Volkswagen, the giant German carmaker that became an iconic brand for the car industry over the years, is currently in a sea o troubles – troubles that it caused itself by cheating on emissions tests with various diesel cars with help of special software that. VW confirmed on Monday that as many as 11 million diesel cars have software that’s used to detect tests, and cheat on emission tests.

How is that possible? And what cars are affected by the massive scandal? These are questions experts are looking to answer.

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As The New York Times reveals, the software sensed when the car was testing – likely because the rear wheels do not move in indoor testing facilities – and then activated equipment that would reduce emissions.

However, once on the open road, the equipment would be turned off, increasing emissions “far above legal limits,” to save on fuel consumption and improve torque and acceleration.

While it’s not clear what systems were modified, experts are apparently focusing on the exhaust system that is supposed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, which can cause a variety of respiratory diseases, including emphysema and bronchitis.

The following Times infographic, explains how the exhaust system of a VW Golf works. To keep nitrogen oxides at adequate levels, the car has to trap the pollutants, as seen in the image, or treat them with urea.

volkswagen-pollution-cheating-2Image Source: The New York Times

Trapping the nitrogen oxide isn’t energy efficient, though, as the car needs to use more fuel to do it. But that’s where VW’s software kicks in, letting more pollutants to pass through the exhaust system when the car is on open roads.

No less than seven of VW’s American car models have such cheat systems in place, and the EPA will order the German company to recall them. In total, VW will have to recall some 500,000 units in the U.S. alone, but up to 11 million cars sold worldwide are equipped with the same software.

The following image tells you which VW diesel models in the U.S. have been found guilty of cheating on emissions tests – more details about VW’s deceitful actions are available in the full article from the Times (see source links).

volkswagen-pollution-cheating-3Image Source: The New York Times

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