Only VW cars installed defeat devices, but many more cars were running well outside the legal limits.
Photograph by Sean Gallup—Getty Images
By Benjamin Snyder
December 17, 2015

Elon Musk is endorsing a radical plan for the way California handles Volkswagen’s emissions scandal.

The Tesla Motors (TSLA) CEO, along with 38 executives, environmental group leaders, and investors, lent his name to an open letter addressed to California Air Resources Board (CARB) chairman Mary Nichols.

The plan lets VW off the hook in California to fix cars already on the road in exchange for stricter emissions standards and forces the company to instead make emission-free cars going forward.

In September, the Environmental Protection Agency called out Volkswagen for software, called “defeat devices” that cheated on reporting emissions numbers to meet U.S. laws. The devices were reportedly installed in over 11 million cars around the world.

The letter from Musk and his associates proposes that CARB direct VW to “cure the air, not the cars.” The first two pats of the five-part plan are the most radical:

1./ Release VW from its obligation to fix diesel cars already on the road in California, which represent an insignificant portion of our total vehicles emissions in the State, and which cars do not, individually, present any emissions-related risk to their owners or occupants

2./ Direct instead VW to greatly accelerate its rollout of zero emission vehicles, which by their very nature, have zero emissions and thus present zero opportunities for cheating, and also do not require any enforcement dollars to verify

The third proposed change requires VW to reduce its emissions by 10 times the amount of cheating involved with the diesel fleet. The proposal says this must be achieved in five years.

The letter continues:

4./ Require that VW invest in new manufacturing plants and/or research and development, in the amounts that they would otherwise have been fined, and do so in California to the extent that California would have been allocated its share of the fines

5./ Allow VW some flexibility in the execution and timing of this plan by allowing it to be implemented via zero emission vehicle credits.

The authors claim that simply telling Volkswagen to meet tighter diesel standards in the future “will prove even more fruitless.” It adds, “a giant sum of money will thus be wasted in attempting to fix cars that cannot all be fixed.”

The letter comes on the same day that the Wall Street Journal reported VW CEO Matthias Muller has overhauled his team. Muller replaced Martin Winterkorn who stepped down due to the controversy.

Fortune has reached out to CARB for comment and will update this story if it responds.

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