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