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Technology Already Here to Ease Smog, Study Says

September 23, 2003|John O'Dell | Times Staff Writer

The technology exists to solve California's automotive smog problems by 2010, according to a University of California automotive emissions study to be released today.

However, the findings already have come under fire: The California Air Resources Board, one of the study's sponsors, said Monday that the conclusion is based on unattainable expectations.

The report by the UC Riverside Center for Environmental Research and Technology said that smog-causing ozone from autos would cease to be a problem by 2010 if two conditions were met: if all passenger cars sold in the state from 2004 were rated as super-ultra-low-emissions vehicles, or SULEV, and if all cars older than 15 years were removed from the state's roads.

"The goal is a good one, but it is a bit optimistic to talk in the time frame the study has in mind," said Air Resources Board Chairman Alan Lloyd.

Among the problems, he said, is the issue of forcing low-income people to give up older cars. "Who will pay for that?" he asked. "The cost is enormous."

But one of the study's directors, Joseph Norbeck, a UC Riverside professor of chemical and environmental engineering, said the most important point is that technology already is here to meet California's SULEV standards. "Now we need to aggressively implement getting these clean cars on the road," he said.

The study caps a three-year effort to test low-emission vehicles in real-world conditions. Norbeck said his team found that such cars, driven in heat and rain, stop-and-go rush-hour traffic and at high freeway speeds, "were found to maintain almost zero emissions."

Lloyd is a proponent of fuel-cell vehicles that run on hydrogen and produce no tailpipe emissions. But he is concerned that some might use the UC study and conclude that the auto industry does not need to do any more than continue producing gas-burning internal combustion vehicles with SULEV and P-ZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle) emissions ratings.

"We don't want to trade getting [older] cars off the road for the ultimate goal of a truly zero-emissions car fleet," Lloyd said.

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