VW controversy puts WVU researchers in spotlight

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Sam Owens Arvind Thiruvengadam Padmavathy (right) and Chris Rowe (left) hook up the pieces of their emissions testing device, which can measure the emissions performance of an engine while the car is moving, to a Mercury Mountaineer SUV before driving the vehicle around Monday at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. The WVU Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, which Thiruvengadam and Rowe are part of, uncovered high emission rates that led to the ongoing Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Sam Owens Arvind Thiruvengadam Padmavathy (right) and Chris Rowe (left) hook up the pieces of their emissions testing device, which can measure the emissions performance of an engine while the car is moving, to a Mercury Mountaineer SUV before driving the vehicle around Monday at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. The WVU Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, which Thiruvengadam and Rowe are part of, uncovered high emission rates that led to the ongoing Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Sam Owens
Arvind Thiruvengadam Padmavathy (right) and Chris Rowe (left) hook up the pieces of their emissions testing device, which can measure the emissions performance of an engine while the car is moving, to a Mercury Mountaineer SUV before driving the vehicle around Monday at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. The WVU Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, which Thiruvengadam and Rowe are part of, uncovered high emission rates that led to the ongoing Volkswagen emissions scandal.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It didn’t take long for Arvind Thiruvengadam Padmavathy and other researchers from West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, who were testing vehicles on a West Coast highway, to realize that something was amiss.

As they drove around the Los Angeles freeways and up and down the West Coast in their leased Volkswagen Jetta and Passat, it became apparent that the vehicles’ emissions control systems weren’t working as expected.

At first, Thiruvengadam and his research partners blamed their testing equipment. The emissions data being collected from the cars’ tailpipes and streamed onto their laptop was showing air pollutants at 1,000-times what had been recorded in laboratory settings.

However, as the testing continued over the next several months and the researchers began to double-check their results, it only became more apparent that something was wrong.

“It kind of became more evident as we crunched the data,” said Thiruvengadam, a mechanical engineering professor at WVU.

That data, which took more than a year to analyze, has since placed Thiruvengadam and the other researchers at the center of a corporate scandal…

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