Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the first of four plans by Volkswagen (VW) to invest $800 million over 10 years in zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure, public outreach, and access to these ultra-clean vehicles for residents of disadvantaged communities.
As previously reported, the investment is part of a multi-pronged settlement agreement resulting from the automaker’s use of software that caused its 2009-2016 diesel passenger cars to emit up to 40 times the allowed amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) into the atmosphere.
“We are pleased that Volkswagen can now move forward with its ambitious plan to help bring electric vehicle technology to corners of California ignored in earlier efforts,” says CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “This will help the state as a whole, and especially some of our disadvantaged and underserved communities, to shift to the cleanest vehicles on the market to help clean the air and fight climate change.”
CARB says its technicians forced the company to admit the use of the so-called “defeat device” in those cars in 2015. VW has paid out more than $15 billion in claims and penalties for using those defeat devices, as previously reported, and this ZEV investment is one of multiple pieces to mitigate the environmental harm caused by VW’s actions.
A separate part of the overall agreement requires VW to mitigate the excess NOx emissions of its diesel passenger cars by paying about $422 million to California to replace older, dirtier heavy-duty vehicles and equipment with cleaner versions. The agreement also requires VW to buy back or fix affected vehicles and to pay $153.8 million to the state in penalties.
The $800 million ZEV investment commitment is part of an agreement by the company with CARB, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Justice that combines mitigation and penalties to fully resolve all of the environmental harm from VW’s actions.
CARB says the funds will be invested by Electrify America, a subsidiary of VW created for that purpose, in four installments of $200 million each over the next 10 years in projects identified in four separate 30-month investment plans approved by CARB through a public process.
The agency explains that the first $200 million invested in California will build the basic charging network around the state, launch the multi-lingual public outreach and education campaign, and begin ZEV access projects, including the first “Green City” project.
Electrify America has chosen Sacramento as the first of two Green Cities, in which it will provide a set of ZEV initiatives that are accessible to city inhabitants and offer residents enhanced mobility and improved air quality. This will include charging stations and access to ZEVs for car sharing and other “ride and drive” opportunities.
A second Green City in a disadvantaged community will be selected in a later phase of the investment.
CARB says the first phase of the investment plan will also include ZEV infrastructure rollouts in six metropolitan areas: Fresno, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Sacramento. The plan includes community charging networks in each of these cities, as well as a statewide high-speed charging network. The vehicle charging networks include community locations, multi-family dwellings, commercial and retail locations, workplaces and municipal parking lots and garages.
Electrify America says it intends to put chargers into disadvantaged communities and other areas where they do not yet exist. The company estimates that more than 35% of its investments will benefit those communities.
With oversight of these investments, CARB will continue to provide guidance to Electrify America as it implements the plan. Electrify America will file detailed, written reports to CARB on a regular basis, and CARB staff will continue having regular discussions with Electrify America to monitor and assist with the investment projects.
CARB’s oversight role will also ensure compliance with the requirements of S.B.92, passed by the Legislature this session. As reported, S.B.92 requires that CARB approve or disapprove each proposed plan at a public meeting, that the plans be posted publicly, and that CARB strive to ensure that at least 35% of the investments benefit the state’s disadvantaged communities.
CARB says it will also ensure compliance with its written guidance and the consent decree’s terms and goals. Additionally, an independent auditor will monitor VW’s efforts for compliance with CARB’s approvals and the consent decree.