Diesel Car Owners Decry Bias

some cars at zero pollution
some cars at zero pollution

A Washington based advocacy group named the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars have recently released a white paper to forward its car engine design as part of the technologies that are also fuel-efficient.

The paper’s author is Norman Y. Mineta, the former transportation secretary of then President George W. Bush until 2006, claims that the incentives and other policies given by federal and state governments are biased for electric vehicles to the exclusion of all others. The group said that these incentives should be given to all technologies equally to allow a level playing field for all.

Mr. Mineta wrote, “The desire to dictate solutions based on preferred technologies rather than set goals and develop standards is a bad practice that denies creative innovations.”

The paper details that the incentives for electric vehicle purchases were steering consumer and manufacturer decisions regardless of market forces. They further criticized the recent fleet purchases of government wherein the vehicles were nearly exclusively hybrids or electric vehicles. They claim that some gasoline and diesel engines could nearly be as energy efficient as any other technology.

This claim of energy efficiency by the group is supported with a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study last April 2008 that compared the energy efficiency and emissions of diesel and gasoline engines compared to the next generation all electric and hybrid vehicles. The study showed that these internal combustion engines came within 10 to 15 percent of these categories with the new technologies.

The report though did not provide factors that were used in the study to determine the type or amount of energy consumed during the charging of the electric vehicles or emissions generated by the utilities that provided electricity for these vehicles. It was found that emissions during production of electricity and resources utilized could vary, as utilities in many states are required to add sustainable energy sources to their production line. Thus, the data used for today would not be the same sources used for the future. Furthermore, battery technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the MIT study was undertaken.

The paper further asserted that efficiency improving technologies such as direct injection, variable valve timing, turbo charging and friction reducing parts together with transmissions with greater gear ratios have not been fully utilized in the United States. It is asserted in the paper that the use and adoption of these technologies, together with downsizing of both engines and vehicles would be the best way to achieve energy efficiency goals, such as those stipulated in the revised Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards proposed by the Obama administration last July.

The group claims that a turbocharged diesel engine with an exhaust after-treatment system required for emission compliance would be able to outperform a gasoline engine by as much as 30 percent in fuel economy and 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. These improvements would entail a cost savings of $1,500 to $2,500 for a diesel engine vehicle.

Diesel engines are still being utilized in countries with low noxious gas emissions standards. Some companies though have been able to market their clean diesel engines in the United States, though at a premium price. These carmakers are Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen and these companies have opposed the 2017-25 CAFÉ Standard issued by the Obama government.

According to Mr., Mineta, “The conclusion is rather simple. We need to reestablish both the principle and practice of technology neutrality, thus rendering the very best solutions in the years to come.”

States offering Electric Car Incentives


Nearly half of the states in the Union are jumping on the bandwagon to jump-start the electric car market. Their support would be in the form of incentives to purchasers of the green vehicles.

The programs, which include rebates and access to carpool lanes, has provided come ons to make the vehicles more affordable and convenient for the common car owner. These benefits include a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 which makes the once expensive vehicle to the price range of common internal combustion cars.

Automakers have also started to roll out the first commercially available electric cars for purchase. Nissan has unveiled its Leaf ($33,630 SRP), a fully electric vehicle while Chevrolet has begun to sell the Volt ($41,000 SRP), a plug in that has an onboard generator powered by an auxiliary gas engine. Nissan has introduced the Leaf in states with EV incentive plans in place, namely California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Tennessee.

Seventeen states already provide benefits packages for EV purchases. In California, there is a $5,000 state rebate plus the federal tax credit of $7,500 reducing the purchase price of the Leaf to $22,500. Five other states, namely Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas are in the midst of approving legislation towards providing incentives for electric car purchases.

Other non-monetary incentives, such as EV cars use of carpool lanes even without passengers, are already in effect in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and Utah. There is even greater activity in California as 75,000 hybrid drivers who would be losing carpool lane privileges may switch to EVs to retain these perks.

Louisiana, Hawaii and Washington are providing tax credits and other discounts to cut the price of home charging stations, which are pricey at $1,200 a unit. Maryland, New Jersey and Washington EV purchases are exempt from sales taxes for a savings as high as 6.5%.

Jorge Santana, Pennsylvania State Rep Tony Payton’s Chief of Staff, said that the goal is to create an environment that’s conducive to the marketplace. Adding to that, Gustavo Collantes, Washington State’s Energy Policy Adviser, says that these incentive programs are sending the right signals to car and parts makers to locate the plants within Washington.

Solons Propose Billions in Tax Incentives for Electric Car Sales


As the President of the United States called for the popularization of electric cars in the latest State of the Union address, two solons have proposed bills that would provide billions in incentives for future car purchasers.

Rep. Sander M. Levin and Sen. Carl M. Levin, both of Michigan, have proposed to double the coverage of the program to $7,500 in incentives to buy plug-in electric vehicles like the popular Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf.

Once consumers put their money down for electric cars and more car makers produce them, the new coverage provided include incentives that would eventually total to $19 billion in tax credits spread over the next decade.

According to Rep. Levin, it is a lot of money and if consumers take the credits, it would mean that the program works. This is in line with Obama’s goal setting one million electric vehicles by 2015 in America’s roads.

The incentives are important to achieve the goal as electric vehicles are much more expensive, a great part of it goes to the cost of batteries. The Volt’s SRP is at $41,000 while the Leaf’s SRP is $32,780, a far cry from a regular internal combustion vehicle at $20,000 a pop. The program would boost sales for automakers while the incentives would go to the “early adopters”, often those well-off and well-heeled set.

In the previous version of the bill, the incentive amount of $7,500 was for allotted for the first 250, 000 purchasers and $200,000 for the manufacturer. This bill expands that to allpurchasers, with the manufacturers enjoying $500,000 overall.

Vice President Biden also has gone on campaign stumps pushing for the electric car agenda. He was at a battery plant in Indiana last Wednesday, where he announced the need for greater programs in research and development into electric car technology. He also envisioned a competitive grant program that offer communities up to $10 million to develop the support infrastructure for electric cars in their roadways.

This program in the President’s speech, hopes to break the dependence on foreign oil andreduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants in the environment. Critics though have pointed out that previous programs aimed at reducing dependence on foreign oil by focusing on alternative fuel sources. These programs though still have not been able to create a commercially viable vehicle. By focusing on another fuel technology source such as electricity, the funds and efforts put into the other programs would go to waste.

Another criticism would be the pegged amount of $7,500 as incentives, since they say that the amount is too small to justify the benefit, which is environmental preservation. The current roster of vehicles, such as the Leaf and the Volt, have no tailpipes to spew out exhaust gases. They are powered by rechargeable batteries relying on electricity. Electricity is still being produced by coal fired power plants that produce pollution.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, project lead John deCicco had calculated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a Toyota Prius produces compared to the Leaf and Volt. He found that the Prius is still the most cost-effective way in the reduction of greenhouse gases compared to pure electricity. When you factor in the pollution from the coal powered plants to produce electricity to charge the Leaf and the Volt, the Prius still is cleaner than the other two.

In response, environmentalists are pushing for the power generators to produce cleaner electricity, which in turn adds on to the environmental viability of the electric cars. This would in turn help the country become safe and independent from other nations wielding the oil card.

As Obama called it, “a Sputnik moment, but on the ground.”