California Air Resources Board to Consider Nation's First Emission Standards for "Ultra-Clean" Cars and Fuels
For immediate release
SACRAMENTO - In an effort to turn back California's persistent smog, the state's Air Resources Board (ARB) will consider adopting the world's first emission standards for "ultra-clean" cars and cleaner burning fuels during a pair of public hearings this week in Los Angeles.
The proposals include the world's first required production of "zero-emission" electric cars, the nation's first standards to define cleaner burning "reformulated" gasoline, and are expected to pave the way for wider use of alternative fuels in some mass-produced cars.
The new automotive and fuel standards will be discussed at public hearings Thursday and Friday, September 27 and 28, in the auditorium of the State Building in downtown Los Angeles, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
California is the only state with emission standards that are independent of those set by the federal EPA and cars produced under ARB limits -- typically the national trendsetter -- are the world's cleanest, vital in a state with smog problems greater than those in the remaining states combined.
The new proposals, however, would be implemented between 1994 and 2003, including the phase-in production of cars that are 50 to 84 percent less polluting than those meeting the strictest standards already on the books. They are expected to produce about 200,000 "ultra clean" cars, approximately 10 percent of the state's annual new car sales, in the first year and would cover all 2 million sold each year by 2003.
In addition, the proposed standards would provide increased supplies of cleaner-burning fuels, initially in about 30 Southern California service stations and increasing to thousands statewide as the number of cars that require it also increase.
The ARB also is considering required production of electric cars, beginning with 2 percent of annual car sales in 1998 -- or about 40,000 cars -- and rising to 10 percent, or 200,000, by 2003. The ARB staff, which crafted he proposal, believes that the requirement is necessary to support early efforts by car makers to produce electric models. Manufacturers exploring the production of electric cars say they need to make a minimum of 3,000 per year for them to be feasible.
With the exception for electric models, the ARB proposals do not dictate the use of specific anti-smog technology or fuels, and car makers are expected to explore many combinations to meet the new limits. They range from superior grade, cleaner burning gasoline coupled with advanced electrically-heated catalytic converters to reliance on methanol, natural gas or other fuels for some models.
Currently, almost 1,000 prototype cars, trucks and buses are being driven in California, predominantly "flex-fuel" methanol/gasoline combinations, but also including natural gas, hydrogen and hybrid electric vehicles. An estimated 2,000 more are expected within the next two years.
While the durability of these prototypes is yet to be tested, James D. Boyd, ARB executive officer, noted that, "They are proof on wheels that the proposed standards are technologically feasible."
"All of the technology that reduces emissions from cars all over the world -- from catalytic converters to computerized anti-smog systems -- was developed because of the ARB's emission standards," he continued. "If these proposals are adopted, they could pave the way for a whole new generation of cars and technology will redefine what we consider an environmentally acceptable car for the next two decades.
"We expect gasoline to be the dominant fuel for many years to come," he continued. "These proposals could make everyday gasolines cleaner than today's and could provide an opportunity for some future extra-clean gasolines to help reduce emissions in the future. All of the fuels we burn in the future could be cleaner alternatives to what we buy at the pump today."
In a separate proposal, the ARB is considering the nation's first specifications to define cleaner-burning "reformulated gasoline." The standards will be considered in two phases.
The first phase of standards, to be considered this week, would lower vapor pressure during the summer smog season and require the use of detergent additives to remove carbon deposits from the intake and fuel systems. They would also eliminate the last traces of lead still used in some grades. The changes would lower the smog-forming potential of gasoline vapors as well as emissions of toxic benzene.
A second set of specifications, which would potentially lower smog-forming and toxic emissions, will be considered next September, after an added year of study.
"Many oil companies have voluntarily introduced so-called reformulated gasoline in the last year," said Boyd, "since they knew that we were working on this proposal.
"As a result, some grades of gasoline are cleaner burning than they used to be, and this proposal could make all grades of gasoline cleaner burning for all cars."
Boyd noted that both proposals are a key part of the ARB's long-range plan for reducing automotive emissions, which is responsible for slightly more than half of the smog clean-up projected in the state over the next 20 years.
It now requires 8 to 10 new cars to match the pollution output of a single model built 20 years ago, Boyd noted, because of ARB emission limits. Those standards were responsible for reducing automotive emissions of smog-forming hydrocarbons by 50 percent in the last decade alone, compared to only 12 percent from industrial sources, despite a 24 percent increase in population during that time.
"We have made progress toward cleaner air because of our strict, technology advancing emission standards," he said, "and our future progress toward healthier air relies on continuing that tradition."