How Volkswagen Reworked From a Local weather Cheater To An EV Chief


Most of our readers are most likely aware of what we name the Soiled Diesel Debacle. In 2015, the US EPA charged Volkswagen with putting in software program in its diesel automobiles that allowed it to cheat on emissions checks. Investigations from European regulators adopted, the corporate (naturally) tried to cowl up the scandal, government heads rolled, and the Volkswagen Group was finally compelled to pay some $30 billion in fines and damages. It was a stunning instance of deliberate company lawbreaking, and VW’s model appeared irreparably broken.

Volkswagen ID.4 street journey at Electrify America charging station. Picture courtesy of Volkswagen.

Nevertheless it wasn’t. Just some years later, the corporate is taken into account a clear car chief. New EVs from VW, Audi, and Porsche are promoting nicely, and Electrify America, the infrastructure firm that was established as a part of VW’s settlement with the authorities, has rolled out an in depth and quickly rising charging community throughout the US.

It was one of the crucial spectacular rehabilitations in company historical past, however VW didn’t obtain it alone. In 2016, the corporate fashioned a Sustainability Council consisting of 9 specialists from all kinds of fields to assist it rework itself from a polluting pariah right into a pioneer of petrol-free propulsion.

One of many members of the Sustainability Council was Margo Oge, a former EPA government, the writer of a guide referred to as Driving the Future, in addition to quite a few articles on clear automobiles, a Tesla driver, and “a faithful champion of decreasing transportation emissions.”

In a current article for Forbes, which I extremely advocate studying in its entirety, Ms. Oge describes her ground-breaking work with VW’s Sustainability Council.

“In fact, a few of us had been involved that the Council’s work might devolve into an train in greenwashing,” she writes. “Nonetheless, the problem of attempting to positively influence one of many world’s largest auto corporations made the supply arduous to go up. If VW actually dedicated to zero-emission automobiles, different OEMs would probably observe with comparable methods—an enormous win for local weather change motion.”

To their credit score, the brand new management at VW understood that substantive motion was wanted — firing a number of execs, paying some fines, then going again to soiled enterprise as typical wasn’t going to chop it this time. “The corporate needed to break free from the previous and its diesel-centric technique, embrace zero-emission automobiles, and enshrine moral practices throughout its workforce to revive its model,” Oge writes.

The Sustainability Council outlined a set of three key strategic adjustments, which VW administration adopted to a big extent:

  • Know-how Shift: Diesels had change into “radioactive,” and the one viable method for VW to rescue its model and adjust to tightening world emissions rules was to embrace EV know-how.
  • Coverage Shift: VW had forfeited all its credibility with regulators and policymakers. To rehabilitate its official popularity, the corporate needed to “change its place with regulators and NGOs in all key markets and change into an advocate for formidable requirements that scale back air pollution and drive e-mobility, reasonably than preventing with policymakers and regulators.”
  • Cultural Shift: “VW wanted to drive a tradition shift in the direction of a extra moral, collaborative and purpose-driven firm that might study from failures.”

Over the course of six years, the Sustainability Council met usually with high execs, serving beneath three CEOs — Matthias Mueller, Herbert Diess, and now Oliver Blume. “Our efforts as council had been revered by all three,” Margo writes, and “our exchanges had been all the time constructive, even once we took exception to their actions — or lack thereof.” In addition they met with leaders of VW’s Works Council, the German equal of a labor union, which represents the employees.

Sure, there was pushback, from managers whose whole careers had been constructed round diesel engines, and from union representatives who concern (not with out purpose) that the transition to EVs will end in main job losses. However the huge ship circled as rapidly as anybody might have imagined — in 2017, VW introduced an funding of fifty billion euros to launch a complete electrification initiative. In 2018, Herbert Diess turned CEO, and shortly turned a hero to EV advocates, overseeing a speedy enlargement of VW’s capability to supply EVs.

Diess’s new technique was radical — in 2021, he even invited Tesla’s CEO to deal with a gaggle of 200 VW executives on the subject of accelerating the transition to e-mobility. It was additionally controversial — he repeatedly locked horns with the highly effective Works Council, and his propensity to attract comparisons with Tesla apparently ruffled some highly effective feathers on the firm. In 2022, he was compelled out, to get replaced by Oliver Blume. It stays to be seen whether or not Diess’s departure will harm Volkswagen’s EV technique.

No matter occurs subsequent, the Sustainability Council can take credit score for some vital achievements, a few of which went far past Volkswagen’s world and helped to form the auto trade as an entire. Within the European Union, VW has supported a ban on the sale of recent ICE automobiles by 2035, in addition to the EU Inexperienced New Deal. The Sustainability Council labored with EU policymakers to determine partnerships between VW and electrical utilities to offer clear vitality for EV charging stations and battery cell manufacturing. Within the US, VW supported California’s formidable emissions requirements, which the then-occupant of the White Home was attempting to water down. Extra just lately, VW took a agency stand towards the oil trade’s efforts to cripple President Biden’s pro-EV insurance policies.

The Sustainability Council’s mandate was a brief one, and it’ll carry its operations to a detailed on the finish of 2022. The Volkswagen Group’s hundreds of staff, the whole German and European economies, and anybody who breathes air owes a hearty Thank You to the Council for its work to assist VW rework itself “from diesel cheater to e-mobility chief.”

“VW is heading in the right direction now and we hope the corporate beneath CEO Oliver Blume will speed up the tempo of change — particularly given the more and more horrific impacts of local weather change-driven human and ecological struggling across the globe,” Margo Oge concludes. “Because the world struggles to cut back greenhouse fuel emissions rapidly sufficient to stave off the worst impacts of local weather change, VW’s [electrification strategies] can prepared the ground.”

Courtesy of EVANNEX. By Charles Morris


Full our 2022 CleanTechnica reader survey for an opportunity to win an electrical bike.




Respect CleanTechnica’s originality and cleantech information protection? Contemplate turning into a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.


Do not need to miss a cleantech story? Join day by day information updates from CleanTechnica on e-mail. Or observe us on Google Information!


Have a tip for CleanTechnica, need to promote, or need to recommend a visitor for our CleanTech Discuss podcast? Contact us right here.




Leave a Reply