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Automakers Say California Cars Can Go Elsewhere - at a Price With AM-Pollution-Autos-Box

October 30, 1991 GMT

DETROIT (AP) _ California’s stringent plan to phase in cars powered by alternative fuels and electricity can work in other states, but consumers would pay more and have fewer choices, the Big Three U.S. automakers said Wednesday.

Nine Northeastern states and the District of Columbia decided Tuesday to adopt California’s toughest-in-the-nation rules on auto pollution. Those rules include turning to cleaner-burning gasoline, requiring better maintenance and inspection of vehicles, and using cars that create less pollution.

The California rules require that 2 percent of the cars sold in the state by 1998 create no emissions. By 2003, 10 percent of the cars must give off no emissions. Electric engine technology is the only completely clean power known.


The District of Columbia, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia decided to go with California’s rules. They are the first states to choose California’s standards over less-stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules.

Texas and Illinois also are considering the rules, said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

″What it does, it will raise vehicle prices in those states,″ GM spokesman John V. Dinan Jr. said Wednesday. ″It may limit some choices available to consumers.″

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. are moving ahead with plans for electric-powered vehicles as well as alternative fuel-burning vehicles.

The Big Three are working together on increasing how far an electric car can go between charges. The consortium and the federal government agreed last week to a four-year, $260 million venture to develop batteries for electric cars. The automakers are splitting the cost with the Department of Energy.

Don Buist, Ford’s director of automotive emissions, said it is premature for other states to follow California.

″In any case, the California standards are not final, nor has the technical feasibility been determined,″ he said.

Not so, Sessa said. Except for EPA approvals, the California rules to be phased in beginning in 1994 are final.

Chrysler spokesman Jason Vines said the company was expecting the Northeastern states to follow California. He said it creates more of an opportunity than a hindrance to selling cars.


″There’s a carrot out there, but it’s a carrot with a sledgehammer behind it,″ Vines said. ″We plan to eat the carrot and not worry about the sledgehammer.″

Chrysler boasts it is closest of the Big Three to production of both electric and alternative-fuel vehicles. The automaker has said it will have an electric-powered minivan on the market by the middle of the decade.

By requiring the use of alternative fuels such as methanol and compressed natural gas, states will have to make sure enough of the fuels are available, Vines said.

″There is something like 50 or 60 methanol stations in the country and 75 percent of them are in California. That’s a long way to go for a fill-up,″ Vines said.

Sessa said the automakers will decide what fuels to use to meet the requirements. That will lead to competitive development of alternative fuel stations, Sessa said.

GM’s Dinan said California’s car-related air pollution is unique because of the state’s climate, topography and population.

Dinan said air quality improvements will be substantial with the EPA’s new vehicle standards, cleaner-burning gasoline and scrapping older vehicles without sophisticated emission control systems.