Elon Musk, Others to CARB: Just Make VW Build EVs Faster

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole

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.”

Aaron Cole
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  • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Dec 22, 2015

    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).

  • SaulTigh SaulTigh on Dec 22, 2015

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Russycle Russycle on Dec 22, 2015

      @nickoo 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.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.