The California Air Resources Board likes to brag that it “forces” technology, but lately its outdated testing regimens, bias toward electric vehicles and bald-faced arrogance are killing innovation rather than pushing it.
CARB's refusal to grant Advanced Technology Partial-Zero-Emissions Vehicle status to the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is the latest in a series of blunders that is costing it credibility and influence built over 40 years.
CARB's accomplishments cannot be denied. It brags that its tough rules on smog-causing hydrocarbon emissions led to the development of the catalytic converter in the 1970s. CARB rules also hastened the demise of carburetors in favor of fuel injection.
Anyone who has visited Los Angeles in the past 25 years can literally see CARB's impact: In 1985, the city was blanketed in wretched eye-stinging smog. Now the air is clearer.
But since California passed the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB 32, CARB has grown reckless as it moves to save the world from climate change with state-based initiatives. Its new rules increasingly are biased toward EVs and sometimes just plain dumb.
Under AB 32, CARB launched its disastrous “Cool Cars” initiative. The clueless rules sought to make vehicles more fuel efficient by requiring all vehicles sold in California to have heat-reflecting paint and glass with a phase-in beginning in 2012.
Ward's revealed last year that CARB unknowingly was trying to mandate vehicle paints that were not yet invented, and that the “cool paints” initiative would result in a defacto ban on dark-colored vehicles in California.
The gaffe became national news, and CARB soon shelved the paint proposal.
A year after that debacle, CARB was forced to abandon the glazing rules after law-enforcement agencies complained the reflective glass would block the signals on ankle bracelets worn by parolees, wireless phone companies complained it would block emergency cell-phone transmissions and toll-road operators complained it would block signals from “E-Z Pass” transponders.
In their latest fiasco, CARB bureaucrats test the Volt EREV, the most innovative solution yet developed for reducing carbon dioxide, and lump it into an emissions category a notch below thePrius and other mere hybrid-electric vehicles.
CARB penalized GM for pushing the technology envelope rather than rewarding it.
Volt drivers will not get an additional $3,000 tax credit from the state or access to California's cherished high-occupancy lanes with fewer than two people in the car.
Why? In its quest for innovation, GM did not follow CARB's outdated rules. CARB's current testing regimen can't account for a new type of EV that uses an onboard gasoline-powered range-extending generator to feed electricity to the drive motors if the battery is depleted.
CARB just can't get past the idea there may be solutions for harmful emissions other than pure EVs.
If CARB wants to be respected for forcing new technology, it needs to modernize its metrics, its testing methods and make an attitude adjustment.
Otherwise, it risks looking like a hidebound organization that resists change and clings to old ideas, criticisms CARB usually levels at Detroit.