The political pressure Volkswagen has been under to dramatically ramp up their electric vehicles in response to the fuel emission scandal could end up destroying the company and making cars much more expensive, one environmental analyst claims.
“Does Volkswagen have a future if political pressure is going to cost them a business plan that will force them into bankruptcy?” Myron Ebell, the director for Center for Energy and Environment at the free market group Competitive Enterprise Institute, said to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Most electric vehicles are sitting on lots, not going anywhere anytime soon; they’re simply not selling,” he added. Ebell went on to say that VW has to be able to profit from the vehicles it makes if it wants to continue to provide for customers and stay in business.
Ebell was referring to environmentalists and others pushing VW into producing more electric vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the campaign on VW in February to produce electric vehicles at a car plant in Tennessee. The agency also asked the company to build electric charging stations throughout the U.S.
Meanwhile, California-based environmental group Sierra Club agreed with the EPA, stating in a February press statement that the company must now shift its “focus to clean electric vehicles, without dirty tailpipes and emissions” if it is serious about fixing the damage it has done.
A Republican congressman joined the bandwagon shortly thereafter.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, requested in March the agency demand natural gas-powered vehicles be included in the fossil fuel emission-cheating fix. Inhofe has pulled in $1.8 million in political contributions from oil and gas producers during his time as a congressman, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org.
“EPA would gain more value from including natural gas vehicles — including heavy duty trucks — in the agreement to complement the [electric vehicle] path,” Inhofe wrote in a letter addressed to EPA head administrator Gina McCarthy in March.
VW admitted in September to installing cheat devices in hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered vehicles, including in many high-selling models such as the Beetle and Porsche Cayenne. The company relented in late April and announced it intends on creating 20 new electric vehicle models by 2020.
All this political pressure may doom the car company, Ebell warns.
“It just shows that everybody wanted to take advantage of Volkswagen’s situation, including government regulators,” Ebell said, referring to Inhofe and the EPA’s requests. “VW should just pay monetary fine for violating the law and move on with life.”
Car companies like VW, he said, are doing their best to abide by the strict fuel emission regulations while simultaneously competing against other carmakers.
The data appear to back up Ebell’s contention.
Fuel efficiency standards by 2025, according National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates, will require vehicles to average about 49 miles per gallon. As of 2012, light-duty vehicles were required to maintain 33 miles per gallon.
The fact that companies like Volkswagen, among others, resort to cheating demonstrates how stultifying the rules are becoming, he added. Other companies, meanwhile, are using legal loopholes to ratchet down fuel emission levels to contend with increasingly rigid standards.
Mitsubishi Motor’s market value has the company publicly admitted on April 21 tampering with its fuel economy tests to make its vehicles appear more fuel-efficient. This new scandal compromised more than 600,000 Mitsubishi vehicles, many of which were taxed at a lower rate if they met fuel emissions standards.
And in another example, an investigation by Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) appeared to show a series of unnamed Fiat vehicles fuel emission systems were ratcheted back after 22 minutes, indicating the company, like VW, may have been using technology to obscure fuel emission levels, Bild am Sonntag reported.
Fiat claimed it is using something called a “thermal window” during testing. The thermal window is an interval in a test when automakers are allowed to dial back the emission system to protect the vehicle’s drive train and other parts from condensation buildup during cold temperatures.
VW and other automakers must push back against these expensive rules and political pressure to change the type of vehicles they drive, Ebell concluded. “Otherwise,” he warned, “people won’t be able to afford Volkswagen’s cars, and will find themselves driving around in the kind of cheap cars they use in communist Cuba.”
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