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Earth Transportation

Musk, Others Want Volkswagen To Go Electric Instead of Fixing Diesels (washingtonpost.com) 313

An anonymous reader writes: Volkswagen has put itself in a tough spot. After cheating emissions standards, the company faces billions in fines and repair costs to bring those vehicles into spec and make peace with regulators. But a group of business owners, investors, and environmentalists has a different suggestion. The group, headlined by Elon Musk, sent an open letter to the California Air Resources Board outlining their solution. They want Volkswagen to be released from its obligation to fix cars already on the road, and instead require that the company substantially accelerate its rollout of zero-emission vehicles.

They want Volkswagen's money to go into manufacturing plants and R&D for zero-emission technology rather than to government-mandated fines. (Note that these investments would give Musk, in particular, another direct competitor.) The letter says, "In contrast to the punishments and recalls being considered, this proposal would be a real win for California emissions, a big win for California jobs, and a historic action to help derail climate change. The bottleneck to the greater availability of zero emissions vehicles is the availability of batteries. There is an urgent need to build more battery factories to increase battery supply, and this proposal would ensure that large battery plant and related investments, with their ensuing local jobs, would be made in the U.S. by VW."

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Musk, Others Want Volkswagen To Go Electric Instead of Fixing Diesels

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  • by pellik ( 193063 )
    Even with all the lying and dishonesty from VW, I'd still expect them to do a better job at making something useful out of that money then our government.
    • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @09:23PM (#51151975) Homepage Journal

      I'd still expect them to do a better job at making something useful out of that money then our government.

      At least they won't waste any on that there highfalutin' edumacation.

    • Zero emissions??? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Most of US electricity is produced from coal and gas, zero emissions my ass. 67% coal/gas/petroleum. 19% is nuclear, technically zero emissions apart from the waste.
      I think they first need to get the generation of electricity cleaned up before pretending the electric cars are zero emissions.

      • by plover ( 150551 )

        Electric cars technically are zero emission vehicles, and are a not-insignificant half of the pollution equation. They're not pretending anything - you're assigning the attributes to cars incorrectly.

        It's shortsighted to suggest that there's no point to making electric cars because electricity is currently dirty; fossil fuel cars will continue to emit carbon even after you change the source of electricity to renewables. Get the fleets replaced with ZEVs, then as renewable producers replace carbon based ge

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by x0ra ( 1249540 )
          It is, because the only way to replace carbon-based energy, at our current level of consumption, is a massive move to nuclear, which ain't gonna happen.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @09:23PM (#51151977) Journal
    VW electric vehicles would compete with Tesla electric vehicles, still Musk seems to be asking for more competition. It reminds me of the old "Soup is Good Food" campaign by Campbells. By promoting all soups, including their competitors, Campbell got the "good guy" image and it also benefitted because it had the largest share in the soup market.

    Greater acceptance and availability of electric vehicles and the growth of electric vehicle market segment would benefit Musk, and it also adds to hi good guy image. It is quite possible Musk appears to be a good guy is because he *is* actually a good guy.

    • This is a new market, with lots and lots of growth potential, it may easily grow 100 times the size it's now (not knowing the exact numbers I'd guess electric vehicles are less than 1% of the world car market currently).

      A big problem that I see for electric vehicles is still the recharging, especially recharging while on the go. It may be technically possible in the lab, but not implemented much if at all in the real world, More electric vehicles means more electric infrastructure and that's good for Musk.

      T

    • Elon Musk wants to sell VW batteries. His only real interest in electric cars is in selling batteries. Greater availability and acceptance of electric vehicles means a bigger market for his batteries, and he has very little competition in THAT market.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Volkswagen would not buy batteries they would make them. About the only thing on the offing would be a buyout of Tesla by Volkswagen to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and the ban of the infernal combustion engine. A sound and logical move for Volkswagen. They have stuck themselves in a really deep shit pit and the only way out is to make a big move, a really big move and going all electric for future car development, for a car manufacturer would be the biggest move they could make. First in w

    • It's not that - Musk is after VW's business. He wants them to be forced to produce massive numbers of cars that need massive numbers of batteries. That, as the CEO of a large battery company with a car marketing devision, is *hugely* advantageous to him.

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      We're talking about a guy who made his fortune with PayPal.

  • Infrastructure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @09:23PM (#51151979)

    Musk is smart. The more competition he has in electric car manufacturers, the less is his share in the infrastructure of recharging stations, battery building, and the research and tech behind it all. The more companies that jump on the electric car path, the easier it is for him to sell cars (though he seems a little more high minded than that which is why I like him).

    • Re: Infrastructure (Score:4, Interesting)

      by known_coward_69 ( 4151743 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @09:26PM (#51151993)
      This and most car companies use a lot of common parts between them. More electric car makers means cheaper parts for tesla
      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        This and most car companies use a lot of common parts between them. More electric car makers means cheaper parts for tesla

        Can't think of many off the top of my head unless they're rebranded from Europe to NA, Asia to NA, Asia to Europe and so on. And they're part of a co-manufacturing pact(see GM and Suzuki). You could pull a Opal intake manifold off a car and slap it onto a Saturn, you could pull a disk or drum brake off a Saturn and slap it on a SAAB. But you're not going to be pulling a intake manifold off a Cadillac or BMW and slapping it on a Charger or Audi. Nor many other parts these days, they simply don't have a co

          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            k. But talking regular cars, how often do you see cross-platform parts? Not very often, it's stupidly rare. Which is what the parent poster was alluding to. I don't do much in terms of working on cars anymore(I am a licensed mechanic in the Province of Ontario), but I keep enough to know what's going on in the industry and two of my friends are mechanics, one of which owns his own garage, the other works at a major GM dealership here in Ontario.

      • And Musk has a new fancy battery factory, perfect for selling to VW.
    • Musk is smart. The more competition he has in electric car manufacturers, the less is his share in the infrastructure of recharging stations, battery building, and the research and tech behind it all. The more companies that jump on the electric car path, the easier it is for him to sell cars (though he seems a little more high minded than that which is why I like him).

      Musk is smart, but not for the reasons you mention. No, Musk is smart and has invested heavily in components required for EV. Every EV that Volkswagen would sell would be profit to him.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      He also sells batteries. If EV batteries wind up standardized, he can make a good chunk of change selling parts for other maker's EVs, as well as having his own vehicles.

      Realistically, energy density by volume is a big limiting factor for many, many technologies. If Musk or someone else can get a stable battery that is 1/10 the energy density (by volume) of gasoline or diesel, this would be a major game changer. Already, IC engines are relatively inefficient... At best, 35% energy goes into twisting the

  • inch for inch a Golf, not an unproven model (leaf) encroached or compromised trunk space (energi, volt) and more-than-commuter range. $21K with the rebates - that's less than a GTI. This is a huge opportunity for VW. If my commute gets below 80 miles I'm getting one.
    • not an unproven model (leaf)

      Renault-Nissan bangs out new hatchbacks all the time, and they're always adequate, unlike Toyota which brings out new cars which suck fucking ass. Echo was a shitpile. Yaris, likewise. On what basis? Compare them to an equally-priced Nissan. Don't just do it on paper, actually go and drive them. You will be throwing rocks at Toyotas in no time. Don't get me wrong, the Golf is a great car, but there's nothing wrong with the Leaf. It's a car.

  • My wife has a 2011 VW Jetta (Mexican made) It had its water pump replaced after six months and the replacement pump has just failed now. The car has gone 62000 km. This is crap. Water pumps were a solved problem 200 years ago. Any Japanese engine will go 300000km before serious problems set in.

    Maybe musk should just buy VW shells and put his drive lines inside.

    • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @10:22PM (#51152119)

      Most German cars are frequently in the shop. The German manufacturers have cultivated this myth about their engineering but in reality the cars they make are actually on the very low end of the reliability ratings. I inherited a Golf, it was a fun car to drive, very nice interior, but the power steering went out at 50k miles and it was a $1200 repair. This along with a long line of mechanical problems.

      I won't ever buy a VW because of that experience. They are overpriced junk that even Chevy beats in reliability.

      • by hjf ( 703092 )

        My dad's BMW fuel pump died... when he was about to get on a bridge.
        Then it died again in his vacation, 700km from home.
        Then the oxygen sensor died.
        Now an air conditioner gas (!) hose broke and coolant leaked.
        The alarm, for some reason, beeps every time he opens the door (he has to leave it unlocked).
        Now some ABS light is turning on, though that may be related to driving on a flooded street.

        The car is a 1998 model, yes. But it's been a lot of trouble really. Nothing major, but still annoying.

        • My dad's BMW fuel pump died... when he was about to get on a bridge.
          Then it died again in his vacation, 700km from home.
          Then the oxygen sensor died.

          Maybe he should think about an electric car. They don't use fuel pumps or oxygen sensors.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        According to Consumer Reports, you are lying through your teeth.

        http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/storyimage/CA/20151020/OEM01/151029991/V2/0/V2-151029991.jpg&MaxW=700&cci_ts=20151021060832

        But we shouldn't let facts get in the way of your opinions.

        • What facts? The fact that VW and Toyota used to be number 1 and now while Toyota is still number 1 VW is the epitaph of mediocrity in reliability terms?

          Considering how much more a VW costs than the comparable Chevy, other than his rosy view on Chevy's reliability he's still right on the money.

      • Isn't the basic story that they trade performance for reliability?

      • The German manufacturers have cultivated this myth about their engineering but in reality the cars they make are actually on the very low end of the reliability ratings.

        They didn't cultivate a myth. They had an actual solid and well earned reputation and then they sat on their laurels while other car companies overtook them in reliability and cost. Then they had to reduce cost in a hurry and lo-and-behold: we have shit.

        German cars were the bomb. Ask me 20 years ago what I would have bought and the answer would only have been a Toyota Corolla or a Series 2 Golf. Fast forward 20 years and I only just sold a 15 year old Toyota Corolla with 380000k on the clock, my grandpa's S

    • My Audi has been wonderful, but I have heard horror stories from other Audi owners.

      The story I heard was that you definitely don't want to buy a Volkswagen or an Audi which was made on a Friday. I remember there used to be a website which, given the VIN, would tell you what day it was made.

  • As others have noted, what he is suggesting is a little self-serving, but anything that helps progress the technology and reduce the cost is a good thing IMHO. The making available the patents of the super-chargers, for example, is a benefit to him, since it helps increase needed infrastructure, which Tesla can benefit from, but also benefits everyone else, since they have one less argument against the electric car.

    The next two places that the research money needs to be spent, IMHO, is simplifying the elect

  • by reemul ( 1554 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @09:51PM (#51152045)

    Can California's electric grid hold up if VW really did replace all those vehicles with electric cars? Electric cars aren't actually zero emissions - they just don't emit anything at the point of use. There's still plenty of emissions (or other environmental concerns) from the site where the power for them is generated, which is why CA has tried very hard to push most of their generating capacity out of state. Even hydro capacity has decreased, as more dams are broken than built because they apparently bother the fishies. So a massive surge in electrical demand from plug-in vehicles may genuinely hammer the local grid, a grid that is already prone to widespread brownouts. It's great to suggest that everyone go electric with their vehicles, but someone somewhere must actually generate the electricity first. It's like pushing the benefits of dairy products while banning anyone in the state from raising stinky cows.

    • The idea is to get everybody into a ZEV and sell them a Powerwall [teslamotors.com] to charge it. Save the planet, and then retire on Mars.
    • by unimacs ( 597299 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @11:04PM (#51152249)
      I imagine cars would be charged mostly over night where there is low demand anyway (non peak). Heavy electrical users are often give price breaks on electricity use during non-peak hours, - sometimes residential users can get those discounts too.

      Utilities are all about reducing demand use so they don't have to build and operate as many power plants. We get a break on our summer electric bill because we allow the local utility to cycle our A/C compressor on and off during peak load times. In the 10 years or so since we did that, we've never noticed a difference. So if car charges were a real problem, utilities could offer the same price break and just cycle the chargers on and off.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hadlock ( 143607 )

      You can set most cars to charge late at night when power is cheapest (due to low demand). There is no capacity issue. At all.

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      Except that the cars would mostly be charged when power is cheap (= plentiful, with little chance of brownouts). With a proper smart grid, that should actually improve the situation. If a demand peak comes along that would cause a brownout, just pull a small amount of power from a few thousand electric cars in the area.

    • Can California's electric grid hold up if VW really did replace all those vehicles with electric cars?

      You generally charge them at night, not during peak usage hours. Of course, Californians could also install a solar panel, SolarCity is offering them at no money down [slate.com].

      Even hydro capacity has decreased, as more dams are broken than built because they apparently bother the fishies.

      As someone who lives in the west I would love to see windmills on farmland and solar power installed on rooftops replace dams. Free flowing rivers are an incredible asset, it's not just about fish.

    • My 2012 Volt has never placed a strain on any grid, I've not been connected to one since 1979 - my solar system suffices - it's never been charged on a grid, and has used ~ 100 gallons since Oct 2011 when I picked it up. Ok, most didn't invest, but I did, and I have a fair amount of company in that. Systems like mine - and there were some tens of thousands back in '70 already - have never been counted in the stats, FWIW. Not everyone is grid-tie, which is all that's counted.
  • Musk must be nuts. Many of these VW diesels can be fixed just by software update, or minor hardware changes. Now we should leave these smog & cancer machines on the road just because Musk wants to create market for his battery factory? Oh, yes, it is all "for greater good", so it must be ok. He would better invent a quick way to fix electric grid from reliance on dispatchable power sources like natural gas from fracking and coal.

    • Many of these VW diesels can be fixed just by software update, or minor hardware changes. Now we should leave these smog & cancer machines

      Calm down there, Wilbur. The diesel emissions regs are so tight now that it's questionable whether anyone is actually going to be harmed by these VWs running over the allowable limits.

      Now we should leave these smog & cancer machines on the road just because Musk wants to create market for his battery factory?

      Compared to the average full-sized SUV, they're still clean and green. If you're going to be all upset about them, be upset about something much more harmful first.

      • by rch7 ( 4086979 )

        What a crap a you talking about, "so tight". Do you have a slightest idea how diesel engine works? SUV or not SUV just increase engine size by 30-50% or so, compression is still low and all that cancerous stuff from high compression diesel engines is emitted only by diesels that skip on these limits. No, limits are not tight, they are too loose and too loosely enforced. Especially on older diesels, and all cars inevitably get older with time.

        • Do you have a slightest idea how diesel engine works?

          Obviously better than you.

          SUV or not SUV just increase engine size by 30-50% or so

          And vehicle mass by 100% or so

          compression is still low and all that cancerous stuff from high compression diesel engines is emitted only by diesels that skip on these limits

          "All that cancerous stuff" that you are talking about is NOx, which is not cancerous. It is the primary component in acid rain, and it can lead to the formation of nitric acid which will damage lung tissue, but no part of it is cancerous. Gasoline vehicles produce more PM2.5 soot than do diesels, and they also emit more unburned hydrocarbons (until the catalyst heats up, they just spew fuel out the tailpipe) so they are actually more cancerous than are

          • by rch7 ( 4086979 )

            Average SUV doesn't consume 100% more fuel than typical sedan. Though you of course can do some extreme comparison between subcompact and largest SUV. You can always make such excuse, "my car pollutes less than Boeing 747, so who cares". It doesn't fly.

            World Health Organization (WHO) has classified diesel engine exhaust as a carcinogen – a substance that causes cancer. It is scientific fact and you may as well argue that Earth is flat. It isn't just NOx but whole complex of substances.

            Paris and London

      • Uh, no. The affected VW's wouldn't have passed 1984 emissions standards, in fact they would have been over by about 50%. By completely turning off emissions equipment during non-testing mode VW went from barely above regulations to untuned Mercedes 300 levels (obviously not in soot production but almost every other metric).

    • He would better invent a quick way to fix electric grid from reliance on dispatchable power sources like natural gas from fracking and coal

      Isn't that his powerwall system? Energy storage close to the consumer actually makes it easier to rely on wind and solar power.

  • They want Volkswagen's money to go into manufacturing plants and R&D for zero-emission technology rather than to government-mandated fines. (Note that these investments would give Musk, in particular, another direct competitor.)

    Would it really give him a competitor? How about first it reduces the competition against existing electric vehicles, and when Volkswagen finally is ready to market, Musk can lease them some patents and sell them some batteries from his gigafactory.

    • Musk knows he can't dominate the world car market by selling complete vehicles but he could do it by selling power trains, technology and maintenance.

  • elon gets....Pride
  • They want Volkswagen to be released from its obligation to fix cars already on the road, and instead require that the company substantially accelerate its rollout of zero-emission vehicles.

    And how do they propose to make whole the people that VW defrauded? You can't simply leave those people hanging. Moving to electric vehicles is fine and all but VW has two debts from their lies. One to society (indirect victims) and the other to their customers (direct victims). This proposal only deals with the first one. Any proposal that does not compensate customers of these vehicles is a non-starter. Could be as simple as a cash payment but it can't be a promise to develop new technology someday.

    • Re:Making whole (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Saturday December 19, 2015 @11:39PM (#51152339)

      Make whole? I've got an '06 TDI (so well before this whole thing), but have friends who have the affected models. None of them are upset with VW over this, and all are enjoying their good mileage, decent performance, and decent build quality. Neither of my two friends are interested in the recall should it seriously affect performance and/or mileage. The NOx issues are because the engine burns too efficiently (ie hot flame front); in order to reduce the NOx, you have to deliberately de-tune the engine.

      I predict that after this, the #1 modification will be to re-tune the engine.

      • VW defrauded the people who breathe the emissions from their vehicles. I am sure their customers are fine with that.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I hope they force people to get the fix. 5% better performance is not an excuse to damage other people's health. Demand that VW pays for the extra fuel and devaluation of the car, or buys it back. Don't hurt others to save a few bucks.

  • by konohitowa ( 220547 ) on Sunday December 20, 2015 @01:37AM (#51152655) Journal
    This just in: T. Boone Pickens thinks they should be required to spend the money on natural gas vehicles and wind harvesting technologies.

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