differ from those measured in controlled tests. 
 
A spokeswoman for the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Miljøstyrelsen) told Ingeniøren that tougher standards are long overdue. 
 
“We have problems with NOx emissions in Europe and problems with maintaining the maximum permissible values for nitrogen dioxide. Diesel vehicles are the primary source and something needs to happen as soon as possible,” Katja Asmussen told Ingenriøren. 
 
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