VW tells California plans for electric car charging in poorer areas

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE on Thursday told California it was expanding efforts to build electric car infrastructure in poorer communities, responding to regulators who described "shortcomings" in VW's plan.

A Volkswagen logo is shown on the front of an old Volkswagen van in Encinitas, California September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The California Air Resources Board in May said that VW’s Electrify America unit needed to spell out how it would spend 35 percent of funds in lower-income areas.

The German automaker has agreed to spend $800 million in California and a total of $2 billion nationwide on clean car infrastructure to atone for diesel emissions cheating.

Critics, including rival charging station maker ChargePoint Inc and some automakers, said VW’s plans could give it a competitive advantage and ignore poorer communities where the state wants to promote clean cars.

Electric car maker Tesla Inc and some other charging station makers supported VW.

In a supplemental plan released on Thursday, the VW unit said it aimed to spend 35 percent of investment funds in such areas during the first $200 million, 30-month tranche.

Electrify America Chief Executive Mark McNabb said by phone that the company had decided to build community charging stations, such as home and work chargers, in six disadvantaged communities, rather than five, although it did not raise the amount of money to be spent on community charging from a previous draft.

It committed to spend $2 million to $3 million on education with groups that had access to disadvantaged communities and was working on ways to open the network to owners of used electric cars.

It also said that more than half of funds for stations near highways would be spent in less affluent areas.

Air Resources Board member Dean Florez, an environmental justice advocate who had pressed VW to add funds for disadvantaged groups, called the revised plan a “marked improvement.” He said he wanted more details and would press for reallocation of some public awareness funds to support the expansion of community charging to six areas.

McNabb said his company is considering four different charging station companies and hoped regulators would consider the revised plan over the summer. An Air Resources Board spokesman said no date for a vote had been set.

Reporting By Peter Henderson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis