Saturday, 23 April 2016
Sympathy for the Devil
A few years ago, the British Green Party was advocating diesel cars over petrol, diesel fuel was cheaper and petrol contained a lead additive to prevent pinking. It has all swung into reverse now and there has never been more reason for London cycle couriers to wear filter masks, though most of them don't.
The last two Volvos I have bought were designed for the American market - beginning with California, the sunny state which is renowned for fresh air and oranges, and the first to outlaw smoking in public, even in parks.
My current old Volvo has a special air-pump fitted to it, ostensibly to cut down on toxic emissions. Because California told Volvo that they would not allow the sale of any cars which did not fulfil these almost impossibly stringent emissions requirements, Volvo panicked and stuffed this little air-pump in the only place available under the bonnet, which is right down at almost street level, in a little area where there is some chassis exposed to which it can be bolted.
This air-pump 'works' by sucking out a percentage of the exhaust and blowing it back into the fuel/air intake system in an attempt to burn it twice, theoretically 'cleaning' the exhaust.
Burning exhaust fumes with fresh petrol? Isn't that going to decrease the efficiency of the engine and ultimately lead to loss of power and - hence - lowered mpg? Yes, it is.
The thing about these air-pumps (fitted to only ONE model of Volvo - the one they wanted to sell to the U.S. at the time) is that, despite many attempts to keep water out of the electrics, they all fill up with the stuff which is thrown at it by the left front wheel whenever it goes through a puddle. It rains a lot in Britain. California is renowned for its lovely weather.
When this unit breaks down - as it always will in wet Britain - a little emissions warning light appears on the dashboard. The car will not pass its MOT test until the little light is out, and the light will not go out until a new air-pump is fitted, and you cannot bypass the system by removing the air pump without installing a complete, new, computer-controlled, engine management system for about £2000. The new air-pumps cost £700 each, before fitting.
I have bought two of these air-pumps, one from Istanbul which turned out to be very slightly the wrong shape to be fitted into position. I still have it, and the Turkish garage could not believe their luck in finally managing to sell it.
The one which did fit was covered in non bio-degradable plastic to prevent the ingress of water, but it filled up within 2 days of fitting, blowing the electrics and destroying itself. The little light came on on the dashboard again.
Since then, the car has passed its MOT test twice, despite having a non-functioning air-pump. How? My mechanic takes a diagnostic laptop with him to the station and disables the light for just long enough to pass the test legally. The exhaust from the pipe is still tested, of course, and always falls within U.K. limits, and so passes every time.
Now you have some idea why all those car companies fiddled the emissions tests on all those cars they wanted to sell to the U.S. - and it will be ALL those car companies, not just V.W. or B.M.W.
Posted by Tom Stephenson at 04:35