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Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles

March 28, 1994

The authors of the commentary "There's Money to Be Made From Virtue" (March 4) are correct in stating that the creation of an advanced transportation industry would not only help meet air-quality goals, but also yield thousands of high-skilled, high-wage jobs. However, there's more to the advanced transportation industry than electric vehicles--such as natural gas vehicles.

Natural gas vehicles, or NGVs, are on the road in large numbers, offering superior performance, reduced emissions and a refueling infrastructure already in place. There are more than 30,000 NGVs in the U.S.--2,000 of which are in Southern California. In addition, there are 75 natural gas refueling stations in the region, with more than 600 expected to be in operation by the turn of the century.

The number of NGVs is expected to grow as U.S. auto makers move ahead to produce factory-made natural gas-powered minivans, passenger vehicles and trucks. The Gas Co., in a joint venture with others, is opening this spring a manufacturing facility in East Los Angeles to produce NGVs. The facility, Ecotrans, will be creating jobs by converting or upfitting some 3,000 vehicles by the end of 1994 with a production goal of 13,000 vehicles manufactured by December, 1996.

While other advanced transportation technologies need further development, NGVs have been proven to be safe, cost-effective and cleaner burning than other vehicle fuels.

Vehicles powered by natural gas far exceed the state's low-emission vehicle standards. In fact, Chrysler received California's lowest emission certification yet (ULEV, or ultra-low-emission vehicle) achieved for its natural gas-powered minivan, which makes it the cleanest, commercially available vehicle on the road today.

ANNE SHEN SMITH, Vice President

Environment & Safety, The Gas Co.

In your article of March 10, concerning the State Air Resources Board's report on electric vehicles (EVs), you report that the state bureaucrats who authored it consider an EV's huge price tag a "temporary start-up problem."

Yes, it will be a problem for those concerned about cleaning the air in Southern California.

To sell these expensive EVs--as California is mandating for 1998--car companies will need to subsidize them by increasing the cost of conventional cars. Higher car prices will slow down sales, which means a slowdown in the turnover of older, polluting cars to newer, cleaner models.

Since new cars create about 1% of the pollution of cars built two decades ago, this turnover is one of the most effective ways we have of reducing emissions.

We should not be forcing EVs onto the market, especially since it will cost us in cleaner air.

BONNIE BARRON

Los Angeles

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