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Elon Musk and 44 other activists argue CA shouldn’t fine VW for cheating on emissions

The Dieselgate scandal could cost Volkswagen billions in fines alone, leading some analysts to speculate the company will be forced to part with one of its high-end divisions. A group of 45 investors and activists — including Tesla CEO Elon Musk — have sent an open letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that urges lawmakers to drop the fines and take actions that will “cure the air, not the cars.”

The letter argues that CARB shouldn’t force Volkswagen to fix its non-compliant diesel-powered cars because they are still safe to drive, and because they represent only a tiny percentage of the automotive landscape. Instead, the Sunshine State should punish Volkswagen by essentially forcing it to introduce several zero-emissions vehicles over the next five years.

Volkswagen has already started going electric; it sells a battery-powered version of the Golf (pictured), and it has recently confirmed the next generation of the range-topping Phaeton sedan will exclusively be offered with an all-electric drivetrain. However, the letter takes the matter a step further by suggesting that the Wolfsburg-based car maker should invest the total amount it will be fined by CARB into the construction of new research and development and manufacturing facilities in the state of California.

The proposed solution would have two major impacts. First, it would create hundreds — if not thousands — of jobs in California. Second, it would address the “urgent need to build more battery factories” and pave the way for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles all across the nation. The second point suggests the massive Gigafactory that California-based Tesla is building on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada, won’t be able to produce enough battery packs to meet demand.

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CARB reacted to the letter by saying “our focus has and will continue to be cleaning the air and advancing the cleanest vehicle and fuel technologies,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Volkswagen hasn’t issued an official reply.