Six years ago engineer Hemanth Kappanna stumbled upon Volkswagen’s diesel emission fraud, which later resulted in the car manufacturer paying a total of $33 billion to settle the charges. Kappanna eventually secured himself a position with G.M. which involved regular communication with the Environmental Protection Agency, but was let go from the company this year during an unexpected round of layoffs. Unable to find a new position within 60-days, Kappanna had to return to India after having lived in the United States for 17 years for his work and research.
Originally, Kappanna was pursuing his doctorate at West Virginia University when he received the opportunity to develop a proposal for a grant for his department of studies. The proposal he helped create involved testing the emissions of German cars equipped with diesel engines. At the time, testing the actual emission results from a moving vehicle was difficult. However, Kappanna and his team invented an innovative and accurate method to gather information about the emissions. It quickly became apparent that the emissions boasted by the German manufacturer, Volkswagen, were very inaccurate.
It was later discovered that Volkswagen had developed a software designed to falsify the results of their emissions, making them appear more favorable than they actually were. However, the real results were not even deemed passable based on environmental standards. Since emissions were not typically tested in real-time, Volkswagen likely never expected their software to be discovered. However, the company eventually admitted to the fraud and investigators later found that 11 million vehicles had been equipped with this software, including 600,000 which were sold in the United States.