Arvind, Hemanth and Marc actually only came to the United States to attend university. Arvind Thiruvengadam and Hemanth Kappanna are both from India, from Chennai and Bangalore, respectively, while Marc Besch is from Biel, Switzerland. They all ended up in West Virginia, not exactly the America you dream of when you come from Chennai or Bangalore. Probably not even when you come from Biel.
Attached to West Virginia University is an institute for emissions research – also, perhaps, not the field of study you dream of when you’re around 30 and aspiring to a career in auto engineering. The institute is called the Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions (CAFEE), located in an unprepossessing corrugated iron structure in a clearing in the hills of West Virginia. In other words, in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is Morgantown, the nearest place you might have heard of, Pittsburgh.
This is where Arvind, Hemanth and Marc began measuring emissions. First truck emissions and then passenger cars – until they accidentally uncovered a scandal that brought the world’s biggest carmaker at the time to its knees. The emissions tests carried out by Arvind, Hemanth and Marc have already cost the Volkswagen company around 25 billion euros, mainly in buybacks, fines and settlements, and that is by no means the end of it. Because of a study written by these three students, former VW managers are wanted by the FBI, one has been arrested in the U.S. and others are in custody in Germany. One German politician called the diesel scandal “the biggest industrial scandal since World War II.”