CARB Rules May Pull Plug on Plug-in Conversions
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Plug-in Hybrid Over-Regulation
“Let’s take this step by step and not shut down the small innovators,” said Ron Gremban, technical lead at CalCars, the most prominent plug-in hybrid advocacy group. “Conversions, when sold in significant quantities, will need to prove in some way that they do not increase criteria emissions. But in order to avoid a high cost of entry that would prevent small, innovative, shoestring-budget operations from starting out, there is high value in tolerating small quantities of conversions with lower-level oversight.” He argues that for small volumes—fewer than 1,000 units per year—the stringent criteria proposed by CARB should not be required.
“Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?” said Daniel Sherwood, president of 3Prong Power Inc., a plug-in hybrid conversion startup based in Berkeley, California. In an interview with HybridCars.com, Sherwood said, “A few hundred cars, even if not optimally designed to contain evaporative emissions, won’t have a measurable effect on air quality. Let’s not make California the only state in the nation where you can’t buy a plug-in car because of over-regulation.”
Two other points of contention with the CARB proposal are the standardization of a Yazaki charging coupler (PDF) and a maximum four-hour charging time. Plug-in advocates say the specification of one manufacturer is too narrow and does not allow for future developments, while the four-hour charging rule actually runs counter to the typical overnight charging plan for most plug-ins. In other words, it could keep plug-in hybrids from utilizing the simplest source of electricity—a standard wall outlet.
While the proposed environmental and consumer protections may make sense in the long run, many plug-in advocates worry that the tough rules could kill an embryonic industry. Their push back was strong enough that CARB delayed consideration of the new rules from October to December of this year. In the meantime, anyone considering converting a Prius may have a limited window of opportunity to get the work done in California.