1970s Los Angeles smog depicted in the Honda short film “Never Ending Race.”
Last month’s settlement proposal to resolve the claims of more than 450,000 owners of VW and Audi 2.0-liter diesel cars contains quite a few separate requirements in its hundreds of pages.
As well as buybacks of the affected cars and separate cash payments to owners, it requires Volkswagen to set up two separate funds that effectively atone for the damage its emission cheating has done.
One of these, to be funded at $2.7 billion, is to be known as the “mitigation trust,” whose purpose is to remove from the air more nitrogen oxides than the excess emitted by the cheating VW diesel vehicles.
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As neatly summarized in a statement by the Diesel Technology Forum, the fund will go toward a number of different programs.
In general, they will retire or retrofit older diesel-powered trucks, buses, and off-road machines and equipment.
Tractor-trailer rigs with the current generation of diesel powertrains with the latest emission aftertreatment systems have emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) 95 percent lower than those from pre-2010 trucks.
For off-road construction equipment like excavators, the reduction is closer to 99 percent.
According to a study done for the diesel forum by the Martec Group, the rollout of new cleaner diesel engines for large vehicles has eliminated emissions of 7.5 million tons of nitrogen oxides.
That savings equals the total NOx emissions of all passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks over two years—indicating just how important the more stringent regulations are.
The Forum notes that while progress is being made, the VW funds can help accelerate that transition:
As of the end of 2015, about one-quarter of all commercial vehicles (GVW 3-8) on the road are the newest generation (2011 model year and newer) clean diesel technology vehicles, according to Diesel Technology Forum analysis based on IHS Automotive 2015 vehicles in operation data, December 2015.
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Accelerating the turnover to the new technology clean diesel engines will achieve substantial NOx reductions. Significant air quality benefits will accrue to communities across the country if more of these older commercial vehicles are replaced with new or newer diesel engines.
Money from the mitigation fund will also go toward the existing Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.
In effect since 2008, that program has helped owners of older equipment either replace their engines with updated, lower-emission diesels or retire and replace the vehicles altogether.
Between 2008 and 2013, the Act’s funds paid for replacement of more than 73,000 engines, cutting emissions by 335,000 tons on NOx.
That, the forum notes, equals the annual emissions from every residential furnace and boiler in the U.S.
Additional funding for the program will enable it to remove larger numbers of older engines and machinery.
Note that the mitigation funds are entirely separate from VW’s $2 billion of support for a separate Zero-Emission Vehicle program.
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The separate ZEV funds will be used to help make it easier to buy, own, operate, and recharge zero-emission vehicles, both electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
Advocates have urged that the money should go toward a nationwide network of DC fast-charging stations that essentially replicates the Tesla Supercharger network, but using the CHAdeMO and CCS standards built into virtually every non-Tesla electric car sold in the U.S.
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