How dieselgate harmed our environment


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Car manufacturers, including Vauxhall, the Volkswagen Group and Mercedes-Benz, allegedly cheated emissions regulations when they fitted illegal defeat devices into some diesel vehicles. These devices could detect when a car was being tested and activate equipment that reduced emissions. But the software turned the equipment down, and sometimes completely off, during real-world driving conditions, increasing emissions far above legal limits. The result was high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) – sometimes up to 35 times the legal limit – being emitted into the atmosphere.

Deliberately trying to trick emissions testing isn’t the only way that the big car manufacturers harmed the environment. On 8 July 2021, the European Commission published findings that Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz were guilty of breaking EU antitrust rules by colluding to prevent the deployment of clean emissions technology. In this case, there were no indications that the manufacturers coordinated the use of illegal defeat devices, but were illegally colluding to use emissions technology that met the bare minimum legal standards. Volkswagen and BMW were fined a total of €875 million for breaking EU rules. But for Daimler’s (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) assistance with the Commission’s investigation, it would also have been fined €727 million.

Dieselgate and climate change

NOx emissions pose a threat to urban air quality, with fumes contributing to acid rain and suffocating smog. So too much in our environment is extremely dangerous.

According to one report[1], diesel vehicles with defeat devices can create extra temperature impacts over time (depending on driving conditions). What’s more, the climatic advantage of “clean diesel” can disappear if the vehicles have defeat devices. Dr Katsumasa Tanaka from the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan, who was the lead author of this study, described the potential impact on the environment as “significant”.

Of course, if increased emissions are harmful to our environment, dieselgate could also have an impact on farming and the other essential ecosystems we all rely on. This could harm both plants and animals.

NOx emissions from diesel cars with defeat devices have also had serious and adverse effects on human health. According to Professor Ian Colbeck of the University of Essex in the UK, known NO2 emissions have been estimated to kill 23,500 people every year.

The impact on NOx reduction targets

Diesel emissions have been regulated for over 50 years, but in 2019, road transport still contributed to over 30% of NOx emissions in the UK. Furthermore, according to James Longhurst, an environmental science professor and assistant vice chancellor for Environment and Sustainability at UWE Bristol: “Concentrations of NOx have not fallen as much as expected despite the introduction of new technology on vehicles”.

The deliberate bypassing of emission control systems has likely contributed to the failure to meet NOx reduction targets. At Keller Lenkner UK, we believe that this is both unethical and unlawful, and we are holding these manufacturers to account.

Do you have a dieselgate claim?

In total, millions of vehicles have been affected by this scandal and subjected to recall. Billions have been paid to settle class-action claims and regulatory fines in other countries, and we believe that affected drivers in England and Wales deserve compensation too.

Keller Lenkner UK currently represents tens of thousands of affected customers in England and Wales. 

You may qualify for a no-win, no-fee claim if you purchased or leased an affected Volkswagen*, Vauxhall, or Mercedes diesel vehicle.  

Experts in group litigation and multi-claimant actions against large, well-funded corporations, when it comes to getting justice for our clients, we have everything it takes to win.


*We are no longer accepting clients to our VW action.

In February 2024, our firm changed its name from Keller Postman UK to KP Law.

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