The New York Times dropped a bombshell of a report last week saying that German automakers funded an experiment that had 10 monkeys in airtight chambers, inhaling diesel fumes from a Volkswagen Beetle TDI. The experiment took place back at an Albuquerque, New Mexico laboratory in an effort to prove newer diesel vehicles were cleaner than older models. But researchers were unaware that the Beetle used in the experiment was equipped with a defeat device that allowed it produce fewer emissions in the lab than on the road.
This experiment was brought to light via a lawsuit against Volkswagen in the U.S.
The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (E.U.G.T) commissioned the experiment. Funding for the group was provided by Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler. The group did not do any research itself, instead commissioning scientists to conduct studies that could be used to defend the fuel. Last year, the group was shut down amid controversy over its work. The three automakers told the Times "the research group did legitimate scientific work."
"All of the research work commissioned with the E.U.G.T. was accompanied and reviewed by a research advisory committee consisting of scientists from renowned universities and research institutes,” Diamler said in a statement.
Both BMW and Diamler told the publication "they were unaware that the Volkswagen used in the Albuquerque monkey tests had been set up to produce false data." Volkswagen said at the time of original story that researchers involved in the study did not publish a complete report. Since then, Volkswagen has issued an apology.
“We apologize for the misconduct and the lack of judgment of individuals. We’re convinced the scientific methods chosen then were wrong. It would have been better to do without such a study in the first place,” the German automaker said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg.
But there is another twist to this story. German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung reported yesterday about a study done by the University of Aachen in Germany that had 25 people breath in diesel exhaust as part of a clinic. The study was funded by the E.U.G.T. and was referenced in annual reports from the group. The University said that it "had followed typical procedures, such as approval by an independent ethics commission as well as written consent from each participant." It is unclear whether or not participants were told what the experiment would entail.
Nevertheless, it is another black eye for German automakers and diesel.