Here's What California Wants Volkswagen to Do With Its Penalty Cash

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
here s what california wants volkswagen to do with its penalty cash

The California regulator that played an important part in uncovering Volkswagen Group’s emissions cheating plot detailed a list of options on how the automaker will be required to spend the $800 million penance by advancing green tech and nonpolluting cars.

Some of the choices the California Air Resources Board came up with are truly terrible.

On Thursday, the CARB said Volkswagen’s choices for the mandatory investments to be made over the next ten years include installing electric car chargers and providing services for ride-sharing or shuttle services in zero-emission vehicles. Bloomberg reports that CARB also scheduled a workshop for today to gather public input and additional suggestions.

The 10-year spending plan for the $800 million will be separated into four 30-month spending cycles.

CARB would like to see Volkswagen support the shift to EVs — something the company has been doing since getting into trouble — by expanding the green vehicle market and improving access to zero-emission cars for disadvantaged communities. Although I would hazard a guess that most extremely low income people aren’t particularly concerned with what type of powerplant their car makes use of, so long as it is affordable.

Another approved investment is the installation of hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles. Even suggesting this is ridiculous, considering VW’s big push toward battery electric vehicles and the extremely limited appeal of hydrogen-powered cars. CARB also suggested VW create public education and awareness campaigns that would not be allowed to feature or favor its own brand — perhaps resulting in something akin to D.A.R.E., only for automotive pollution.

“We urge VW to make early, visible progress in the beginning of the first 30-month cycle,” a CARB representative said during its presentation. After Friday’s workshop and a final board hearing, Volkswagen is required to submit an outline of its plan to California regulators by February 22nd.

Odds are Volkswagen won’t be spending a dime of that money on something silly like expanding the hydrogen fueling network. However, it could make the potential mistake of providing EV access to disadvantaged neighborhoods. While altruism — forced in this case — is a wonderful practice, what happens in ten years when VW packs up, moves on, and those communities are left with nothing? I suppose without the ride-sharing option, all of those people will suddenly be in the market for a new car.

It might not be worth the bad publicity stemming from the countless local news reports of angry mothers now incapable of delivering their children to school.

While there is a lot of wiggle room in some of these guidelines, the smart money is on VW pumping most of the cash into the power grid. The company has already teamed up with other automakers to enhance the vehicle charging network in Europe, so it would make sense to see the same occurring in the states. The move would fulfill the terms of its atonement while making EV ownership a lot more appetizing — something Volkswagen could benefit from, as it hopes to sell one million electric vehicles per year by 2025.

While the company may have settled many of its legal issues since dieselgate began, it isn’t even close to being out of the woods yet. VW still has to spend up to $10 billion to compensate drivers and buy back affected units, settle additional consumer claims surrounding the 3.0-liter vehicles, and cope with the criminal investigation being conducted by the Justice Department.

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5 of 42 comments
  • Kosmo Kosmo on Dec 03, 2016

    Riddle me this, Batman: Leaving aside all topics like VW is/isn't a crook; we need more/less government "investment", can anybody explain to me why California specifically is getting all this money from VW? Shouldn't it be a settlement with the USA in total?

    • See 2 previous
    • Heavy handle Heavy handle on Dec 04, 2016

      @kosmo There may be 50 such cases if state AGs think they can get judges to agree, but California's case is definitely stronger. They've had their own emissions regime since the 1960s, which VW clearly violated, they have well-documented air quality issues, their market for VW TDI cars was significant, and so on. Certainly any state that doesn't test car emissions would have a very weak case by comparison.

  • Dartman Dartman on Dec 03, 2016

    Because Cali is the 6th largest economy in the world. They/We may not be able to swing a presidential election with 2 million votes, but when it comes to global business, economic power talks.

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  • VoGhost ICE is so dangerous.
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