Automakers Want Their Say In How VW’s $200M California Settlement Is Spent

Volkswagen’s competitors want to have their say in how the company spends $200 million in California through the diesel emissions cheating settlement.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is reviewing VW’s proposal on how the $200 million will be spent in the first 30 months on plug-in vehicle infrastructure and other zero emission vehicle projects.

Other automakers say VW is being given a competitive advantage overall. They’re also voicing concerns that the German automaker is choosing locations that already have many electric vehicles, with arguments being de that VW should be spurring market interest in other parts of the state.

Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai jointly filed a statement asking the state to direct a “significant portion” of the funds into hydrogen fueling stations. California’s commitment to have 100 hydrogen stations in place by 2020 is “not on track,” an issue of concern for these three makers of fuel cell vehicles.

VW last year settled with the federal government and California on a $2 billion investment in infrastructure and other projects, including public education and awareness programs. Out of that total, $800 million will be directed to California over 10 years in phases. It’s been part of the restitution, along with vehicle recalls, for the company’s admission to having installed cheating software in 580,000 diesel cars sold in the country with excess pollution.

One of the public comments to CARB came from environmental group Sierra Club, asking the automaker to “rethink its infrastructure proposal to include more investments in community-based charging in disadvantaged communities.”

Cleaning up air conditions in low-income, disadvantaged areas of California has been a priority in legislation being considered and passed in Sacramento. One of the points made has been how these communities tend to be concentrated in polluting areas near freeways, such as those living close to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach with thousands of heavy-duty trucks passing by each day.

VW’s California proposal focused on investing $120 million in more than 400 highway and local charging stations by 2019 in high-traffic areas. Other automakers are contesting the logic in that proposal and would prefer to see those chargers go into areas that have little EV traffic.

Ford “has reservations about having a key electrification driver dependent on and ultimately controlled by one automotive competitor.”

The Detroit automaker said VW should target areas where “demonstrated market interest does not already exist.”

BMW voiced concerns that its German competitor “should not be afforded an implicit comparative advantage through its ability to control day-to-day operations of consumer charging events” that could include waiting times, pricing, and billing.

The agreement made with California and the U.S. Justice Department does require Volkswagen to be brand-neutral in its public outreach. The charging stations will need to be equipped to provide access to all EVs.

CARB is reviewing the $200 million, 30-month plan for approval. Part of that review will be reading the 120 comments submitted, said CARB spokesman Dave Clegern.

SEE ALSO:  VW Reveals Nationwide EV Charging Plans

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved VW’s initial $300 million spending plan for EV projects outside California. This phase will go through 2019, and will including installing 450 charging stations by that time.

The automaker will also spend $44 million on a “Green City” initiative to support future concepts. The company would like it to be based in Sacramento.

As part of its settlement, VW agreed last year to bring three new EV models to California by 2020. The agreement also included the target of VW selling an average of 5,000 EVs annually in the state through 2025.

In February, VW formed a new subsidiary, Electrify America LLC, to manage the $2 billion zero emission vehicle spend. The photo above, featuring a family charging a non-VW electric car, comes from its website.

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