U.S. Supreme Court rejects Volkswagen appeals over emissions tampering
WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG_p.DE) bid to avoid lawsuits filed by officials in three states seeking damages stemming from the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal.
The justices refused to hear appeals by VW and German auto supplier Robert Bosch LLC of a lower court ruling allowing Florida’s Hillsborough County and Utah’s Salt Lake County to seek to hold the companies liable under local laws and regulations barring tampering with vehicle emissions controls. The court also rejected VW’s appeal of a similar ruling in a case brought by the state of Ohio.
A VW spokesperson noted that the court’s decision not to hear the appeals was not a “determination of the merits” of the company’s legal arguments.
“We are confident in the strength of our factual and legal defenses, including that the software updates reduced emissions, and will contest these claims vigorously as these cases proceed,” the spokesperson said.
Volkswagen subsidiary Volkswagen Group of America Inc has argued that under the Clean Air Act, the landmark U.S. environmental law, only the federal government can pursue such claims. VW noted that it already has reached a settlement of more than $20 billion with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The lawsuits accused VW of deceiving the EPA – and in doing so also violating the local laws.
“We’re pleased the Supreme Court recognized that federal environmental law does not give car manufacturers the right to defraud Ohioans,” a spokesperson for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said.
A spokesperson for lawyers representing the two counties added that the Supreme Court’s action “reaffirmed that local governments play a critical role in combating air pollution.”
President Joe Biden’s administration, asked by the court to weigh in on the dispute, had urged the justices not to hear the matter, saying the Clean Air Act allows for enforcement of state laws.
In one case, Volkswagen was seeking to overturn a 2020 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit decided that the Clean Air Act did not preempt local efforts to impose liability over vehicles that VW had tampered with after they were sold. The 9th Circuit, however, agreed with VW that it could not be held liable under the local anti-tampering laws for actions it took pre-sale.
The 9th Circuit said its decision could lead to “staggering liability for Volkswagen.”
Volkswagen was also seeking to overturn a June ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that reached a similar conclusion.
VW has said it could face huge damages in the cases and potentially others. Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) and Fiat Chrysler, part of Stellantis NV (STLA.MI), are facing similar claims.
Volkswagen announced in September that it agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle similar claims in New Hampshire and Montana.
In 2015, Volkswagen disclosed that it had used sophisticated software to evade nitrogen oxide emissions requirements in nearly 11 million vehicles worldwide. It also misled the EPA, which had started asking questions in 2014.
In addition to equipping vehicles with “defeat devices” before they were sold, VW also installed software updates after sale, which was the conduct at issue before the Supreme Court. At the time, VW did not reveal the true purpose of the updates, which were aimed at refining the software used to control the emissions.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Putting Vehicle Data at the Heart of R&D to Enhance Customer Experience
Monica McDonnell, Automotive Industry Consultant at Teradata
Vehicle data also provides important and valuable insights across the whole of the customer lifecycle. It is fundamental to diagnostics and servicing, but it can also illuminate driver and passenger behaviours that can inform future updates and upgrades to existing vehicles, as well as longer term research and development trends.
Improving customer experience over time
Today, thanks to digitalisation and the ability to update software, apps and functionality, people expect many of the products they buy to improve over time. Smartphones, computers and many other consumer electronic devices receive regular updates to fix bugs and add new capabilities. The modern connected vehicle can also be updated in the same way, and increasingly drivers and their passengers expect new functionality, performance tweaks and improved experiences as part of their ownership. This presents automotive businesses with challenges and opportunities. They can constantly evolve the customer experience, engaging and delighting customers by regular vehicle improvements. But they also need to focus their R&D spend on solving real problems and offering the capabilities that will have the broadest appeal to their customer base.
Learning from gaming
The world of massively multiplayer online gaming provides and unexpected but illuminating model. It shows how automotive companies can meet these challenges and unearth and capitalise on new customer experience opportunities. For example, a publisher of a popular online game tracks the gameplay of every participant in minute detail. From this granular detail it can understand the behaviour of individual players, which aspects of the game are most popular, where players prefer to congregate, what items and abilities they prefer to use.
Not only does this information help the publisher match players with similar skill levels to ensure all have enjoyable gameplay, but it can understand which areas of the game to develop further to keep players playing.
The same approach can be used with data from connected cars. Infotainment, comfort and driving style features can be scored by their level of interaction. Decisions can be made about those falling towards the bottom of the scale. Why are they not used? Is it because they don’t fit the needs of customers; are they not aware of them; or perhaps they don’t work as intended? Did they try them and find the experience less than satisfactory, or not sufficiently engaging to return? In future many of the apps available in connected cars may be 3rd party products, but the experience of using them still reflects on the brand. So, it is important to collect evidence to understand when and how apps or features are not living up to expectations. With this evidence OEMs and developers can gain insight to drive decisions on the future of their apps.
Improve, promote or remove
Using vehicle data, R&D teams can make informed decisions on where to invest. Should under-utilised features be improved, better promoted, or simply dropped? Matched with customer data, and 3rd party information ranging from time of day to weather, these insights can help make sense of the growing numbers of features that can be modified after purchase. All of this may need to be done on a per-market basis to reflect the differing behaviours of drivers in different market segments.
Some analytics companies are already working with automotive OEMS to analyse vehicle data to understand quality problems. If certain features have high volumes of fault reporting, or rapid increases in rate of reports, they can be alerted to quickly identify root causes and prioritise resources to find fixes. Similar principles can be applied to enable rapid responses to features delivered in part or completely by software.
Not just revenue
Delivering consistently high-quality customer experience is the thread that links R&D efforts into the whole customer lifecycle. The focus must be on constant improvement of features and providing experiences that add to the performance and customer enjoyment of the vehicle. In addition, analysis of the usage of value-added features can of course highlight new revenue opportunities. In an increasingly digital and connected world, consumers of all types expect service levels, features and functionality to improve over time. Using vehicle data to understand how customers experience your product and brand is essential to meeting these expectations. Sometimes offering a new service or benefit through an update can make all the difference to reengaging and rekindling brand affinity. Using data to ensure all aspects of the vehicle are performing as expected also has important implications for safety of vehicle occupants and other road users.
Simple changes to increase your EV battery range
Matthew Gibbons is the Managing Director of Plug&Drive, a UK manufacturer and installer of electric vehicle charge points.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are rising in popularity, but one factor that puts many drivers off is ‘range anxiety’. Each model of EV has a specific range that the manufacturer claims it can travel before needing a recharge, but even some of the largest ranges aren’t deemed enough for some.
The truth is, EV battery range really doesn’t limit drivers much more than the fuel tank size on a petrol/diesel vehicle, so it shouldn’t be a deciding factor when making the switch to electric.
If you own and drive an EV, you may have noticed that your battery range fluctuates. Every journey is different, and although you may be driving the same number of miles, you might find that a certain route at a certain time of year uses more charge than others.
When you’re driving short distances, this isn’t too much of a concern, especially if you have a charge point installed at home for easy recharging. For longer journeys, where you may be less familiar with the accessible charge points in the area, conserving your battery range can be crucial. The good news is that there are a variety of methods you can utilise to extend the range of your EV.
There are a variety of factors that can impact an EVs battery range, such as:
- High and low temperatures
- Battery condition
Luckily, there are also a variety of methods for increasing your range!
Reduce the weight of the vehicle
Petrol and diesel vehicles tend to guzzle more petrol when they are weighed down, and EVs are the same, just with battery charge instead of fuel. If you are buying an EV brand new and made to order, consider selecting a more lightweight material for certain components, such as the wheels and seats.
If you decide to modify your EV in any way, consider how much weight you are adding to the vehicle. The heavier the vehicle, the more pressure is put onto the battery when driving, lowering the range. You should also try to keep the footwells, back seats and boot clear of unnecessary items that could be adding weight.
Protect the EV in extreme temperatures
Both cold and hot weather can impact an EVs battery. Cold weather is instantaneous, slowing down the chemical reactions in the battery and decreasing range. Hot weather has a more long-term effect, slowly degrading the battery.
If you have a garage to park your EV in, it’s advisable to do so when temperatures are at big highs or lows. If this isn’t an option, consider investing in a car cover to protect your EV from frost, and park your vehicle in a shaded spot if the weather is particularly warm.
Consider when to heat and cool the vehicle
Both AC and internal heating systems are very heavy on the battery. Most EVs have a pre-heat and pre-cool function that can be turned on before you head off on your journey. If your vehicle is charged at home, utilising these functions whilst the EV is plugged into the mains means that your car can be warmed or cooled prior to setting off, using none of the battery charge in the process.
Once on the road, using systems such as heated seats or heated steering wheel can add some extra heat to the interior, whilst putting much less pressure on the battery than the internal heating system. You can also open the windows to cool down the interior, but please note that driving at high speeds with the windows down can impact the aerodynamics of the vehicle, which leads nicely onto the next tip.
Maintain the aerodynamics of the vehicle
Most manufacturers will design their vehicles to be aerodynamic. The problem arises when vehicle owners decide to modify the exterior of their vehicles in some way. Extra components or attachments can increase wind resistance, putting more pressure on the battery when driving, so avoid adding any additional features that could impact the aerodynamics of your EV. Be cautious of driving at high speeds with the windows down, as this also has a negative impact on wind resistance, and in turn, battery range.
Efficient driving is a simple way to increase your battery range. Harsh acceleration and braking put more pressure on the battery, reducing its range. Try to maintain a steady speed, gradually slowing and speeding up. Excessive idling can also reduce the range, so if you’re able to plan a route that avoids heavy traffic areas, this is advised too.
Driving in eco mode puts much less pressure on the battery, so this can also increase the range of your vehicle.
Check and fill your tires regularly
The manufacturer-recommended PSI is the optimum pressure for your tires and vehicle. Having underinflated tires can cause increased resistance and pressure, draining your battery life quicker. Consider purchasing an air compressor to keep in your vehicle, for quick and easy top-ups to your tires on the go.
Utilise regenerative braking
Lots of EV models have regenerative braking, a system that recharges the battery slowly whenever the brake is pressed. Built-up, traffic-heavy areas can often drain your battery quicker, but regenerative braking can help extend your charge in these situations instead. This method is simple but effective – you most likely won’t even notice that regenerative braking is enabled, but you may well notice the increased range!
Refrain from fully charging your EV
Of course, charging your EV to 100% will provide the highest amount of miles. This is handy for long journeys but can be detrimental in the long run. The final 20% of charging is often slower, heating the battery more in the process. This can degrade the battery over time. Do not be deterred from charging to 100% if you need the full charge for your journey, or cannot regularly recharge, but if you have easy access to a charge point, charging to only 80% each time is recommended.
Some of these methods may only conserve a small amount of battery life, but on a long journey, every mile counts! Implementing a few, or all of these tips should give you a more than notable difference in your battery range, whilst maintaining the battery for a longer life span.
Looking for a used motorcycle – where to start?
When searching for a used motorcycle in the off-season, riders face a dilemma – where do you start? Social media marketplaces? Classified ads? Local dealerships? While it’s possible to get a good deal in any of these places, they all have their own pros and cons.
A professional’s advice may be critically important
Dealerships usually have a wide selection of used motorcycles and may even offer a warranty for some models. However, used motorcycle businesses mainly focus on newer, more expensive models, which may not be ideal for those looking for a first motorcycle. With that said, beginners often value dealerships because they offer more transparency than private sellers and even share valuable professional advice.
“A dealership may be the perfect place to look for motorcycles for beginners because their employees know the pros and cons of bikes they sell. Businesses that care about their reputation will provide sincere help and support for buyers who aren’t entirely sure what they want to buy,” explains Matas Buzelis, the Head of Communications at carVertical.
An option for riders trying to save a penny
If a rider doesn’t know what kind of motorcycle they want, a used motorcycle lot may be the answer. They offer affordable prices, and buyers can take a look at various motorcycles in one place.
However, buying a ride in a lot carries some risks, as it can be hard to evaluate its condition. Scams in the used motorcycle market are common and taking precautions is necessary. Checking a motorcycle’s history online is a good way to learn about its past damages and mileage rollbacks, helping to avoid bad deals.
If a motorcycle has suffered severe damage in the past, it’s best to skip such a deal, as it can be unsafe to drive.
Facebook marketplace: the Wild West of internet shopping
One can find anything from second-hand books to cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles on Facebook Marketplace. However, it’s also where buyers are the most likely to get scammed. Facebook Marketplace is full of fake accounts, and there’s no control over listings, so it’s important to be extremely careful when buying anything.
If somebody is selling an expensive motorcycle at a low price, it should be a red flag. Scammers often ask to wire them a reservation fee or pay the total amount in advance, which is a huge no-no. Facebook Marketplace is also full of cyber criminals who may hack any device and leave naive buyers penniless.
It’s best to meet a seller in person, carefully check all of the motorcycle’s documents, and inspect its vehicle history report to mitigate risks.
Online classifieds offer the widest selection
Online classifieds have the widest selection of listings, as both private sellers and businesses post their ads. Since most online classifieds websites perform at least some kind of user identification, it’s a safer option than Facebook Marketplace.
It’s best to buy a used motorcycle from an owner who has had it for several years. Such an owner will know more or less everything about their motorcycle and its maintenance, making it easier to plan future expenses. However, some private sellers buy and resell motorcycles – these sellers may not be as sincere about their true condition.
“There are two things buyers need to look for: a good motorcycle and an honest seller. Buyers should look for a well-preserved model which is being sold by its actual owner. It’s better to avoid buying a motorcycle from someone seeking to make a profit, as they may hide defects, mileage rollbacks, and other things,” explains Buzelis.