VW boss Herbert Diess and Tesla CEO Elon Musk appreciate one another.
A few years back, Volkswagen was rumored to be in the running to acquire Tesla. It never happened. But Tesla CEO Elon Musk and VW CEO Herbert Deiss seemed quite friendly when Tesla won an AUTO BILD award in Germany last year. Around that time, Musk tweeted, "Herbert Diess is doing more than any big carmaker to go electric. The good of the world should come first. For what it’s worth, he has my support."
Then, earlier this year, Deiss said, "We think that Tesla plays a very important role in the transition because they are paving the way... They showed that electric cars are working, that a fully electric car is the right solution. So, we appreciate that." Is this a budding bromance between Deiss and Musk? Or are they fickle frenemies. Other comments this month seem to suggest something more. More on that in a moment.
But first, let's looks at one way VW is indirectly helping Tesla. In basketball, there's something called a no-look pass. The whole purpose of this maneuver is that it goes unnoticed on the court. Something happened in Florida that went largely unnoticed. So let's take a look.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that the state will be getting 74 new DC fast chargers for electric vehicles. He held a press conference to announce the good news for EV drivers all across Florida. Sure, this is good news, but what does this have to do with Tesla or VW?
Well, it turns out Florida's EV charging infrastructure expansion plan will require an $8.5 million investment that's just a small part of the $166 million settlement that the state of Florida was awarded as a result of Volkswagen’s violation of the Clean Air Act.
Although not officially announced by the Governor, Tesla turns out to be a key beneficiary of this deal as much of the infrastructure will consist of Tesla Supercharger stations spanning across 1,200 miles on the state’s evacuation routes and major highways I-75, I-4, and I-95.
At the press conference, preparations were in full swing for the announcement while a bunch of Tesla vehicles appeared surrounding the Supercharger stalls, as reported on Twitter by Asher Wildman.
Later on, it was confirmed by News 6 Orlando that Tesla officials also joined the press conference and Superchargers are slated get a significant share as part of this EV charging infrastructure expansion plan. DeSantis remarked, "You know, you go in, you plug, you go to like a gas station or something inside the service store, get a drink, you come out, and the thing can be charged in a relatively short amount of time.”
"In terms of the Volkswagen settlement limit, the amount of funds that we can use on the EV infrastructure [amount] to 15% of the total $166 million, so we can use about $25 million, that means that this initial $8.5 million investment is one chunk but we do have more money that we can use for EV infrastructure and we’re really looking to do that," said DeSantis.
In what appears to be a surprising turn of events, Volkswagen is helping Tesla (and electric vehicles in general) as the company moves in the right direction post-Dieselgate. While that scandal plagued VW for years, it's encouraging to see the German automaker move to convert their fleet from gas (and diesel) powered cars to EVs. VW has also been actively advertising to support a transition to EVs. And funding EV charging infrastructure is certainly a noble step in the right direction.
Above: Florida Governor DeSantis announcing new EV charging infrastructure at a recent press conference (YouTube: ABC Action News)
According to Automotive News, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Deiss just voiced his support (once again) for Tesla's impressive success in the EV space. “Elon Musk delivers results that many have deemed impossible,” Diess noted on LinkedIn. The VW CEO added that Musk’s results prove that “in five to ten years the world’s most valuable company will be a mobility company — that can be called Tesla, Apple or Volkswagen.”
Fast forward to this week. In response to an article citing VW's recent efforts with electrification, Elon Musk tweeted, "Tesla is open to licensing software and supplying powertrains & batteries. We’re just trying to accelerate sustainable energy, not crush competitors!"
Could these two automotive innovators be aligning forces in the future? Only time will tell.
Correction: We’ve received clarification after publishing this article that there are two parts of the EV charging project in Florida — the first phase in which Tesla installs some Supercharger Stations along the Turnpike, but funds it themselves, and, the second phase with the 74 fast chargers, none of which were awarded to Tesla. In addition, there's no specific mention of Tesla getting any Mitigation funding at the press conference. For further clarification, please see this article explaining this in detail. Any speculation to the contrary proved to be incorrect.