|Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday.|
While this blog's primary focus is the BMW i3, I occasionally sprinkle in some featured EV products and discuss topics not necessarily i3-centric, but are instead just general electric vehicle information. In light of the recent revelations that Volkswagen has been deliberately cheating on emissions testing for many years now, I wrote the following article for Green Car Reports.
So far, no other automaker has been caught as VW has - with proof that they purposely installed a "defeat device" on the vehicles so the cars would curb their emissions only during actual emission testing. However it's fair game to speculate if other OEMs may also be exposed as cheaters now that the EPA knows what they have to look for, and how to expose it. It will certainly be interesting to watch this all unfold.
In any event, Volkswagen is going to face huge fines for intentionally violating Federal emission standards and I wanted to offer my thoughts on how I believe some of that money should be used. If we don't use at least a portion of that money to help reverse the damage done by these heavily polluting "clean diesels", I believe we will have missed a great opportunity to improve the quality of air we all breathe.
How VW Can Atone For Diesel Deception: Electric-Car Advocate's Thoughts
The full impact of Volkswagen's diesel-emission cheating scandal has yet to be realized, but what it has apparently already admitted to doing could result in the largest civil fine ever levied by the Federal government on an automaker. And that's just the beginning.
Besides paying civil penalties, and coping with a spate of criminal actions, and class-action lawsuits, and investigations by multiple levels of government, VW also needs to deal with the 482,000 it sold--plus more in limbo at dealers--that clearly do not comply with emission laws.
In real-world use, these vehicles emit 10 to 35 times the allowable legal limit of certain pollutants, so they're not just slightly out of compliance. They will need to be modified to comply, or VW will have to buy them back. And if owners don't like the modified cars, they'll likely have to buy those cars back too.
After all that, VW has to figure out how to regain the trust of the public.
There are lots of aspects to this debacle, and all will undoubtedly be discussed ad nauseam over the coming weeks. But the aspect I find most interesting is how Volkswagen can best right the wrongs it has done. How does paying fines, settling lawsuits, and bringing highly-polluting vehicles into compliance really undo the damage done? It doesn't. All it does is punish Volkswagen. And I believe the public deserves more.
Make no mistake: If VW is guilty as charged, it absolutely deserves to be punished--and severely.
|It turns out they aren't as clean as we were told - not nearly, actually.|
Why not use a portion of that civil fine to invest in a nationwide DC Fast Charge network for electric vehicles?
If just half of a $2.5 billion fine were dedicated to this purpose, we could blanket the majority of Interstate highways and major high-traffic corridors with DC fast chargers that would make switching from gasoline and diesel cars to zero-emission electric vehicles a much easier decision for many buyers. Here's why I believe that is what should be done. Helping to advance the proliferation of cleaner electric vehicles would, over time, more than reverse the emissions damage that has been done, and further improve the quality of air we breathe, instead of just punishing the offender. And shouldn't that really be the goal here?
A second thought: As well as using the fine to build out a national DC fast-charging network, how about Volkswagen getting out in front of this crisis itself and telling us how it will do its part to help clean the air it polluted?
declaring that it will be a leader in electric mobility, as the company has done before, show us the proof that it's serious about how it plans to expand its zero-emission vehicle offerings? VW Group could combine that with a generous investment in public charging infrastructure, on a much greater scale than last December's partnership with BMW and ChargePoint to install approximately 100 DC fast chargers.
That program in just now starting to get under way, but it's really only the beginning of what's needed. VW should commit to expanding it to 400 or 500 stations, including high-volume corridors not only on the East and West coasts but across the country--essentially following the Tesla Supercharger road map.
|Tesla North American Supercharger map.|
Offering those owners the option to return the polluting car for a much cleaner Volkswagen could demonstrate that VW understands and is concerned with its customers' desire to drive clean . Many owners won't take advantage of such an offer--diesel partisans can be just as committed to their technology as electric-car advocates--but the offer would send a powerful signal about the company's intent. I believe these are the sort of things Volkswagen must consider if it wants to convince the public it is serious about making proper restitution for this egregious deception.
|How about offering eGolfs to the customers that don't want their dirty diesel anymore?|
It appears VW intentionally deceived both the American consumer and the U.S. government, and put public health at risk, by knowingly planning and executing a fraud. To me, and I think to many others, that's much worse than a carmaker trying to delay or prevent a vehicle recall.
But Americans are forgiving people, and sin followed by redemption is a part of our national myth. As long as we believe the offender is genuinely remorseful for what it did, and is taking steps to prove it hase learned from the offense, recovery is possible--perhaps even lauded and held up as a shining example of redemption.
Now that we've found out the real truth in German engineering, the ball has moved into VW's court to decide on what it can do to begin to offset the damage it has done to itself, its customers, and the environment.
Let's hope Volkswagen is smart enough to make the right decisions.
*Edit: BMW released a statement regarding the recent discussion of diesel engines and emission compliance. You can read it HERE.