Volkswagen Dieselgate deaths in Europe number in the thousands

19 Sep 2017

Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal has done major damage. Image: Lukas Gojda/Shutterstock

A new study has released startling figures on the Dieselgate scandal in Europe.

In 2015, controversy erupted when car manufacturer Volkswagen admitted to widespread cheating on emissions tests, by installing illegal software that reduced the emissions solely for the duration of the test.

The German car manufacturer has had a tough couple of years due to the fraudulence on its part, including being landed with a $15bn settlement payout to US owners, and an individual payout of €5,000 to each affected Spanish driver.

Former engineer James Robert Liang was the first person to be charged as a result of the scandal, and was jailed in August for 40 months, according to the Financial Times.

Damning statistics for Volkswagen

A study from Environmental Research Letters (reported in has produced some damning statistics in terms of the correlation between these cars (falsely labelled as eco-friendly) and 5,000 air pollution deaths per annum in Europe alone. The sneaking of toxic emissions past testers by Volkswagen has contributed towards the premature deaths in Europe caused by emissions by up to 50pc.

Researchers from Norway, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands calculated that approximately 10,000 deaths in Europe per year can be attributed to small-particle pollution from light-duty diesel vehicles (LDDVs). Almost half of the deaths attributed to LDDVs could have been avoided if nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars on the road matched up with emissions from the fraudulent tests.

Europe must reduce reliance on diesel vehicles

The countries most affected are Italy, Germany and France, resulting from a combination of high population and high share of diesel cars. There are more than 100m diesel cars in Europe, twice as many as in the rest of the world, according to the study.

NOx gases contribute to acid rain and suffocating smog, and can cause health issues such as corroded teeth, headaches and chronic lung problems.

The study authors issued a stark warning that “excessive premature deaths will continue into the future until LDDVs with high on-road NOx emissions have been replaced”.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects