The Great Pickup Stick-Up.
Alternative fuel follies
When a friend phoned last year to say that the state of Arizona was about to buy him a brand new pickup truck loaded with all the luxury options, I took it with a grain of salt. I've known the government to do some stupid things, but buying new trucks for my successful banker friends just wasn't one of them.
Or so I thought.
But Arizona, in what may go down in stupid government lore as the Great Pickup Stick-Up, did in fact buy my friend a truck, or at least most of a truck, by offering rebates and tax breaks that slashed its $35,000 price tag by more than half. And it did the same for thousands of other Arizonans, turning what was supposed to be a modest $3 million initiative to encourage the use of alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) into a half-billion-dollar boondoggle boon·dog·gle Informal
1. An unnecessary or wasteful project or activity.
a. A braided leather cord worn as a decoration especially by Boy Scouts.
b. that nearly bankrupted the state and earned it national belly laughs.
Before being shut down in mid-December, a mere seven months after becoming law, Arizona's AFV AFV Alternative-Fuel Vehicle
AFV America's Funniest Home Videos (TV show)
AFV Armored Fighting Vehicle
AFV America's Funniest Videos
AFV Amniotic Fluid Volume
AFV America's Funniest Home Video
AFV Avantage Fiscal program had become what Republican Gov. Jane Hull called a "cancer" on the state's budget, costing its primary political champion his career and leading to at least one criminal probe. Bolstered along the way was the state's reputation as a petri dish pe·tri dish
A shallow circular dish with a loose-fitting cover, used to culture bacteria or other microorganisms.
a shallow, circular, glass or disposable plastic dish used to grow bacteria on solid media such as agar. for political chicanery.
The program backfired for many reasons: It was poorly conceived, it lacked safeguards against abuse, and the governor and her staff ignored early warnings that it was being exploited, as Arizonans rushed to game the system.
Compounding those structural and systemic shortcomings A shortcoming is a character flaw.
Shortcomings may also be:
an unpleasant odor and flavor in a human foodstuff of animal origin. Caused by the ingestion of the substance, commonly a plant such as Hexham scent, or while in storage, e.g. milk stored with pineapples, or as a result of animal metabolism, e.g. boar taint. of cronyism Cronyism
Manhattan Democratic political circle notorious for spoils system approach. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 492] . Its main political sponsor--former State House Speaker Jeff Groscost, who purchased two new trucks of his own through the program--reportedly was a close associate of a top provider of alternative-fuel conversion kits, gave alt-fuel interests a direct hand in writing the legislation, and had once earned tens of thousands of dollars consulting for the program's potential beneficiaries in the natural gas industry.
The incentives and subsidy levels were generous to a fault, with little understanding of their fiscal implications until too late. The state offered participants like my banker friend a lump-sum rebate of up to 40 percent of the price of a vehicle, which, when combined with federal and state tax breaks and a waiver of license plate and emission-testing fees, could easily slash a new truck's cost by as much as half. Yet another incentive that has rankled some Arizonans is allowing participants to use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, even if they rode alone.
As word of the subsidies spread, Arizonans were quick to take full advantage. Car dealers reportedly jacked up prices on popular truck models as demand rose; participants added on expensive accessories, knowing taxpayers were paying for them; the cost of conversion kits jumped 30 percent; and regional corporations seized the opportunity to purchase fleets of work trucks or rental cars at half the usual cost.
Yet no guarantees existed to ensure that participants actually used alternative fuels. They needed only to pledge to burn 100 gallons of propane or condensed con·dense
v. con·densed, con·dens·ing, con·dens·es
1. To reduce the volume or compass of.
2. To make more concise; abridge or shorten.
a. natural gas annually (which, in my friend's case, amounted to only two and a half refills of the 40 gallon propane tank mounted in the bed of his pickup). And even that was done on the honor system honor system
A set of procedures under which persons, especially students or prisoners, are trusted to act without direct supervision in situations that might allow for dishonest behavior.
Noun 1. . News accounts indicate that many Arizonans disconnected their alternative-fuel systems immediately after having them installed, with little fear of penalties.
Because large, gas-gulping pickup trucks were the most logical candidates for conversion, they naturally became the vehicles most frequently used in the program. So in the end, thanks to loopholes and perverse incentives, an initiative meant to reduce air pollution and fuel consumption probably increased both.
In addition to missing clear signs that the program was out of control, Gov. Hull and her staff were criticized for not freezing the program immediately after the debacle became news, thus allowing a last-minute rush that heaped even more potential liabilities on the taxpayers. Meanwhile, with her popularity sinking, Hull turned on her erstwhile ally Groscost, accusing him of "betrayal" and suggesting he resign. She needn't have bothered: Groscost went down to a resounding re·sound
v. re·sound·ed, re·sound·ing, re·sounds
1. To be filled with sound; reverberate: The schoolyard resounded with the laughter of children.
2. defeat in November, thanks to the scandal.
In mid-December, the Arizona legislature The Arizona Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Arizona. It is a bicameral legislature that consists of a lower house, the House of Representatives, and an upper house, the Senate. There are 60 Representatives and 30 Senators. met in an emergency session and narrowly passed a plan to halt the hemorrhage by shutting out 10,000 to 15,000 would-be participants. That may have saved the state $400 million. "This is one [bill signing] that's not a celebration of victory, but the beginning of an ending to a process that should never have happened," Gov. Hull said, bringing Arizona's alternative fuel program to an inglorious in·glo·ri·ous
1. Ignominious; disgraceful: Napoleon's inglorious end.
2. Not famous; obscure: an inglorious young writer. end.
But that too will probably come with a price. Some of the angry shutouts have filed a class action lawsuit class action lawsuit
A lawsuit in which one party or a limited number of parties sue on behalf of a larger group to which the parties belong. For example, investors may bring a class action lawsuit against a brokerage firm that has actively promoted a tax demanding that Arizona abide by the original bargain, in spite of Hull's plea that participants voluntarily withdraw their claims against the program "for the good of the state."
Arizona isn't alone. Governments great and small have been relentlessly pushing alternative-fuel and low-emissions vehicle programs on a reluctant public, trying to bring new technologies and new markets into being through sheer political willpower. Typically, there's far too little appreciation for the technical challenges and costs involved. California is likely headed for a crack-up crack·up or crack-up
1. A crash, as one involving an airplane or automobile.
2. A mental or physical breakdown.
Noun 1. of its own AFV program, which requires that automakers, beginning in 2003, sell a set quota of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and extremely low-emission vehicles in the state, whether or not the cars actually catch on with the motoring public. (See "Suing for Relief," below.)
The idea was born at the 1990 Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. Auto Show An auto show, or motor show, is a public exhibition of current automobile models, debuts, concept cars, or out-of-production classics. It is commonly attended by automobile manufacturers. Most auto shows occur once or twice a year. , when then--General Motors Chairman Roger Smith, in a moment of bravado bra·va·do
n. pl. bra·va·dos or bra·va·does
a. Defiant or swaggering behavior: strove to prevent our courage from turning into bravado.
b. his industry has come to regret, boasted that his company could and would mass-produce the futuristic, battery-powered concept car there on display.
It was a boast that environmentalists took to heart and California lawmakers took too seriously. The result is a law that tries to dictate the tempo of technological innovation. But the battery technology required to fuel California's ZEV ZEV Zero Emission Vehicle revolution has evolved much more slowly, and been much more expensive, than the law writers anticipated, in spite of massive public- and private-sector investment in the research effort. (See "Electric Go-Karts," page 46.)
This has led to repeated rollbacks of the law's unrealistic deadlines and quotas--most recently, the 2003 sales quota target for ZEVs has been reduced from 10 percent to 2 percent, though automakers will now be required to sell an additional 8 percent of extremely low-emission vehicles that same year. Those requirements, though an improvement over earlier mandates, have nonetheless brought a lawsuit from GM, which argues that the law imposes an unreasonable burden on industry to achieve a negligible improvement in air quality.
However, technological limitations aren't the only hurdle blocking the government's alternative-fuel fantasies. Despite continuous predictions that the era of "green" vehicles is upon us, alternative-fuel cars have consistently failed to catch on with the general public, for some stubbornly practical reasons. The vehicles might not exist at all were it not for heavy government mandates and costly taxpayer subsidies.
Buyers of cutting-edge low-emission cars tend to be novelty-seekers, gizmo Slang for any hardware device. See gadget. geeks, or affluent environmental activists--Ed Begley Jr. types, for instance--willing to pay far more for a car that can do considerably less, usually in order to prove some larger point. "It's not easy selling someone a vehicle that costs twice the price and has half the utility," says one auto industry insider. "When you drive an electric car, all you're thinking about is how you're going to get there, where you will refuel re·fu·el
v. re·fu·eled also re·fu·elled, re·fu·el·ing also re·fu·el·ling, re·fu·els also re·fu·els
To supply again with fuel.
v.intr. when you do, and whether or not you'll make it back," he says. "And all for $20,000 to $30,000 more than a conventional car."
General Motors might have been able to fulfill Roger Smith's auto show boast were it the only company in the zero-emissions game, but California's across-the-board mandate, applying as it does to all automakers, means that every large manufacturer is after a major share of a tiny market, making it highly unlikely that any one of them will ever meet the state's mandates. "Political correctness politically correct
adj. Abbr. PC
1. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. has overtaken common sense," says one official at GM, "and no one wants to admit to the environmental community that this is a dead end road."
Meanwhile, New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of state is blithely following California into the same cul-de-sac, with its recent requirement that by 2004, 10 percent of cars, light trucks, and SUVs sold in the state use alternative fuels. And Massachusetts and Vermont are set to follow suit, too.
The federal government has been trying to spur on alt-fuel technologies, and forcibly forc·i·ble
1. Effected against resistance through the use of force: The police used forcible restraint in order to subdue the assailant.
2. Characterized by force; powerful. create a mass market for them, since the Energy Policy Act of 1992 led to massive taxpayer support for research and development projects like the Partnership for a Next Generation Vehicle and grants to help cities acquire alternative-fuel buses and autos. It also attempts to create an artificial market where no natural market exists, by requiring federal- and state-owned vehicle fleets to include an incrementally greater percentage of AFVs over time. By 2010, the feds hope, fleet mandates will help reduce conventional gasoline use by 30 percent. Billions of dollars have been spent--critics would say wasted--in the process.
Yet even as those 1992 targets retreated farther from the realm of possibility--some federal fleet managers, in spite of the mandates, continued purchasing cheaper, more reliable conventional vehicles in the name of economy and efficiency--the Clinton White House chased harder after them. Executive orders in 1993, in 1996, and on Earth Day last year further reinforced the administration's commitment to federal fleet mandates and artificial markets.
Even if those Energy Policy Act goals could be met, however, the total amount of alternative fuels used would only replace less than 1 percent of projected U.S. gasoline consumption in 2010, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the government's own estimates. And if similar fleet acquisition mandates were imposed on local governments and the private sector--in a move now being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency--that total would only double, according to Department of Energy projections, replacing just 2 percent of projected conventional fuel consumption in 2010.
As of 1998 taxpayers had purchased outright about 30 percent of the AFVs in use, and subsidized many of those that were ostensibly os·ten·si·ble
Represented or appearing as such; ostensive: His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity. "bought" by the private sector, at an unknown, but undoubtedly, staggering cost. According to the General Accounting Office, many of these vehicles are not being used as designed and intended, reducing their potential environmental benefits, because fleet managers find that doing so is both expensive and inconvenient. This suggests that thousands of vehicles counted in the alt-fuel category are actually burning conventional fuels, making their purchase pointless.
In spite of the government's best efforts on behalf of alternative fuels, it has been mapping a route the public is reluctant to follow. The Department of Energy estimates that about 1 million AFVs were on the road in 1999, less than half of 1 percent of all vehicles. Alternative fuels replaced about 334 million gallons of conventional gasoline in 1999, according to government figures, or about 0.3 percent of all the gasoline used. To date, fewer than 4,000 electric vehicles are believed to be operating in the U.S. Most are bought or leased as novelty items or sincerity trophies by the most committed alt-fuel advocates.
Such statistics indicate not only that the Energy Policy Act has been a flop, but that most Americans--unless they're being handed the vehicles for nothing or having them heavily subsidized by fellow citizens, as in the Arizona case--just don't share the government's fascination with AFVs. And they lack that interest for what turn out to be very practical reasons.
"The goals [of the Energy Policy Act] are not being met principally because alternative fuel vehicles Alternative fuel vehicle
Conventional fuels such as gasoline and diesel are gradually being replaced by alternative fuels such as gaseous fuels (natural gas and propane), alcohol (methanol and ethanol), and hydrogen. have significant economic disadvantages compared to conventional gasoline vehicles," according to the General Accounting Office. The prospects for AFVs will remain bleak until these cost and performance disadvantages are addressed and reversed, the GAO report adds, and they aren't likely to improve without a huge increase in the pump price of conventional fuels or even more dramatic government intervention into the marketplace.
Among the greatest impediments to a wider acceptance of such vehicles is a lack of refueling facilities and infrastructure, performance and refueling problems, and the higher costs of AFVs. Without some kind of subsidy or rebate, a cutting-edge, battery-powered auto will cost about $20,000 more than its conventionally powered cousin, according to one analyst at General Motors. Cars that burn compressed natural gas Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is a substitute for gasoline (petrol) or diesel fuel. It is considered to be an environmentally "clean" alternative to those fuels. It is made by compressing natural gas (which is mainly composed by methane (CH4 can cost $3,000 to $5,000 more than their conventional counterparts. And for that price, consumers will usually be getting transportation that is difficult, less reliable, or inconvenient to refuel--and limited in range.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico “Albuquerque” redirects here. For other uses, see Albuquerque (disambiguation).
Albuquerque (pronounced [ˈæl.bə.kɚ.kiː], Spanish: [al.βu. , for instance, the police department's 15 natural gas-powered squad cars--each purchased with a $25,000 grant from the federal government--have proven a major disappointment. The autos have only about half the range of conventional patrol cars, they perform sluggishly, and they can be refueled at only one location in town. This greatly reduces their utility for patrol officers, so they've been assigned to detectives instead.
"We didn't get the rose garden we were promised," the department's fleet coordinator told an Albuquerque newspaper. But the city went ahead with the experiment, he said, "because we couldn't turn down what was basically a free car."
"We couldn't turn down what was basically a free car." The New Mexican's refrain is becoming familiar in Arizona as well, as citizen explains to citizen why he or she was tempted into gaming the system. But what seems obvious after nearly a decade of government intervention on behalf of alternative fuels is that--as has long been understood with regard to lunches--there's no such thing as a "free" alternative-fuel vehicle.
Scan Paige is the Warren Brookes Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Suing for Relief
By Marc B. Haefele
GM takes California to court
It's no surprise that trying to clean the air by getting people to drive electric cars is a California idea: It's the perfect melding of the Golden State's historic smog problems with its taste for utopian technological innovation. Yet the battery-powered electric vehicle may be a technological and commercial dead end, even as it remains central to the California air-quality program now being emulated by New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. No wonder, then, that the biggest car maker, General Motors, and several of its dealers are suing for regulatory relief in state Superior Court in Contra Costa Contra Costa can refer to:
In the late 1980s, utilities and environmentalists pushed for laws forcing the introduction of zero-emission vehicles to California's car lots. In 1990, the California Air Resources Board California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the "clean air agency" of the state of California in the United States. Established originally in 1967, it is a part of the California Environmental Protection Agency, an organization which reports directly to the California , which has broad powers to regulate emissions throughout the state, decreed that car makers would have to put a percentage of ZEVs in their showrooms for sale. The mandate was to be phased in through 2003, when 10 percent of all new cars offered for sale were to be electric. CARB relaxed that number several times, most recently in 1996 to 2 percent.
The board wanted to allow extra time for "a market-based introduction of ZEVs...and to promote advances in electric-vehicle battery technology." Originally, the mandate would have translated into some 170,000 ZEVs, but the figure was subsequently slashed to 22,000.
By 2001, however, only 2,200 battery cars were humming along California's freeways. Why? The major reason is that meaningful "advances in electric-vehicle battery" capacity just haven't materialized in a way that would make ZEVs economical to end users, even with massive subsidies and tax breaks offered along the way. There are some high-tech batteries that can take a small electric car more than 100 miles between charges. But they cost about $250,000 each, so the basic production-line ZEV--typified by General Motors' sleek two-seater EV-1 --relies instead on a lead-acid cell battery that gets about 75 miles to the average charge and adds 60 percent to the cost and weight of the car. (The worn-out batteries are also difficult to dispose of To determine the fate of; to exercise the power of control over; to fix the condition, application, employment, etc. of; to direct or assign for a use.
See also: Dispose .)
Manufacturers contend that the average customer visiting a Saturn dealer (the EV-1's licensed vendor) would be more attracted to a $19,000 4-door Saturn sedan than a 2-seater EV-1 with an ostensible Apparent; visible; exhibited.
Ostensible authority is power that a principal, either by design or through the absence of ordinary care, permits others to believe his or her agent possesses. price tag of $35,000 (which could, in fact, only be leased at $499 a month). Given the higher price and relatively shoddy mileage, demand for battery-powered ZEVs has not developed--despite a passel of tax incentives. Discouraged by slack sales, companies cut ZEV production last year, with GM--to all appearances--getting out of the electric car business altogether.
The ZEV lobby, a major presence at CARB meetings, is accusing automakers not of market failure, but of treachery. CARB director Alan Lloyd idealizes the battery-powered car, with its complete lack of tailpipe tail·pipe
The pipe through which exhaust gases from an engine are discharged. Also called exhaust pipe.
a pipe from which exhaust gases are discharged, esp. emissions, as "the gold standard" of air quality, forgetting, perhaps, that this metallic basis for money has been discarded by the world.
While the battery-powered ZEV may be dead, other alternatives are very much alive. CARB's own technical staff recently observed that, while unable to improve the storage battery, science was making much progress in other clean-air technologies. "Hybrid vehicles This is a list of hybrid vehicles in chronological order of production: Early designs
Last year, the staff asked the board to cut the already abated Abated, an ancient technical term applied in masonry and metal work to those portions which are sunk beneath the surface, as in inscriptions where the ground is sunk round the letters so as to leave the letters or ornament in relief.
From 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica 2003 mandate for 22,000 ZEVs back to something the market might actually accommodate--around 2,000 more vehicles than are currently on the road. This would favor gas-electric alternatives like the Toyota Prius The Toyota Prius is a hybrid electric vehicle developed and manufactured by the Toyota Motor Corporation, and one of the first such vehicles to be mass-produced and marketed. The Prius first went on sale in Japan in 1997, and worldwide in 2001. and the Honda Insight The Honda Insight was a two-seater hybrid automobile manufactured by the Japanese automaker Honda. It was the first mass-produced hybrid automobile sold in the United States, introduced in 1999 and at its height achieved nearly 70 miles per gallon (3.4 L per 100 km). , which are selling well even though they cost about 10 percent more than a comparable gas-burner. The technical staff appears to have assumed that selling hundreds of thousands of hybrid and other very-low-emission cars (hybrids are 98 percent clean, not far off the ZEVs' 100 percent) would have a greater net effect on statewide air pollution than putting 20,000 ZEVs on California auto lots.
The auto industry insisted that CARB drop the 2003 ZEV requirement completely, and a battle royal ensued. The result: The board now says between 4,600 and 15,000 ZEVs must be on car lots by 2003, at a build cost to car makers of up to half a billion dollars. Ford, the only current ZEV maker, eagerly accepted, and other manufacturers tagged along.
But GM sued, contending that building ZEVs was 150 times costlier than alternative clean-air measures such as elimination of diesel pollution and encouragement of hybrid vehicles. CARB's Lloyd clucked, "GM has decided to place its future in the hands of its lawyers, rather than its engineers."
Perhaps. Observers are predicting an ugly, drawn-out fight that will consume a lot of time, energy, and resources that might be spent elsewhere. But many also hope that the suit, however acrimonious, will answer definitively whether any real demand exists for low-range battery cars--and whether there are indeed better ways to clean the Golden State's air.
Marc B. Haefele is a columnist for the LA Weekly.
By Henry Payne Henry Payne may refer to:
The perverse consequences of California's sates quotas
Thanks to their state's push for zero-emission vehicles, Californians can get set for the next great leap forward Great Leap Forward, 1957–60, Chinese economic plan aimed at revitalizing all sectors of the economy. Initiated by Mao Zedong, the plan emphasized decentralized, labor-intensive industrialization, typified by the construction of thousands of backyard steel in automotive Luxury: golf carts sporting headlights, turn signals, and a top speed of 25 miles per hour. Such toy cars will help automakers meet the requirement that a set percentage of vehicles they sell in the Golden State be nonpolluting. Undeterred undeterred
not put off or dissuaded
Adj. 1. undeterred - not deterred; "pursued his own path...undeterred by lack of popular appreciation and understanding"- Osbert Sitwell
undiscouraged by its botched botch
tr.v. botched, botch·ing, botch·es
1. To ruin through clumsiness.
2. To make or perform clumsily; bungle.
3. To repair or mend clumsily.
1. attempt at electricity deregulation Deregulation
The reduction or elimination of government power in a particular industry, usually enacted to create more competition within the industry.
Traditional areas that have been deregulated are the telephone and airline industries. , California is attempting to dictate vehicle design and production to the auto industry. All the more disturbing, the state's directives are actually harmful to the environment, are economically unfeasible, and are a threat to public safety.
Sacramento regulators have insisted for more than a decade that the improvements necessary to attain federal clean air standards can be achieved only by forcing automakers to produce battery-powered vehicles.
"The California Air Resources Board mandate," says David Hermance, executive engineer at the Toyota Technical Center in Gardena, California Gardena is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The population was 57,746 at the 2000 census. Geography
Gardena is located at (33.893615, -118.307841)GR1. , compels manufacturers to spend a tremendous amount of money on a technology that no one--not even CARB--believes will ever result in a mass-produced vehicle."
Elimination of the internal combustion engine Internal combustion engine
A prime mover, the fuel for which is burned within the engine, as contrasted to a steam engine, for example, in which fuel is burned in a separate furnace. remains the ZEV community's ultimate goal. But because current battery technology remains impractical, unaffordable un·af·ford·a·ble
Too expensive: medical care that has become unaffordable for many.
un , and therefore unmarketable, the only thing driving electric vehicle production is government fiat Government fiat is a process whereby a decision is made and enforced by the government without the participation of other political elements. See also
Market realities notwithstanding, CARB accuses the auto industry of willfully willfully adv. referring to doing something intentionally, purposefully and stubbornly. Examples: "He drove the car willfully into the crowd on the sidewalk." "She willfully left the dangerous substances on the property." (See: willful) withholding Earth-friendly products in a relentless pursuit of profits. This disdain for automakers as despoilers of nature was expressed by board member William F. Friedman William Frederick Friedman (September 24, 1891 – November 12, 1969) was a US Army cryptologist. He ran the research division of the Army's Signals Intelligence Service (SIS) in the 1930s, and its follow-on services into the 1950s. , who publicly scolded automakers in January by saying, "Progress will be made when we stick it to you."
By that yardstick, progress has been made: Failure to meet California's sales quotas can result in a $5,000 fine per unsold vehicle.
Such penalties will be felt by motorists nationwide. Internal-combustion vehicles are much more efficient than their electric cousins. Today, just the batteries for an electric car cost $30,000, while a gas-powered car's 20-gallon fuel tank costs just $20. (The true cost of ZEVs is not reflected in their price tags, as they are heavily subsidized.) Even assuming savings from mass production, an electric vehicle will cost many times more than a conventional car. Only by spreading the additional costs across the entire fleet can automakers clear ZEVs from dealers' lots.
In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , it's a new auto tax. And to the extent that ZEV subsidies inflate inflate - deflate sticker prices fleet-wide, a meaningful share of consumers will defer the purchase of new, cleaner conventional vehicles. A study by Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan environmental research group, predicts that this so-called "jalopy effect" will actually cause a net increase in auto emissions across California.
As electrics have bombed in the marketplace, CARB has tried to appear "flexible" by constructing a maze of credit-earning options for fulfilling the ZEV quotas. The most ludicrous would allow automakers to comply by marketing "neighborhood vehicles," better known as golf carts. Ford unveiled its neighborhood vehicle at Last year's Detroit Auto Show, for use in closed communities and on roads with speed limits under 35 mph. DaimlerChrysler AG recently purchased cart maker Global Electric MotorCars Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) is a market leader of NEVs, based in Fargo, North Dakota. History
The company was founded as in 1992 by a team of ex-General Motors engineers from Livonia, Michigan, under the name Trans2. . The golf carts have been exempted from federal safety standards Safety standards are standards designed to ensure the safety of products, activities or processes, etc. They may be advisory or compulsory and are normally laid down by an advisory or regulatory body that may be either voluntary or statutory. , allowing them to travel on public roads.
Then there are vehicles like Ford's Think City, a tiny electric two-seater meant for the highway. Made of plastic, the car takes 30 seconds to reach a top speed of 60 mph--an unsafe prospect for merging on any freeway, but perhaps especially those in California. "What scares me is that once somebody puts one in the fast lane, they're going to be killed," says Toyota's Hermance. noting that freeway speeds in Los Angeles average between 70 and 75 miles per hour. In other words, regulators are willing to trade an increase in traffic fatalities for an inconsequential in·con·se·quen·tial
1. Lacking importance.
2. Not following from premises or evidence; illogical.
A triviality. reduction in emissions.
Automotive technology Noun 1. automotive technology - the activity of designing and constructing automobiles
engineering, technology - the practical application of science to commerce or industry has changed dramatically since California's sales quotas were first proposed a decade ago. CARB's own data show that conventional vehicles' emissions have declined 80 percent since 1990. In smog-prone Los Angeles, the number of ozone "exceedences" has declined from 190 in 1982 to a mere 40 last year, despite an exponential increase in the number of vehicles on the roads and the miles they are driven. Stricter tailpipe controls will also be in place by 2003, which would further narrow the now-marginal emissions gap between electric and conventional vehicles. But CARB stubbornly ignores both scientific and economic evidence that discredits its pet regulatory scheme.
A competitive alternative to gasoline will likely one day emerge. Automakers see potential for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, for example, though their viability is still some years away. But to the extent that automakers are forced to divert money into electrics, research on more promising alternatives will be compromised. If one day you find yourself trying to merge a plastic cart onto a L.A. freeway, think a bit about that.
Diane Katz is an editorial writer for The Detroit News. Henry Payne is an editorial cartoonist An editorial cartoonist, also known as a political cartoonist, is an artist who draws cartoons that contain some level of political or social commentary. The most common outlet for political cartoonists is the editorial page of the newspaper not the dedicated comic section, and writer for The Detroit News and a contributing cartoonist to REASON.