I was at the LA Auto Show for a few hours this morning, and the talk was all about green cars. Who was the greenest, who had the most new technologies. Electric cars, plug-in hybrids, alternative fuel. You name it, and somebody had a car for it.
But California has always been a leader in pushing the car companies to innovate and adopt new technologies. California’s emissions requirements are still the most strict in the nation and the widespread adoption of the catalytic converter was at least greatly enhanced by California regulation.
And California is still at it. Back in 2007, Arnold Schwarzenegger called on Detroit to “get off their butts” and improve fuel economy. Of course, that didn’t go over all that well in Detroit back then. However, in the time between then and now, a few things have happened in Detroit, and green is all the rage. Yesterday’s press conference with Arnold and the car companies was a little different:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hailed automakers today for developing technology that will slash emissions and fight climate change.
Speaking on the eve of the Los Angles Auto Show, the governor said “green” vehicles have proliferated at the show from three models to about 50 on display this year. The vehicles are needed to help automakers meet California regulations that will cut greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020. (DetNews)
And once again, California is the leader. GM bigwig Bob Lutz described California’s role in the future of GM’s EV strategy. When the Chevy Volt comes out next year, it will be immediately available in California first. Of course, our mild weather is one reason for that, but the fact is that there
is a very willing audience for these cars. In fact, 3 major electric utilities, SoCal Edison, PG&E and the Sacramento Mun. Util. District will be using some of the new Volts. They’ll provide testing and real-world data on how these cars work in the field. All the while the cars will be available in a select few dealer showrooms. Though, they won’t last long in the showrooms, as they are likely to be spoken for before they are ever in a showroom.
There’s still a long way to go before electric cars are really ubiquitous. We must build out a charging station infrastructure and provide incentives for people to switch to the more pricy electic cars. And while some cities, like San Francisco, are working on building out infrastructure, there simply has to be much, much more in the way of volume for these to ever take off. It’s a bit of a chicken and an egg problem of course, but that’s often the case with new technology.
If California is ready to be a leader, we stand poised to spread the gospel of these low emissions vehicles. But given our precarious fiscal situation, that’s always a bit of stretch. However, even if we make some low-cost moves towards the future, we have the conditions that would allow this technology to prosper. And if some folks in Downey have their way, California will be the heart of it all.