WASHINGTON -- A U.S. House panel pressed EPA officials on how the agency will monitor Volkswagen’s plan to spend a required $2 billion to increase the adoption of zero-emission vehicles over the next decade.
The investments are required by VW’s partial consent decree with U.S. authorities to settle some of its 2.0-liter diesel emissions violations.
In calling the hearing last month, GOP lawmakers said they planned to review the “potential” for VW to gain an “unfair competitive edge” in the electric vehicle market from the investments. The investments will fund infrastructure projects such as EV charging stations, car sharing programs and public awareness campaigns. They come amid a major EV push by the Volkswagen Group, which plans to launch 30 new electric vehicle models by 2025.
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said the plan “raises the potential that VW’s penalty for bad behavior may not be entirely without benefit for VW’s own future operations.” Murphy chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight and investigations panel.
He said the oversight provisions “appear pretty thin, especially at the federal level,” noting that VW has sole discretion to select ZEV projects, “creating opportunity for VW to gain an enormous competitive advantage.”
Murphy also noted that the $500 million VW must spend over the first 30-month spending cycle of the 10-year plan would “nearly double” what’s expected to be invested in EV charging over the same period absent VW’s spending, echoing previous estimates by charging companies.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., pressed EPA officials on who would own the data collected from vehicles using charging stations to be built using the funding.
In prepared testimony, EPA officials promised VW’s ZEV investment program would have “unprecedented” transparency.
The settlement requires VW to seek public input from states, municipalities and others on projects it should fund. The EPA and California’s Air Resources Board must approve the broad plans. VW must update its plans every 30 months, detail the projects to receive funding and issue annual reports summarizing investment progress.
“This unprecedented level of transparency will allow researchers, competitors, and other informed commenters to see how effective the investments have been, and to suggest different approaches for the next plan that might work better,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in prepared remarks.