By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Major automakers and other groups are raising objections to the way Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> wants to spend $2 billion on electric vehicle infrastructure and projects, as part of the German automaker’s atonement for diesel emissions cheating.
Volkswagen plans to install hundreds of EV charging stations nationwide as part of the 10-year plan. About $800 million of the total will be spent in California as part of a settlement with the government after the German automaker admitted to secretly installing cheating software in 580,000 diesel vehicles allowing them to emit excess pollution.
The California Air Resources Board is considering whether to approve the $200 million spending plan for the first 30 months and is reviewing the 120 comments submitted, said spokesman Dave Clegern.
Automakers object to the proposed locations of some charging stations in areas that already have many electric vehicles and have concerns about competitive advantages VW could get from the program. An environmental group said more of the stations should be built in low-income areas.
Also, Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co wrote a joint letter urging California to require Volkswagen to spend a “significant portion” of the money on hydrogen fuel cell fueling stations, saying the current commitment by California to get 100 such stations in place by 2020 is “not on track.”
In its initial California spending plan, Volkswagen wants to allocate $120 million to build more than 400 highway and community EV charging stations by 2019 in high-traffic areas. Several automakers said in their comments that they would prefer that the new charging stations be installed instead in areas that have little electric vehicle traffic.
Ford Motor Co said it “has reservations about having a key electrification driver dependent on and ultimately controlled by one automotive competitor.” Ford added VW should target areas where “demonstrated market interest does not already exist.”
BMW AG said Volkswagen “should not be afforded an implicit comparative advantage through its ability to control day-to-day operations of consumer charging events” such as waiting times, pricing and billing.
Under the agreement with California and the Justice Department, funds spent on education and outreach must be brand-neutral and cannot feature Volkswagen vehicles. Charging stations must be accessible to all vehicles.
The three automakers who want Volkswagen to spend more on building hydrogen fueling stations are trying to sell fuel cell vehicles.
Volkswagen declined to comment on the automaker letters, but said its goal is to “make it easy for as many (zero emission vehicle) drivers as possible to enjoy the collective charging networks available.”
The Sierra Club in a letter to California urged VW to “rethink its infrastructure proposal to include more investments in community-based charging in disadvantaged communities.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month approved VW’s initial $300 million spending plan for EV projects outside California through 2019, including having 450 charging stations in place by then.
VW will also launch a $44 million “Green City” initiative to pilot future concepts. It expects the city to be Sacramento.
In December, Volkswagen agreed to add three additional electric vehicle models in California by 2020 and must sell an average of 5,000 electric vehicles annually through 2025 in the state.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)