Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013Enlarge Photo
It will cost a huge sum, likely billions of dollars, to make Volkswagen fix all of the 482,000 TDI diesel vehicles it has admitted use "defeat device" software to ignore emission laws.
Indeed, it may not be practically possible for VW to modify 325,000 of those cars--and it would cost the company less simply to buy them back and scrap them instead.
That's a huge waste of money, say 45 environmental leaders and Silicon Valley executives.
Why not use those funds instead to force VW to build zero-emission vehicles?
That's the gist of a letter the group sent yesterday to Mary Nichols, chair of the influential California Air Resources Board, releasing it to the media at the same time.
CARB has to sign off on any fixes for all 482,000 cheating diesels that's proposed by Volkswagen to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SEEnlarge Photo
Among the signatories: Elon Musk (CEO of electric-car maker Tesla Motors), Lawrence Bender (producer of climate-change movie An Inconvenient Truth), and Michael Brune (executive director of the Sierra Club).
"For a significant fraction of the non-compliant diesel cars already in the hands of drivers, there is no real solution," says the letter.
And it notes that "drivers won’t come in for a fix that compromises performance."
It calls the idea of retrofitting selective catalytic reduction (SCR, or "urea") aftertreatment systems "costly and impractical," and suggests that while some cars may be fixed, "many won't--and will be crushed" instead.
The proposal suggests that in California, Volkswagen be released from its obligation to fix those non-compliant TDI diesel cars already on the roads.
Instead, use the state's existing zero-emission vehicle credits program to "direct VW to accelerate greatly its rollout" of cars with no emissions at all.
2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDIEnlarge Photo
It suggests that the appropriate ratio would be a 10-for-1 reduction in emissions, over five years, compared to the excess emissions associated with the diesel cheating.
That, presumably, would mean that Volkswagen would be required to sell tens of thousands of Volkswagen e-Golf battery-electric cars, or other VW Group electric vehicles, from 2016 through 2020.
In some ways, the proposal is analogous to an article published by Green Car Reports in September, just a week after the EPA revealed Volkswagen's admission of cheating.
Electric-car advocate Tom Moloughney wrote that some portion of the fines VW will ultimately have to pay should be used to create a nationwide DC fast-charging network that would allow plug-in car owners to travel longer distances.
The fate of the proposal is unclear, but it adds a new dimension to the very public discussion over the Volkswagen diesel cheating.
2016 Volkswagen e-GolfEnlarge Photo
It begs the question: Is the goal simply to modify cars that emit too much, to bring them within legal limits?
Or can more innovative remedies be implemented, to achieve a greater good of more significant reductions in vehicular emissions?
The full letter is published on the next page.