Volkswagen: Is it too late now to say sorry?

What do Justin Bieber and Volkswagen have in common? Well for both of them, it’s definitely “too late to say sorry.”  

And for Volkswagen, that late apology will be sung to the tune of a proposed $15 billion settlement for cheating on emission tests for its diesel cars. Of the proposed $15 billion, $10 billion will go toward compensating anyone who purchased one of the affected vehicles between 2009 and 2015. Owners of these cars also get a choice of either having their car repaired, or having VW purchase their car back from them.

On top of paying customers, Volkswagen will also be contributing $2.7 billion to cleaning up the environmental damage caused by the emissions-spewing diesel cars. As a result of cheating emission tests for nearly 11 million vehicles, The Guardian estimates that Volkswagen has caused 1 million tons of air pollution yearly. To put that number in perspective, that’s about the same amount of emissions produced by the UK for all industries yearly.

In addition, VW will contribute $2 billion toward promotion of electric vehicles, with a whopping $800 million of that budget going to California, WIRED notes. Ironically, after causing significant air pollution and environmental damage, Volkswagen may become a major contributing factor to increasing mainstream adoption of electric vehicles, especially in California.

Reporter Alex Davies takes care to catalog all the obstacles preventing widespread EV acceptance among the public, and how VW’s cash could go about addressing them, beyond just raising public awareness:

Evangelizing the tech is only part of the problem. You also have to make it easy to recharge. American EV owners now have access to about 14,000 charging stations, not counting the outlets at home where most people do most of their powering up. They need more, especially the apartment dwellers. VW’s generous honey pot could go a long way to fixing that.

With the newly proposed California budget‘s lack of rebates for electric vehicles, Volkswagen’s proposed $800 million could mitigate any potential loss in EV use. Despite cutting rebates for electric vehicles, California still has one of the most aggressive emission-reduction plans of any state,, with the goal of cutting emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

So how will the VW “honey pot” be spent? Volkswagen will determine how to allocate the money based on feedback from states, cities, and agencies. The money could go a long way in increasing public charging stations for electric vehicles, which could in turn promote increased EV use.

While it may be too late to say sorry, it’s not too late for Volkswagen’s settlement to encourage mainstream electric vehicle use.

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