Old Ford pick-up cleaner than new Beetle, VW monkey tests showed

Emissions tests showed VW fumes more harmful to animals than 20-year-old Ford’s

The industry lobby group EUGT, which commissioned and financed the research, hoped the results would show the modern German diesel caused less irritation in the monkeys tested.

The industry lobby group EUGT, which commissioned and financed the research, hoped the results would show the modern German diesel caused less irritation in the monkeys tested.

 

Germany’s car industry financed – and then buried – a controversial report suggesting that emissions from a 2013 VW Beetle diesel were more unhealthy than those from a 1999 Ford diesel pick-up.

A lobby group financed by VW, BMW, Daimler and major supplier Bosch commissioned US researchers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to carry out the experiment on 10 macaque monkeys.

The 58-page final report, leaked to Germany’s Bild tabloid, details how, at 6.34am on May 4th, 2015, the monkeys were isolated in glass cases and allowed watch cartoons while exhaust fumes were pumped in from a 1999 Ford pick-up and then a VW Beetle from 2013.

At 11.20, 1.40pm and 3.10pm the animals were removed, blood was taken and an endoscopy tube was inserted into their mouth or nose to examine the condition of bronchial tissue in their trachea.

Researchers at the Lovelace Institute noted that the animals were “stressed” because of the invasive examinations.

Biological response

The experiment was designed to evaluate the “biological response” to diesel emissions in non-human primates. The industry lobby group EUGT, which commissioned and financed the research, hoped the results would show the modern German diesel caused less irritation in the animals.

However, the opposite appears to have been the case. Although the bigger Ford was almost 20 years old, and the VW was using defeat software to reduce emissions to just a fraction of ordinary road levels, the Beetle seems to have caused greater harm to the animals.

“More inflammation was noted in the animals who breathed in the new diesel [emissions],” said Prof Hans-Peter Hutter, a specialist who studied the report for Bild. He said it was also possible the inflammation was caused by pre-test examinations.

The test cost EUGT a reported $649,000 but, in an email to employees, a Lovelace researcher admitted “these aren’t the results you expected”.

In November, another US researcher said in a message that he had “tried to take the sting out of the results”. The report was supposed to be published on December 31st, 2015, but a final version was sent on June 30th, 2017, to EUGT chief executive Michael Spallek and Stuart Johnson, head of VW’s environment office in the US.

By that stage, EUGT was being wound up and, according to Bild, it declined to pay a final instalment of $71,857.

News of experiments on monkeys – and 2013 tests on human volunteers in Germany – has caused outrage among German politicians and forced apologies from VW, BMW and Daimler. On Tuesday, VW’s chief lobbyist was suspended as part of the investigation into the affair.

Prof Hutter told Bild the monkey experiment was “unbelievable and would probably not have been allowed in Europe”.

On Wednesday a VW spokesman declined to comment on claims the company wants to keep the monkey test results out of a class-action lawsuit it is fighting in the US. But Mr Michael Melkerson, lawyer for VW drivers, has described the test documents as crucial for the case due to open on February 26th.