Bill Totten's Weblog

Monday, March 19, 2007

Engineers Design Affordable, Clean Car Using Existing Technology and Fuels

New Vehicle Design Surpasses State Global Warming Standards

Union of Concerned Scientists

Citizens and Scientists for Environmental Solutions (March 01 2007)

Automotive engineers at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today unveiled a minivan design that shows automakers can build affordable vehicles with existing technology that would meet or exceed global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks adopted by California and ten other states. Automakers are currently fighting these standards in court.

The minivan, dubbed the UCS Vanguard, features off-the-shelf engine, transmission and fueling systems and other technologies that would save consumers money, maintain vehicle safety and performance, and cut global warming pollution by more than forty percent. All of the technologies in the Vanguard are in vehicles on the road today, but automakers have yet to combine them all in one single package. (For a computer-generated animation of the Vanguard's features and the full report, go to .)

"Today's announcement confirms that we already have the technology and the tools to combat climate change and that now it is simply a question of the political will", said Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski. Oregon adopted the California tailpipe standard in 2005. "Oregon is committed to transitioning to a new generation of cleaner vehicles, and this project demonstrates a clear path forward. It is my hope this will encourage the rest of the nation to join Oregon and the other states already pledged to reduce auto emissions."

Installing the Vanguard package of existing technologies fleetwide could significantly reduce global warming pollution for all car and truck size classes. Operational savings would make up for relatively small increases in purchase price. For example, the Vanguard minivan package would add about $300 to the price but result in more than $1,300 in lifetime consumer savings, with a payback time of less than two years.

The standard requiring cuts in global warming pollution from cars and trucks was originally established in California in 2002. California is the only state allowed under federal law to set air pollution standards higher than those imposed by the federal government. Other states have the authority to follow California's lead.

"California has been a leader in cutting air pollution from cars for the past thirty years", said Tom Cackette, chief deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, the state agency implementing California's vehicle global warming pollution standard. "As more and more states look for ways to cut global warming pollution, they're following California's lead and demanding cleaner cars".

California's standard requires a 34-percent reduction in global warming pollution for cars and light trucks and a 25-percent reduction for larger trucks and SUVs within the next ten years. The Vanguard design shows that existing technology could deliver those benefits now.

"Meeting state laws for fighting global warming should be no sweat for the automakers", said Spencer Quong, a senior UCS vehicles engineer and former automaker consultant who designed the Vanguard. "They already have the solution to pollution right under the hoods of their own cars and trucks".

The Vanguard minivan design has eight key components - including improvements in the engine, transmission, air conditioner, fuel system, tires and aerodynamic design - that can be found piecemeal in more than 100 vehicle models on the road today. The Vanguard is not a hybrid. It uses conventional technology to achieve significant reductions in global warming pollution. For example:

The Vanguard engine features variable valve timing, currently used in most Toyota and Honda models as well as many Ford vehicles, which better controls the flow of air and fuel into the engine, leading to more efficient combustion and improved performance.
The Vanguard's six-cylinder engine can deactivate two cylinders when it requires less power, a feature currently found in twenty vehicle models.

The minivan's "automatic manual" transmission electronically adjusts its six gears to increase performance and efficiency.

Stronger hoses and tighter connections in the Vanguard's air conditioning system reduce the amount of concentrated global warming pollutants, called hydrofluorocarbons, which leak into the air. The minivan also uses a less-polluting refrigerant.

The Vanguard is designed to run on either pure gasoline or a mixture of gasoline and as much as 85-percent ethanol. Using 85-percent corn-based ethanol can reduce global warming pollution from ten percent to thirty percent. Using "cellulosic" ethanol could cut global warming pollution by as much as ninety percent. There are currently 32 types of flex-fuel vehicles on the road.

In the absence of federal policies to curb global warming emissions from vehicles, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have adopted the California clean car standard. Several other states, including Arizona, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas, are considering or about to adopt the standard. Combined, these states represent nearly half the US population.

In response, auto industry trade groups have filed lawsuits in California, Rhode Island and Vermont to block implementation.

"The automakers are sticking to their traditional 'can't do' philosophy", said David Friedman, clean vehicles research director at UCS. "Years ago they cried the sky was falling when they were required to install seat belts and airbags. Now, instead of building cleaner vehicles like the Vanguard, they're fighting global warming pollution laws in the courts. To get the job done, they should bench their lawyers and call in the engineers."

Bill Totten


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