When Volkswagen, followed by pretty much every other European automaker, was found to have been faking emissions gear, American diesel pioneer Cummins stood apart from the rest. Cummins had even, years ago, met future diesel standards years before they needed to.
It turns out now that Cummins was not as clean as previously thought, at least from 2013 on. In December, we reported that Cummins had agreed in principle to pay $1.7 billion in penalties for adding emissions-control defeat devices on hundreds of thousands of engines. That amount has now risen to $2 billion.
Software that detected emissions testing and only activated controls during that time were found on 2013-19 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickup engines. These and unreported other auxiliary devices were added to the 2019-23 Ram. In that time, Ram used 630,000 Cummins engines on the 2013-19 Ram and 330,000 big diesels on the 2019-23 models. (Ram only had Cummins options on the 2500 and heavier-duty trucks; the Ram 1500 had an optional VM diesel for some of these years which was also found to be cheating.
The government did not change its tests, but did start testing vehicles that were actually on the road to see if they polluted more. The law specifically prohibits working around regulations by having separate programs for testing and for normal use; the test was not changed retroactively.
The devices added thousands of tons of nitrogen oxides to the air, beyond the legal amounts. Cummins set aside over $2 billion in the fourth quarter for related expenses, but denied culpability: “The company has seen no evidence that anyone acted in bad faith and does not admit wrongdoing.” To prevent a lengthy and expensive court case, the government has agreed to this language as part of a settlement—which suggests that nobody at Cummins will be seeing prison time, which was not the case when Volkswagen was caught.
The big B-engine was originally meant for bigger trucks, and Dodge pickups needed a good deal of beefing up to handle it even when it was launched with “just” 400 lb-ft of torque; the 6.7 liter straight-six now generates a thousand pound-feet. Each diesel reportedly costs Ram around $5,000, (this number is not verified and may not be accurate); the settlement will cost Cummins over $2,000 per engine, likely eating the company’s profit but not its cost.
The devices appear to have been disclosed during a 2019 review, and resulted in a recall to some Ram pickups. One problem for the EPA will be owners in the many states that do not have annual vehicle inspections; owners often choose to ignore emissions recalls. The Volkswagen penalty included provisions for this.
Cummins has been working on numerous alternate-fuel versions of several of its engine lines; the B-engines are to get a hydrogen-compatible version (along with natural gas, gasoline, and propane). No power output has been reported yet, nor is it known whether Ram will buy this engine.