The Volkswagen diesel emission scandal has now largely vanished from U.S. media coverage, much to VW's relief.
Tens of thousands of bought-back TDI diesel vehicles still sit in fields awaiting modification and resale, or some other disposition.
But among the thousands of pages of legal documents to settle dozens of civil and criminal charges in the case within the U.S., there's an interesting provision.
That's the one that requires VW Group to offer two new battery-electric vehicles for sale in California before December 31, 2019—in addition to the Volkswagen e-Golf already on sale.
The language of the requirement can be found in the Proposed Order for Second Partial Consent Decree, dated December 2016, between VW Group and the powerful California Air Resources Board.
The relevant language is found in Section IV (11) starting on page 7, as follows (with the vehicle requirements specified in a, b, and c).
Volkswagen TDI 'clean diesel' television ad screencap
a. Defendants shall offer and sell two additional [battery-electric vehicle] models in California, including one BEV Sport Utility Vehicle (“SUV”), in or before 2019. For the avoidance of doubt, this means that Defendants must offer no fewer than three BEVs (the two additional BEVs, plus Volkswagen’s existing e-Golf BEV or its BEV successor), including one SUV BEV, in California in or before 2019.
b. Defendants shall offer and sell an additional BEV SUV model in California in or before 2020. For the avoidance of doubt, this means that Defendants must offer no fewer than three BEVs (the two additional BEVs described in paragraph 11(a), plus the third additional BEV described in this paragraph), including two SUV BEVs, in California in or before 2020.
c. Defendants shall offer and sell these three additional BEV models (or their successors) in California through 2025, and they shall sell an average of 5,000 of these three additional BEV models (collectively) in California each year from 2019 until 2025. For the avoidance of doubt, this means that Defendants are required to sell 35,000 total units of the three additional BEV models (or their successors) during the seven-year period 2019 to 2025, but that they are not required to sell 5,000 units in any given year.
The Volkswagen e-Golf, of course, has now been on sale since 2015. It received a significant battery-capacity boost for 2017, taking its EPA-rated range from 83 to 125 miles.
Another battery boost is at least theoretically possible in 2020 or so, but the e-Golf adapted from the seventh-generation Golf will give way to the Volkswagen ID compact hatchback that goes into production in November 2019.
That car, VW has said, will not be sold in North America, where the first dedicated, long-range battery-electric model will be a production version of the Volkswagen ID Cross compact crossover. That is expected to reach dealerships in 2020.
So, what are the two new all-electric vehicles that VW has legally committed to sell?
Porsche Mission E concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show
The likely answer is that they won't actually be Volkswagens at all.
Instead, they'll be much pricier entries from the company's prestige brands, Audi and Porsche.
One hint of that comes from the fact that the requirements above are part of the settlement not for the larger 2.0-liter turbodiesel-4 settlement, but for the smaller number of 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engines, which were used by all three brands, including Porsche.
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The first of the two vehicles legally required by California will clearly be the 2019 Audi e-tron, the battery-electric crossover utility vehicle that will go on sale in Europe this fall and very likely arrive at U.S. dealers before the end of the year.
The second is likely to be the 2020 Porsche Mission E (though it may get a new model name), the low, sleek battery-electric sport sedan first shown at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show.
Porsche's U.S. arm has consistently said its target is to put the car on sale "before the end of 2019." Assuming it does so, that would be the second of the two new battery-electric models required under the California settlement.
Audi e-tron Sportback Concept, 2017 Shanghai auto show [photo:Ronan Glon]
An outside contender for the second slot would be the Audi e-tron Sportback, shown as a concept in April 2017 at the Shanghai auto show.
That's essentially a lower, sleeker "coupe" version of the e-tron crossover, and it could enter production before the end of 2019, roughly one year after the e-tron itself.
But if we had to lay money on it, we'd bet that VW Group will meet its legal obligations to California with the 2019 Audi e-etron and then the 2020 Porsche Mission E.
Green Car Reports reached out to the U.S. arms of Audi and Porsche, neither of which chose to comment on any future vehicles that may be related to the terms of the Volkswagen diesel scandal settlements.