New Vehicle Design Surpasses Vermont Global Warming Standard Engineers Design Affordable, Clean Car Using Existing Technology and Fuels

Brian Barth

WASHINGTON (March 1, 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 Vermont’s global warming pollution standard. Automakers are currently fighting this standard 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 40 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, click here.

“We know automakers can create cleaner, more affordable cars using off-the-shelf technology,” said Christopher Kilian, Director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Vermont Advocacy Center . “The automakers should stop wasting tax dollars trying to defeat Vermont ’s auto emissions standards and should start using existing technology to build cleaner cars that would help curb climate change.” CLF has intervened to oppose the lawsuit brought by automakers to try and block implementation of the Clean Air Act-based standards for cars and trucks. A hearing on the whether the case should be decided on the merits of the law or go to trial is set for Friday, Mar. 2.

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.

A UCS analysis based on California Air Resources Board (CARB) methodology shows that adopting the Vanguard package of technologies in Vermont would cut global warming pollution by the equivalent of more than 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2030 – an amount equal to taking 300,000 of today’s vehicles off the road. Vermont drivers would save $74 million from 2009 to 2030, according to UCS.

Thus far Vermont and nine other states have adopted California ’s 2002 standard requiring cuts in global warming pollution from cars and trucks. California is the only state allowed under federal law to set air pollution standards separate from those imposed by the federal government. Other states have the authority to follow California ’s lead.

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 10 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 vehicles.”

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 improve performance.
  • The Vanguard’s six-cylinder engine can deactivate two cylinders when it requires less power, a feature currently found in 20 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 10 percent to 30 percent. Using “cellulosic” ethanol could cut global warming pollution by as much as 90 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 of the U.S 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 said the sky was falling when 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.”

Formed in 1969, the Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS has offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Berkeley, California; and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org.

The Conservation Law Foundation works to solve the environmental problems that threaten the people, natural resources and communities of New England . CLF’s advocates use law, economics and science to design and implement strategies that conserve natural resources, protect public health, and promote vital communities in our region. Founded in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization. It has offices in Boston, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; Providence, Rhode Island; Montpelier, Vermont; and Brunswick, Maine.

Places

Campaigns