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UCS LAUNCHES A PLEDGE CAMPAIGN TO PUT CLEAN CARS ON THE ROAD

Clean cars are here. Thanks to California’s zero emission vehicle (ZEV) program, battery electric vehicles have been cruising highways for several years and hybrid and fuel cell automobiles are just around the corner. Yet automakers are reluctant to support these cleaner technologies, claiming there is no consumer demand. We know they are wrong and have launched the Clean Car Pledge Campaign to prove it.

The campaign will show automakers and policymakers that consumers want clean cars. You can help by signing the Clean Car Pledge at right or online at www.cleancarpledge.org. And spread the word about the campaign.

Not a Moment Too Soon

Motor vehicles cause one-third of the smog-forming pollution in the United States and a quarter of U.S. global warming pollution. With the number of motor vehicles around the globe expected to double to well over a billion in the next 25 years, this problem will only worsen.

Automobile emissions have enormous environmental impacts. Their smog-forming pollution darkens our skies and dirties our lungs. Experts predict that global warming will lead to increasingly severe weather, broader ranges for diseases and pests, and reduced bio diversity and crop productivity.

The time for clean cars is now. We need to move toward zero and very low emission vehicles before it is too late.

Not Your Father’s Automobile

A family of advanced technology vehicles, including battery electric, hybrid electric, and fuel cell vehicles, hold the promise for clean cars. These technologies can reduce smog-forming and global warming pollution simultaneously.

Fueled with clean power, battery electric's offer the greatest environmental benefits of any vehicle on the road. Improvements in the technology will increase environmental benefits and allow vehicles to go father before recharging. Later this year, GM will introduce a new EV1 that as a 140-mile range.

Hybrid vehicles, although not true ZEVs, are a step in the right direction toward zero pollution cars of the future. By combining a battery with a small internal combustion engine, hybrids reduce global warming pollution through significantly better mileage than conventional gasoline vehicles. The cleanest hybrids also reduce smog-forming pollution.

Both Toyota and Honda will begin selling hybrids in the next year. Other automakers are developing hybrids as well. Toyota’s Prius, expected to hit the market next summer, should achieve 55 MPG and emit approximately one tenth the pollutants of the average new car. Savings at the gas pump should offset most or all of its slightly higher sticker price.

Fuel cell vehicles may offer another clean car option farther down the road. These vehicles produce electricity by splitting hydrogen into protons and electrons. Run on pure hydrogen, they are true ZEVs. Using methanol still means drastic improvement over gasoline-combustion cars: doubling the mileage, cutting global warming emissions by more than half, and reducing smog-forming pollution more than 90 percent.

Earlier this year, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and the State of California entered into a partnership to bring fuel cell powered vehicles to market by 2004. Toyota has said it will market a fuel cell vehicle by 2003.

Biting the Hand that feeds

California’s ZEV program has been the force behind the development of these clean car technologies. Responding to the country’s worst air quality, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the ZEV program in 1990. It required that two percent of new car sales would have to be zero-emission by 1998 and ten percent per year in 2003 and each year after that. Since then, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine have adopted the California ZEV program in place of less stringent federal standards.

Despite promising new technologies, the automakers have chosen to dig in their heels and fight the ZEV program. They wiggled out of the 1998 deadline and will try to alter the 2003 deadline when the program is up for review later this Fall.

The ZEV program is the only program in the country that requires auto companies to put zero and very low emission vehicles, including hybrids and methanol-powered fuel cells, on the road. We cannot let the automakers kill the program before the race is won.

The Clean Car Pledge Campaign

To counteract the pressure automakers will exert upon policymakers; UCS is leading a coalition of environmental, public health and consumer groups in the Clean Car Pledge campaign. We have launched a new website, www.cleancarpledge.org , to provide consumer information and gather pledges. We will send those pledges to automakers and policymakers to show that the public wants clean cars and supports a strong ZEV program.

Battery electric and fuel cell vehicles will meet the pledge standards. Hybrids will qualify if they are 50 percent more fuel efficient and only one-tenth as polluting as the current national averages. This includes the Toyota Prius, but Honda’s first hybrid, the Insight, will be excluded because of its smog-forming emissions.

What You Can Do

To push automakers to make the cleanest cars, we need you. Sign the Clean Car Pledge online or fill out the petition in the new fall edition of Electrifying Times and mail it to:

Union of Concerned Scientists
Two Brattle Square
Cambridge, MA 02238

Tell your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. If you live in California or the Northeast, send letters to your state legislators and governor expressing your support for ZEV program. Make your next car purchase a clean car.

Join the ZEVolution! Be sure to subscribe to Electrifying Times. Order our Preview 2000 special edition, the official 1999 buyer's guide for the Electric Vehicle Association, and find out what ZEV (Electric, Hybrid, and Fuel Cell) vehicles are available.