Monday, June 1, 2009

Saving the Plug-In Hybrid, Part II

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 4:52 PM

he California Air Resources Board gave the nascent plug-in-hybrid-car industry a reprieve when it rejected a proposal that would have put small conversion companies out of business. The board voted 6-2 on Thursday to allow small companies, such as 3 Prong Power of Berkeley, to convert up to fifty Toyota Priuses into plug-in hybrids before having to undergo expensive emissions testing. The board's staff had recommended that small companies such as 3 Prong Power could only convert ten cars to plug-ins before having to pay for the tests, which can cost up to $200,000. But the board rejected that proposal out of hand after hearing testimony from business owners who said it would bankrupt them, because it wouldn't give them enough time to raise money for the tests. "Overall, we were impressed that we actually made a difference and people saw our side," said Paul Guzyk, co-founder of 3 Prong Power. "It could have been a lot worse, and probably couldn't have gone much better."

TGuzyk and his business partner Daniel Sherwood had proposed that the air resources board allow them to sell up to 100 conversion kits before paying for the tests, but the board deadlocked on that proposal 4-4. Air board staff was concerned that converted Priuses could cause more air pollution and urged for stricter standards, even though all sides agreed that they lower greenhouse gas emissions. Plug-in hybrids can get in excess of 100 miles per gallon because they can run on battery-powered electricity for around-town driving. Small conversion companies contended that they had found simple solutions that would not increase air pollutants.

Guzyk also credited the Express for its coverage of the plug-in hybrid issue, saying the paper's stories stimulated a "whole movement" to keep the air board from killing the plug-in-hybrid industry, just as it had done with electric cars earlier this decade. After an Express cover story in January, the air board rejected a staff proposal that would have forced small conversion companies to begin paying for expensive tests right away.

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