The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) classifies thermal windows as illegal in diesel proceedings against Volkswagen and Porsche. These stop the exhaust gas cleaning outside a certain temperature range and above a certain altitude. (archive image)
This was stated by the Attorney General in his closing statement on Thursday. Such a device cannot be justified with the protection of the engine from damage or accidents and the safe operation of the car if it serves mainly to protect the accessories.
Attorney General Athanasius Rantos noted that the thermal window does not represent actual driving conditions. The control takes effect when the outside temperature is below 15 and above 33 degrees and also when driving in mountains above 1,000 meters and throttling or turning off the exhaust gas cleaning.
Rantos noted that average temperatures between 2017 and 2019 in Austria, Germany and other European countries were well below 15 degrees. Due to the terrain of Austria and Germany, cars often drive at altitudes of more than 1,000 meters.
Under normal conditions of use and normal vehicle operation, the software thus reduces the effectiveness of the emissions control system and represents a “defeat device”.
The attorney general clarified that exceptions to the ban on defeat devices are permissible if they protect the engine and ensure the safe operation of the vehicle. A cut-off device that primarily protects parts such as the exhaust gas recirculation valve, EGR intercooler or diesel particulate filter is not included.
Judges in the European Court of Justice often follow the general counsel’s line of argument, but are not bound by it. In December, five years after the Volkswagen diesel scandal, judges issued a groundbreaking ruling on the use of emissions software in diesel cars.
They decided that a general ban on programs for manipulating exhaust emissions would be undermined if the engine could be protected from pollution and wear through exceptional regulations.
Manufacturers have exploited loopholes in EU law by reducing or turning off exhaust gas cleaning for diesel engines at lower temperatures. Almost all car manufacturers use thermal windows and argue for engine protection.
(AZ. C-128/20, C-134/20, and C-145/20)
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