Update: CARB Delays Decision, Plug-In Hybrid Conversion Startups Dodge a Bullet.
Plug-In Hybrids to be Regulated Out of Existence in California?
The movie Who Killed the Electric Cars? wasn't very tender on the California Air Resources Board (CARB). They were instrumental in the 'murder' of electric cars such as the GM EV1 and Toyota RAV4 EV in California, and now they might be about to do it again with companies that turn hybrid cars into plug-in hybrids.
Read on for more details.
Two-Part Death Warrant
Small companies such as 3Prong Power mostly take regular Toyota Prius hybrids and modify them to extend their electric-only speed and range. They do this by added a new battery pack and a way to plug the car in to recharge it (instead of only recharging with energy coming from the gas engine).
These companies operate on a small scale and probably don't have lots of money in the bank. What CARB wants them to do, if the new regulation is signed into law, is the following:
1) Put their technology through a series of rigorous and expensive smog tests that could cost between $20,000 and $125,000, depending on how many cars the agency decides must be examined.
2) Require the new companies to provide consumers with warranties for the changes they make to hybrids for up to ten years or 150,000 miles.
These tests might be peanuts for big automakers, but they are too costly for these small startups. And the warranty requirement is just plain ridiculous: Most regular cars don't have such generous warranties, and in the case of plug-in hybrids, it is a known fact that the batteries probably won't last 10 years without some loss of charge capacity.
Maybe a requirement to inform customers about the limitations of battery technologies would've made sense. But stopping them from even buying a vehicle that doesn't have this unrealistic warranty is just a way to sabotage a young industry.
Pioneers that have been converting hybrids for years have helped encourage big automakers to make plug-in hybrids, they've shown that it was possible, and they've given lots of media attention to the very concept of a range-extended electric car. Even Google's fleet of plug-in Prius hybrids might not have been possible under these rules.
Please CARB, don't stab them in the back.
Via East Bay Express, AutoblogGreen
Photos: Chris Duffey
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