By on December 21, 2015

elon-musk-model-s

Tesla chief Elon Musk and more than 40 other executives called on the California Air Resources Board to release Volkswagen from its mandate to fix thousands of polluting cars in that state and instead invest that money in electric vehicles.

Musk, and other executives including Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said regulators would more effectively reduce emissions to “cure the air, not the cars,” according to the letter:

A satisfactory way to fix all the diesel cars does not likely exist, so this solution side steps the great injury and uncertainty that imposing an ineffective fix would place on individual diesel car owners. A drawn out and partial failure of the process will only exacerbate the public’s lack of trust in the industry and its regulators. By explicit design, this proposal would achieve, in contrast, a minimum of a 10 (times) reduction in pollutant emissions as compared to a complete fix.

In their letter, Musk and others said the number of illegally cheating cars on the road was statistically “insignificant” and did not pose a threat to the environment or their owners.

Building electric cars would reduce (or eliminate) the risk of emissions cheating, the group wrote. CARB could more than “fix” the Volkswagen diesel pollution problem by requiring the automaker to compensate by 10 times its pollution impact within the next five years.

The group also called on CARB to require Volkswagen to invest in battery and EV plants within California to create more jobs and loosen the “bottleneck” between EV batteries and automakers.

The group pointed to a 1990s scandal where eight commercial diesel engine makers were fined $1 billion by the Environmental Protection Agency for building similar “defeat devices” to fool emissions tests. From the letter:

There is a precedent for this type of resolution. In the industry-wide 1990 diesel truck cheating scandal, the EPA chose not to require an interim recall but instead moved up the deadline for tougher standards to make up the difference. This proposal does the same for VW and ties the solution to a transition to zero emissions vehicles.

Of the $1 billion fine to the diesel engine makers, $850 million was earmarked for the companies to rebuild non-compliant engines anyway, and new emissions standards were on the horizon. So, kind of.

The letter didn’t address customers or owners of the cars, or whether Volkswagen should offer to buy back cars that cheated emissions tests.

In response, CARB spokesman Dave Clegern said, “Our focus has and will continue to be cleaning the air and advancing the cleanest vehicle and fuel technologies.”

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47 Comments on “Elon Musk, Others to CARB: Just Make VW Build EVs Faster...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    So he wants to sell them batteries along with getting his mug into the news cycle again?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Yep.

      But dont forget thst he’s an idealist who thinks EVs will change the world. So, he’s clamoring for competition that will challenge Tesla.

      But he’s smart enough to stack the deck, so he probably stands to profit from selling gigafactory batteries to VW, too.

      Heads he wins, tails he wins. Wish I had that kind of coin.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        I’d say he is an evangelistic movement of one who thinks *he’ll* change the world and his crafty survey of the governmental tableau in which he found himself told him the easiest and wealthiest mark was the legion of EV chumps/poseurs.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          He’s gotten farther than most on that sort of quest…!

          My friends in engineering school and I had hoped to do the same things, but got stuck in mid-level engineering jobs instead. #FirstWorldProblems

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            But did you guys have cutie-pie faces with a hint of fashionable epicanthal folds?

            Betcha diii-dent!

            (Granted, the image used here makes him look like a fat drunk about to spew into the rear seat.)

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Um…’fraid not. This is wrong.
    No other automaker is allowed to take their legal punishment and put toward product development.
    This would give VW an advantage no other maker is given.

  • avatar
    zelig

    Response from VW: “Yeah, sure — sounds great! We’ll get RIGHT on it!”

    Also, this:
    “The bottleneck to the greater availability of zero emissions vehicles is the availability of batteries. There is an urgent need to build more battery factories to increase battery supply, and this proposal would ensure that large battery plant and related investments, with their ensuing local jobs, would be made in the U.S. by VW.”

    So the signatories are basically asking CARB to strong-arm VW into giving them money?

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Is electric the answer to everything in this guy’s life?

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Not touchin dat.

      Brave user name, by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      BalmyRodLincoln

      Yes, Mr. Musk, will these proposed EV’s be charged using wind, water, coal-gas, or solid waste incinerated during peak usage hours? Also, is it more environmentally friendly to fuel a car using diesel, or to fill it with .6 tonnes of precious metals that emitted more greenhouse gases during their refinement than the use of one “green” car could possibly hope to offset in its lifetime? Save the planet, he says. Buy another 2-ton appliance that burns up just as many noxious chemicals as the old model, only at a point in its lifecycle where it’s not as visible to the end consumer, he says.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Electric cars export pollution from the affluent communities where people can afford them to the areas around powerplants and the lithium mining operations (mainly in China).

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      ‘Is electric the answer to everything in this guy’s life?”

      No. Rockets are hydrogen fueled, and that’s how he likes ’em.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Is electric the answer to everything in this guy’s life?”

      Well, if Viagra doesn’t work, then there is always battery power.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    if the scope & environmental impact of VW’s “cheating diesels” is “insignificant, isn’t Musk endorsing a position that forcing VW to implement an emissions “fix” is of little consequence and effect?

    Musk is such a carnival barker con man.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Seems to ignore the increased generating capacity and infrastructure changes necessary to power those cars. Especially in California which has a dislike for power generation except for some toy scale ‘green’ projects.

    Take note California: you won’t power a large number of electric vehicles without huge capacity improvement, and nuclear is the only scalable, non CO2 source ready for prime time.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      pragmatist,
      I agree nuclear is the answer, or California can import coal fired electricity like Denmark and claim it’s clean and green.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Not true. Large-scale pv solar projects now produce for under 4 cents per kWh and will be under 2 by the end of the decade. Combine those with natural gas co-generation or a reservoir (hint hint lake mead) for pumped storage and you have clean load leveled power on the cheap. Nuclear is a good idea in theory until you have a Fukushima. The extent of just how bad Fukushima was and still is seems to have been forgotten by the public. It is by far the worst nuclear disaster in history, and it is still not fully contained.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        The problem using Fukushima as an example is that it was an outdated plant scheduled for closure. Modern plants have safety systems in place that prevent such failures. Notice that other nearby plants didn’t have the same issue.

        • 0 avatar
          nickoo

          The problem is assuming we are not going to build a new nuclear plant today and have it still running as an outdated plant in 40 years. Hint: we will.

          If you were forced to pay for the closing of san onofre like i am, the costs of nuclear wouldnt seem so appealing. I pay 18 cents per kwh tier 1. And it doubles when i go into tier 2. As a 1 person household i barely scrape by under the tier 1 cap.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Yes, but it will still be safe enough to prevent a Fukushima disaster from happening. I’m also not saying I have anything against solar, wind or hydro power. Our power companies preferred to keep all their profits over the years in dividends and bonuses, instead of investing in the future. Now we’re reaching a point where there isn’t enough new power to cover demand when they are forced to shutter old plants of any type.

          • 0 avatar
            Shawnski

            Presumptuous to think that power company profits not reinvested is greedy. Maybe you could take all your Capitol and simply invest without any return? Not even taxpayers are that egalitarian.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            There’s a big difference between investing everything and investing nothing. They have statistically been investing nothing for many decades.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          But in the US context that makes Fukushima normal, not unusual. Outdated plants scheduled for closure regularly get 20 year license renewals from the NRC instead. There are utility operators that specialize in buying these old plants and keeping them going. New nuclear plants don’t get built much — too expensive and prone to massive cost overruns besides — and the massive liability in case of an accident means they are un-insurable in the private market and wouldn’t get built at all if the federal government didn’t insure them. They’re also complicated enough that even attempts to modernize old plants can end in failure, decommissioning and a rectal probe for ratepayers (see San Onofre).

          Only one country does nuclear “right,” with small plants, meticulous standards, and an elite corps of ultra-trained operators–and even they, France, are seeing elevated childhood cancer rates near those plants. Here in the US, plants can be leaking tritium or whatnot for decades before anyone notices (see Vermont Yankee).

          I’m in favor of nuclear power, but let’s not kid ourselves, it has some problems.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Everything has some problems. Like I said, I’m for all the solar, wind, and hydro power we can build. However, as old plants are being shut down it won’t be enough to compensate, especially if we want more of our cars to go electric.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        WTF?! No. Fukushima is a gnat’s fart next to Chernobyl. The only 2 direct deaths were drowning, which I blame on the tsunami instead of the nuclear reactor because I’m not insane. When viewed as part of the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami the nuclear power aspects of the disaster are negligible.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          This is one of the most ignorant things I have ever read posted here.

        • 0 avatar
          nickoo

          No. The amount of radiation realeased by Fukishima and is still being released is way more than Chernobyl. 4 cores broke primary containment, and at least 1 if not two of those broke secondary containment *and they are still not contained* They can’t even go into the space to find where the core is, and haven’t developed drones to do so. That means it has been leaking this whole time since 2011, the Pacific Ocean (you realize just how big the pacific is, don’t you?) has elevated levels of fukishima radiation all up and down the west coast of the USA and everywhere else from fukishima, and not only that, 2 *official* deaths. The Japaneses are lying to save face, there have been many more, and many more continue to get sick. Not only that, but a dumb-ass captain of a USN carrier group sailed his carrier into the fukishima radiation cloud and hundreds of sailors got radiation poisoning from it. All of this is well known if you seek it out. But its been largely covered up or ignored by the media because Japan is a good guy, while Russia was a bad guy, and we could use Russia’s failure against them for propaganda purposes.

          Fukishima is hands-down the worst nuclear disaster in history.

  • avatar
    Urlik

    Someday we may learn if the cheating is “statistically insignificant” as far as air quality but they certainly haven’t officially released anything yet to inform the public. I suspect it probably is though which is why CARB just talks about single vehicle emissions and not total environmental impact.

  • avatar
    George B

    Right concept, but wrong car. Give California customers the option of a very generous trade-in allowance for their pre-urea injection Volkswagen Jetta TDI “Clean Diesel” model good toward purchase of a Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Customer virtue signalling is restored, California air is cleaner, and Volkswagen avoids the cost of adding lots of hardware to older TDI models. Ship those old TDI Jettas somewhere else where CARB rules don’t apply.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Then Musk can sell them battery cells from his factory, and have them use his Supercharger network, thus cementing the future of Tesla.

    It is so feckin’ transparent. The Model 3 is going to be beat by at least 3 mainstream automakers.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> The Model 3 is going to be beat by at least 3 mainstream automakers.

      Really? I can’t think of one that’s going to seriously be able to compete with the Model 3. An EV is both a car and a charging network. You have to have both. They may produce cars, but they’re only half of the equation. The CCS network is a joke and CHAdeMO has its issues as well. Right now the SuperCharger network is the gold standard of EV charging infrastructure. The others have to match it, otherwise, I won’t even consider their cars when I buy my next EV.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        The supercharger network is exploding. By 2020 they may have a supercharger every 100 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        For my purposes, the Bolt, the Leaf 2.0, and the Model 3 will all be competitive.

        I don’t need the charging network with these cars, because these smaller cara are for commuting. We’re a family of four (with ambitions of more) and we take our minivan in road trips. I’ll care about the charging network as soon there’s an affordable 3 row family vehicle I want to use on it.

        If all goes well, I’ll lease a Bolt when it’s first releases — and then trade it for whatever’s best in 2-3 years.

  • avatar
    NickS

    “…did not pose a threat to the environment or their owners.”

    He is conveniently leaving out everyone else who gets harmed though. The reason we have these regulations is because it is impossible to prove harm at the individual level, but the effect on the aggregate is well established.

    The EPA and CARB will not allow the indefinite perpetuation of the status quo for these TDIs, however statistically small the harm proves to be, or whatever EV commitments VW makes for the future. If anything, the precedent is there — as is pointed out, 85% of the fine for the last diesel scandal was earmarked to fix the engines in the wild.

    It is just as important to these regulators to save face and show proper stewardship of their air quality mandate. They came under a lot of criticism for not discovering it sooner. They will be undermining themselves even more if they allowed this particular violation to remain unfixed, to everyone’s full knowledge and with the regulators’ approval.

    It would be a bit like the IRS finding out you are cheating on taxes, and allowing you to continue to do so after the jump.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    From their open letter:

    “VW had to cheat to meet current European and U.S. standards”

    That is false. Other diesel mfrs didn’t “have to cheat” to pass these tests. This is like using the “I had a bad childhood” defense.

    VW has already said they intend to pursue a more electric future, so I hope the CARB ignores this letter and just deals with the matters at hand.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    Not sure which house of cards I’m going to enjoy watching fall apart more, Elon or Sergio’s.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Wow, Elon is a comedian too.

    I’ll tell you what Mr. Musk, let’s get VW to fix the polluting cars, pay the fines, penalties and lawsuits, and then we’ll talk about them making electric cars with whatever is left of the company.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      That’s kind of his point. He thinks the resources would be betterspent building EVs and forgoing further (direct) emissions from cars.

      That’s also why he put in the 10x clause. The EVs are supposed to forgo 10x the emissions produced by the cheating TDIs.

      Oh, and he can sell them batteries. Cha-ching.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Yeah, I’m surprised VW isn’t putting more effort behind promoting the Jetta Hybrid now that the TDI is DOA. Anyone even know how many Jetta Hybrid’s have been sold?

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Elon Musk needs to avoid becoming a caricature of the green movement. When you overplay the subtle, à la Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, you weaken your credibility.

    So far, Musk has posed very well constructed arguments aimed at general technologists and intellectuals and those sympathetic to the environmentalist cause. You can plainly see that his ultimate aim is the betterment of humanity…..and stuffing his pockets at the same time.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Elon, get back to us when you & yours can design & build vehicles whose powertrain will be more likely than not to make it last 60,000 miles before essentially falling apart (based on recent, troubling evidence of a larger trend with Teslas now that they are beginning to rack up such mileage).

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    His ex-wife just penned a lengthy article in Marie Claire regarding Elon called “I was a starter wife.”

    Big shocker: driven, entrepreneurial billionaires don’t make attentive, loving husbands.

    She did birth a set of twins and a set of triplets and still looks super hot and thin. I guess his money was good for something.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Any woman who doesn’t realize she’s always going to take a back seat to a man like that is fooling herself. Women always come in thinking they are going to get their way and run things and when she found out it wasn’t going to be like that, she left. She probably made out pretty damn well from it. Ungrateful, as she is about it.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        I read the article a couple years ago,it’s not that simple. Musk doesn’t come off very well. Doesn’t really matter in regards to Tesla, if we only drove cars that weren’t designed, built, or sold by jerks, we’d all be walking.

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