The Latest VW Settlement Updates

Written by Carmen Fong

What is the VW Settlement?

On January 4, 2016, the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) filed a complaint against VW for violating the Clean Air Act. The complaint claimed that VW vehicles were equipped with a software or “defeat device” that would deceive federal emission tests such as smog tests.


Image of a vehicle equipped with “defeat device” in orange.

Click here to learn more.

Before the car would get tested, the software will detect and activate equipment to reduce its emissions to pass the test. The software de-activates during regular driving to improve torque, acceleration, and to save more gas. During the testing process, the software would adjust certain components such as the catalytic converter to reduce NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions.

What is the Clean Air Act?

The Clean Air Act (CAA) is a comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. This law authorizes the EPA to protect the welfare and health of the public through emissions of hazardous air pollutants. In this case, the EPA monitors emissions such as NOx, and CO (carbon monoxide).

Partial Consent Decrees

Volkswagen admitted to the allegations from the EPA and entered in three partial consent decrees with the United States and California:

  • Partial settlement one: addresses with VW vehicles with 2.0-liter diesel engines
    • VW must buyback or modify the emissions of at least 85% of offending vehicles.

    • VW must fully remediate excess NOx emissions from vehicles through the environmental mitigation trust.

    • Lastly, VW will invest and promote the use of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV)

  • Partial settlement two: includes VW vehicles of 3.0-liter diesel engines

  • Partial settlement three: addresses with civil penalties and injunctive relief to prevent future violations

Result of Settlement

Since the settlement, VW is currently providing funding towards two projects: The Environmental Mitigation Trust and The ZEV Investment Program

Photo from Swiss Harmony

Photo from Swiss Harmony

Environmental Mitigation Trust Program:

As a requirement, VW placed a total of $2.925 billion in this program based on the numbers of affected vehicles in each jurisdiction. With the funds, the trust supports projects that reduce NOx emissions in areas with VW vehicles.

ZEV Investment Program:

Over the next 10 years, VW will spend $2 billion to support increased use of ZEV in the United States, as well as creating an investment plan for the United States and California. VW’s subsidiary, Electrify America will invest $2 billion over the next 10 years in ZEV infrastructure and educational programs within the United States.

What's happening at a local level? 

Goals within California:

VW’s investment will help California by building ZEV charging infrastructure in metro areas and along highways, creating ZEV education and outreach programs, and launching “Green City” in Sacramento to focus on ZEV technology.

What is Green City?

Green City investment will offer ZEV initiatives and create a green habitat. These initiatives will be aimed to provide improved air quality and enhanced mobility for residents. $44 million of Electrify America’s investments will be going to Green City. Proposed projects include additional infrastructure and car-sharing.


Electrify America is focusing on providing charging stations including:

  • Level 2
    • 240 volts

    • Take up to 10 + to charge vehicle (depending on battery)

  • Direct-current (DC) fast charger

    • 480 volts

    • Most can charge up to 80% within 30 minutes

    • Current compatible vehicles include: Mitsubishi I and the Nissan Leaf

  • Tesla super chargers

    • public high ways

  • Electrify America’s own DC plan

    • Community depot

    • highway

  • Future DC

    • highway

    • Either European or domestic

Community Charging

Electrify America will be building over 300 charging stations within communities such as workplace, retail, multi-family residential areas, and municipal lots and garages. These areas will have a mix of level 2 AC ports and DC ports.

Highway Network

Creating a robust highway network with continuous miles served and numerous charging sites. Charging sites will be equipped up to 350kw stations. Electrify America’s current goal is to install 290 highway sites with 5 charge points in each site. Each site would be approximately 66 miles apart and no more than 120 miles apart.

What now? 

EA’s next steps

Sharing EV approach with others by serving as a source of local knowledge. To promote alternative fuel, EA is hoping to build a EV experience center in California as a community depot.

What can WE do?

Spread the news and promote alternative fuel by sharing this via social media, and notifying others about changes that will be made in the future! Sign-up for National Clean Cities newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest alternative vehicle news. And click here to sign-up for our Silicon Valley Clean Cities Coalition Chapter's Newsletter.

For more information about the VW settlement and its progress, contact the Clean Cities Coordinator.