A new request from Detroit’s major automakers asks for carbon emissions credits from technology such as reflecting solar rays, which may help save fuel.

The reasoning behind the requests is that technologies such as solar reflexive paint and active seat ventilation keep vehicles cooler, which taxes the air conditioner less. This, in turns, saves fuel.

The specific technologies included in the proposal differ from one carmaker to the next. General Motors, for example, wants its efficient Denso air conditioner compressor to count. Fiat Chrysler is asking for credits for reflexive paint, reflexive glass and seat ventilation.

The third petitioner, Ford, also wants high-efficiency exterior lights, engine and transmission warmers and grille shutters that boost aerodynamics to count, saying these components also reduce fuel consumption.

These types of technologies are classified as “off-cycle credits” because their fuel savings cannot be measured using the EPA’s standard tailpipe emissions tests.

For Marge Oge, a former EPA executive and a key figure in drafting the 2025 emissions standards, off-cycle requests like these show that automakers are using creative approaches to saving fuel and lowering emissions.

“That’s the whole point of what we tried to establish,” said Oge. “We wanted companies to invest in and develop these technologies.”

Roland Hwang, director of the energy and transportation program for the Natural Resources Defense Council agrees with the approach, but only if it yields real-world results.

“It’s not just about downsizing and turbo-charging. There are all of these interesting technologies that you may not think about but are actually gas-reducing technologies,” he said.

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The technologies in this request, which are waiting on approval from the EPA, average an emission savings of 1.5 grams of CO2 per mile for cars, and 2.3 grams for trucks. Though this seems trivial against the EPA’s estimated 411 grams for the average passenger vehicle, automakers are looking anywhere they can for gains in order to meet the strict emissions guidelines.

The current round of requests isn’t the first time automakers have asked for CARB credits from non-powertrain components. Last March, automotive lobby group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers proposed that automakers receive credits for autonomous technology. Specifically, the group’s CEO Mitch Bainwol listed collision warnings, automated braking and adaptive cruise control.

“New safety systems are fuel economy game-changers, because fewer crashes mean less congestion, less fuel use, and fewer carbon emissions,” said Bainwol.


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